Last Saturday, a massive political rally at the Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata was attended by leaders of several political parties opposed to the BJP and important political figures in the country. Soon after, Yogendra Yadav, respected scholar-activist with notable record of service to the nation, gave a stinging remark that it was a concourse of ‘hollow people’ without even a common minimum programme.
I hold Yadav in high regard and recall with admiration his sterling work in bringing down the courts’ strictures on the waste of millions of litres of water by the Indian Premier League cricket tournament when an unprecedented drought was leaving lakhs of human beings, animals and croplands parched. However, I have an uneasy feeling that his comment was rather uncharitable.
Politics being a script not written on a blank slate and where principle must come to terms with power and expediency, this miscellaneous group cannot be faulted for sharing a platform on a single common agenda: overthrowing the BJP government at the Centre. Since this will also serve the larger common purpose of delivering the people from the stranglehold of a fascist force, it must be welcomed with some reservations.
A common minimum programme to provide immediate and lasting relief to the broad working masses from the ravages of the neo-liberal economy must be the first joint proclamation to gain credible popular support in the country.
But the most worrisome question before all right-leaning and patriotic people is the extent to which they are prepared to go in ridding the nation of the virus that has now spread to all organs of social and political life, institutions and spheres of mental and moral activity.
Indeed there is no other name for this appalling phenomenon. It has disabled the media to a large extent, made hideous inroads into education and culture and is well on its way to weaken the judiciary.
Merely winning elections cannot cure this fatal illness. If the parties concerned develop a false sense of security, it will resume its attack with redoubled force, raising riots and mayhem everywhere. The fact that it now finds its path less comfortable and is a little unsure of the angle from which to counter-attack is no comfort to its opposing forces.
If the parties concerned make serious mistakes in their craving for power, then the political weapon of this dangerous pathogen will regain its power and destroy the nation. It will then go on to take over the nation, the state and its institutions, its culture in the brutal image it worships.
Are the parties aware of the nature of the threat? Or are they bemused by the lure of power enough to blind them to its numerous disguises and crossways, its inventive tactics, the extent to which it has already paralysed some faculties of the public mind?
There must be a serious and many-sided salvage operation reaching out to all sane cultural, academic, intellectual elements, including elements of religious institutions to rally them against the insidious and debilitating invasion by this deadly virus, whose social and cultural roots supply it with enlivening nutrients.
There must be a social and cultural movement drawing and calling upon real democratic forces in the country. This should driven by a passion not for business-as-usual, but restoration of reason, civilisation and a determination to uplift the working people who have the largest stake in this fight.
Hiren Gohain is a Guwahati-based scholar and intellectual.