This is a month of Ambedkar, not because his birth but due to newly found interest in him of Indian politicians, civil society and think tanks. After Anna Hazare’s ‘India Against Corruption’ everyone quoting him against such arm – twisting tactics earlier by Mahatma Gandhi and now by Anna Hazare.
History goes back to 1930-32, when the concept of separate electorate for Untouchable was raised by Dr. Ambedkar. The concept was not new to India as similar provisions were available to Muslim Christians and Anglo – Indian. Gandhi opposed the concept very strongly, claiming that it would disintegrate Hindu society. Gandhi started his hunger strike at Yerawada jail. Dr. Ambedkar was under tremendous pressure to save the life of Mahatma Gandhi.
The question emerged from this situation was:
1. Who was violent?
2. Is Fast unto death is really a democratic mean?
3. What may be alternative method available?
4. Whether Anna’s “fast unto death” was reasonable?
All these questions are not easy to answer.
1. Without going the cause of such hunger strike, we may say Gandhi was insisting violence to himself. Ambedkar called for dialogue, which resulted in Poona pact. Gandhi forced the dialogue not requested or initiated the dialogue.
2. In perfect democracy, everyone has right of expression and as a rule, there is no place for any kind of forced or coerced decision making. The ‘fast unto death’ prima facie is a use of violence.
3. Only democratic method is:
a. Public awareness to the cause,
b. Dialogue, and
c. Approval of your cause in public referendum
4. This is a point of actual debate. May I ask few question:
a. What are methods of public awareness available to a good cause covering masses of India?
b. Whether other party (i.e. government) is ready to dialogue unconditionally?
c. Whether there is a process of free and fair referendum is really available in India?
We will take these questions one by one, in reversed order.
A. No, there is no process of referendum is permitted in Indian constitution. Further, Indian constitution is based on a broad assumption of well informed general public and its properly elected representatives in 3 tier representation system. Gross misuse of power, corruption in public offices, almost handicapped election law and party nomination based election system make this a mockery of democracy. Indians are forced to elect a group of dictators for five year terms.
B. No. a particular group consisting of handful of political families, across the party line, along with corrupt industrialists (read white collar criminals) and criminals rule this democratic nation. They do not want to listen, any concerns of general public. Many problems currently prevalent in India, are result of these polices like; Insurgencies in north east India, maoist uprising, suicides by farmers. All this forced them for an arm rebellion. I do not support them, but understand that if our democratic government start dialogue at very early state, many of these problems may never been arise.
C. Indians are living in an age of paid news and surviving from a media controlled by few elites, politicians and corrupts. State control on radio and elites controlled television, which are primary source of information for masses, never permit any idea to propagate which it do not like. So, means of public awareness is actually very limited.
Without any aggressive mean, no one can propagate any idea in India. A proper public relation exercise is a key of successful spread of your message. Only bad news is good news for Indian media. An old man is going to die for a public cause is really bad news for Indian masses and good news for media. This is a means really violent but not violent enough. A “fast unto death” could not provide any legitimate right to government to use any kind of legitimate or illegitimate force as a usual practice as seen in all armed rebellions against present system. Even if, “fast unto death” was not truly constitutional but in present case it become democratic when the movement “India Against Corruption” declared its intention of unconditional talk with government. Hence, “fast unto death” along with offer of dialogue become reasonable.