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PUCL should listen to others sans intrusions of 'received' analysis, ism, political belief

By V Suresh*
In the background of the triumphant re-election of the Modi government for a second term covering 2019-24, more concerns arise than merely the fact that we will witness a continuation of 5 more years of communally divisive, sectarian and majoritarian politics.
How should we, in the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), understand the triumphant re-election of the Modi-led BJP on May 23, 2019 for another period of five years?
The 2014-19 period of Modi rule witnessed widespread hate crimes, lynchings, attacks on Christians, Muslims and other marginalised communities, including violence against Dalits; countrywide, severe agricultural and rural distress was starkly highlighted by massive farmer suicides.
The severity of the economic crisis manifested in high unemployment, lowered growth rate, increased disparity and rising inequality; demonetization and goods and services tax (GST) led to the collapse of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector, rendering lakhs jobless and indebted.
The Modi government showed its disdain for constitutional norms and institutional proprieties by willfully and deliberately misusing Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate and state police for vindictive, vengeful action against their rivals.
Constitutionally mandated institutions, respected for their independence, like the Election Commission, Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) and Reserve Bank of India (RBI), to name a few, were subverted and systematically made dysfunctional. Overall, there existed widespread anger that the lives of vast sections had not improved belying the promises of `Achche Din'.
Yet everything changed after Pulwama and Balakot, as the Modi-Shah political machine whipped up patriotic and nationalistic fervor to such a pitch that anyone questioning them were seen as traitors or `deshdrohis'.
The slogan of threat to India's national security and sovereignty and the call to all social sections to close ranks against the “enemy” or the “other” seems to have struck a chord with diverse sections, including Dalits, Adivasis urban and rural poor, who despite personal experience of failure of Modi's rule seem to have preferred to vote for Modi, the BJP and NDA rule in the end.
The fact that behind this mobilization was also the slogan of a `Hindu rashtra' seems to have more takers now, than ever before.
Against this rather forbidding context, it's very clear, the current mode of our functioning, even though important, is not sufficient to meet the challenges looming ahead of us. The danger is not just increased violence by state and non-state players; the threat is to democracy, democratic principles and process itself.
In a context of spreading divisiveness, the challenge is about being able to reach out to the hearts and souls of the ordinary people of India and to invite them to the task of rejecting the politics of hatred and communal polarization.
We will have to invent a new idiom, a new language, a new discourse and a new plan of action, if we have to be relevant in the coming years
The challenge is also about helping people re-engage with age old historical traditional practices of tolerance, harmony, peaceful co- existence and collective pursuit of well being, so that the common citizen becomes the leading force to once again building a more humane, caring, respectful and democratic society.
The challenge is also to help reinterpret the constitutional values of social justice, inclusion, fraternity, egalitarianism and dignity in such a way that people feel it's in their own self - interest to create a more inclusive, respectful and peace loving society.
We will have to invent a new idiom, a new language, a new discourse and a new plan of action, if we have to be relevant in the coming years.
We will have to reach out to the younger generation in a more direct, expressive, interactive manner; we will have to build bridges with the vast majority of ordinary citizens, who may have voted for Modi for a variety of reasons, but who in their hearts, respect peace and harmony, and have not yet been transformed into violent, hate filled people.
We will have to learn to listen to the voice of India. And from that listening, fashion a new programme for the PUCL. We will have to listen without allowing the intrusion of our own received “analysis” or “ism” or “political belief”.
As Prabhakar Sinha (former PUCL president) has been so eloquently telling us for many years, we need to be able to truly reach out and build bridges with the ordinary Indian so that they too join the movement to protect, promote and deepen democracy arising out of their conviction that this is the only right path forward.
Are we up to it?
---
*General secretary, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). This is a slightly abridged version of the note presented by the author at the PUCL National Executive Committee meeting held last month

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