OPINION: Putting out the eyes of the Indian people

Diverting attention from difficult issues is now state policy, argues Justice Katju

censorship-graffiti-pixabay Representational image | Pixabay

In his book Through the Russian Revolution, the American journalist Albert Rhys Williams, who was in Russia at the time of the 1917 revolution, writes, “In Moscow I saw two peasant soldiers gazing at a poster stuck up on a kiosk. ‘We can't read a word of it,’ they cried, indignant tears in their eyes. The Czar only wanted us to plough and fight and pay taxes. He didn't want us to read. He put out our eyes."

Williams writes that to “put out the eyes” of the masses is “to put out their souls and consciences”. He says that this was “the deliberate policy of the Russian autocracy" and that "for centuries, the people were steeped in ignorance, narcotised by the church, terrorised by the Black Hundreds, dragooned by the Cossacks.”

The same thing was done by the British rulers of India, who implemented their nefarious divide and rule policy after suppressing the Mutiny of 1857 and propagated (through their agents) that Hindus and Muslims were each other's enemies (though for centuries they had lived together amicably), resulting in the Partition of India in 1947 and its horrors.

The present rulers of India are also practising the policy of “putting out the eyes” of the Indian people, by stressing that the main issues before India are not poverty or unemployment (which has reached record heights and is mounting, as admitted by the National Sample Survey Office's Periodic Labour Force Survey), or child malnourishment (every second child in India is malnourished, as stated by Global Hunger Index and by UNICEF) or the fact that 50 per cent of Indian women are anaemic, or the reality of farmers distress (over 300,000 farmers have already committed suicide, and the trend is continuing unabated), or the lack of proper healthcare and good education (almost non existent for the masses), or the tanking economy (with GDP down to 5 per cent, a steep decline in manufacturing in the automotive, power and real estate sectors).

No, those are only minor issues. The main issues are building the Ram Mandir, cow protection, propagating yoga, and the like. The abolition of Articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution was a great victory over the secessionists and that devil Pakistan. NRC is the solution to many of our problems.

India is broadly a country of immigrants, like North America, which explains its tremendous diversity—a multitude of religions, castes, languages, ethnic and regional groups. Therefore, the only policy which can hold the country together and take it on the path of progress is secularism and giving equal respect to all communities, sects and groups. This was the policy of the great Emperor Akbar who gave equal respect to all, and whom I have called the real Father of the Indian Nation.

I have no sympathy for the Congress party, under whom corruption became rampant with scam following scam of not just crores but lakhs of crores of rupees. So they rightly deserved to be thrown out.

But the Indian people have gone from the frying pan into the fire. The BJP, which is in power, is dominated by the RSS, which is an organisation consisting of people with reactionary medieval mindsets who are rabidly anti-Muslim and anti-Christian. Ever since they came to power in 2014, atrocities on minorities have multiplied, communalism has increased exponentially, and Muslims, in particular, have been painted as devils and targeted.

It is not the eyes of the common man alone which have been sought to be “put out” by the present dispensation. Efforts have been made to put out even the eyes of the educated class, in various ways, by Goebbelsian propaganda by our mostly shamelessly sold-out media, by the perversion of science and our history, and by the saffronisation of most of our institutions.

The test of every political system and political activity is one, and only one: Does it raise the standard of living of the people? Does it give them better lives? From that viewpoint, how will the Indian people be benefited by the construction of a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya? Will it abolish poverty or unemployment in India? Will it relieve farmers distress or child malnourishment?

So also, how will the abolition of Articles 35A and 370 raise the standard of living of the Kashmiri people (when, in fact, it has made their lives miserable, with curfews, the shutdown of Internet and mobile and other restrictions for 60 days). Some say that now many businessmen will buy land in Kashmir and build factories there, providing employment. But, this is nonsense. Who will set up a factory in a disturbed area where bullets may be flying around? To my mind, the abrogation of Articles 35A and 370 was a gimmick (like Yoga Day, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, cow protection) by a beleaguered government which wants to divert public attention from the terrible economic crisis which has gripped India, and for which they have no solution.

Of course, the Muslim minority is a convenient scapegoat for all ills, as Jews were for the Nazis.

Since their eyes are being systematically “put out”, dark days are ahead for Indians.

Justice Markandey Katju retired from the Supreme Court in 2011

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK