Jagdeep S Chhokar
New delhi

Delhi has become a theatre of the absurd. Worse than uncivil stuff is going on in an area ironically called the “Civil Lines”!

The reported sequence of events has it that (a) the senior-most civil servant was repeatedly asked to “attend a meeting” at the Chief Minister’s house at midnight, (b) after some initial demurring, he decided to attend, (c) at the meeting, he was physically assaulted and abused by MLAs in the presence of the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister, (d) The Chief Secretary sent a written complaint to the Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) reporting the assault in which he wrote, “I request you to take action as per law as the assault was premeditated and in conspiracy of all present with intention to criminally intimidate, cause hurt with motive to deter me from discharge of my lawful duty and compel me to follow unlawful directions. None of the persons present in the room made any effort to save me.”

I have chosen to quote from the complaint since it is in the public domain, having been widely reported in the media.

As if that was not enough, there are reports that an advisor to the Chief Minister, who made repeated calls to the Chief Secretary inviting him to the midnight meeting, has given conflicting statements to the police and the magistrate.

The dilemma is: Should one try to deconstruct the events as reported and come to a determination as to who is guilty; or should one lament at the depth to which so-called “governance” has sunk, in the country and in the capital of the country; or should one condemn all sides regardless of how this particular episode in the sordid saga that has been going on in the country for the last couple of decades…yes, decades?

It is not an easy choice to make and it is not a choice that anyone should have to make. Perhaps a reflection on ‘how did we get here’ might help us in thinking about what, if anything, can be done to arrest further decline, if that is at all possible, and dare we say, that improves matters.

One reliable guide, in our own recent past, to how should a state function is Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the Chairman of the Drafting Committee set up by the Constituent Assembly. In his last speech in the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949, in which he commended the adoption of the Constitution, he made some very prescient observations, some of which almost predicted what is happening now. Here is what he said:

“Because I feel, however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot. The working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution. The Constitution can provide only the organs of State such as the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The factors on which the working of those organs of the State depends are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics. 

Who can say how the people of India and their purposes or will they prefer revolutionary methods of achieving them? If they adopt the revolutionary methods, however good the Constitution may be, it requires no prophet to say that it will fail. It is, therefore, futile to pass any judgement upon the Constitution without reference to the part which the people and their parties are likely to play”. 

“Will history repeat itself? It is this thought which fills me with anxiety. This anxiety is deepened by the realization of the fact that in addition to our old enemies in the form of castes and creeds, we are going to have many political parties with diverse and opposing political creeds. Will Indians place the country above their creed or will they place creed above country? I do not know. But this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost for ever. This eventuality we must all resolutely guard against. We must be determined to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood”.

Sadly, what Ambedkar had apprehended has come to pass. Our political parties not only put “creed above country”, they put their selfish electoral prospects above everything else, and do it blatantly and shamelessly.

The question, therefore, is: Is there anything that can be done to make our political parties put national interest above their own selfish electoral prospects? And if something can be done, how will it be done, and who will do it?

As the experience of the past couple of decades has shown, it is not realistic to expect political parties to mend their ways on their own despite repeated exhortations. The primary responsibility, therefore, lies with “We, the People”. The judiciary and the media can be of great help if “We” try to do it as has been seen over the last two decades.

Are “We” up to the task?

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