Monday, April 18, 2016

Legal Lawbreakers

“When the state itself disregards the law, what is to be done?” is a question raised in the lead article of the latest Frontline.  The article is about the Chhattisgarh government’s oppression of the tribal people in order to snatch their lands and hand them over to the corporate bigwigs in the name of development.

The authors argue that the BJP has converted many parts of the country into a laboratory for “neoliberal Hindutva” which combines “Hindutva communalism with a corporate-driven development agenda.”  Mission 2016 is the name of the game in Chhattisgarh.  It seeks to evict the Adivasis from the forests using various oppressive measures such as branding them as Maoists and torturing them.  Various new organisations have come up whose members roam the Adivasi regions, pull up people, demand answers, and threaten outsiders such as lawyers, journalists and activists.

Why have governments turned so anti-people and pro-corporate?  There may be many answers.  Throughout history autocrats have  oppressed the helpless and protected the powerful.  Power always attracts power and detests weakness.  But democracy is meant to protect every citizen.  Is the Indian democracy metamorphosing into autocracy of an ideology plus an economic policy?

The way certain sections of people are oppressed and certain motifs are highlighted or even imposed forcibly on people make us wonder whether India will soon become a theocratic nation in which certain communities of people may be eliminated systematically as the “police state” in Chhattisgarh is doing to the Adivasis.

One is also struck by the very meaning of LAW.  Can whatever the government does become lawful merely because the government has the power to implement policies and impose actions?  Is there an invisible equation between LAW and POWER? 

A school vanished from here last year
My personal experience so far has been that those who have the power can do anything and not only get away with it but also justify it as the right thing.  I returned home yesterday after a brief visit to Delhi.  While in Delhi, I made it a point to visit the place where I worked as a teacher for a decade and a half until last year when the school was shut down by a religious leader who had taken over the management.  There was no trace of the school left in the place except the signboards on the roadside warning “School Ahead.”  An entire school was razed to dust, staff were driven out, false charges were fabricated against those who questioned the what was happening, and some were even physically assaulted.  People of the place seem to have forgotten the whole affair already.  In a few months everybody will forget it because life demands burial of memories.  Especially from the weak and the oppressed. 

The world belongs to the powerful.  Even the government does.  Such is the present state of affairs in the country.


  1. "Our laws are not generally known; they are kept secret by the small group of nobles who rule us. We are convinced that these ancient laws are scrupulously administered; nevertheless, it is an extremely painful thing to be ruled by laws that one does not know. I am not thinking of possible discrepancies that may arise in the interpretation of the laws, or of the disadvantages involved when only a few and not the whole people are allowed to have a say in their interpretation. These disadvantages are perhaps of no great importance. For the laws are very ancient; their interpretation has been the work of centuries, and has itself doubtless acquired the status of law; and though there is still a possible freedom of interpretation left, it has now become very restricted. Moreover the nobles have obviously no cause to be influenced in their interpretation by personal interests inimical to us, for the laws were made to the advantage of the nobles from the very beginning, they themselves stand above the laws, and that seems to be why the laws were entrusted exclusively into their hands. Of course, there is wisdom in that--who doubts the wisdom of the anicent laws?--but also hardship for us; probably that is unavoidable." - Kafka

    1. Hi Titas,

      Happy to see you here after a long while and that too with a quote from my favorite writer.


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