Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

The Indian Scene

Prof. M. Venkatarangaiya   

PROF. M. VENKATARANGAIYA

Developments in the Indian scene since the review made last September may as usual be studied under two broad heads–developments in external affairs, and those in internal affairs. So far as external affairs are concerned it is a matter for extreme regret that our relations with Pakistan and China have not become normalised in spite of our best efforts and that relations with the United States continue to be a little strained. In this discouraging atmosphere it is a matter for gratification that our relations with Soviet-Russia and Bangla Desh continue to be close and friendly.

It was hoped that as a result of the Simla agreement concluded nine months ago that steps would be taken to normalise the relations between the two countries but such hopes have not been realised. There was considerable delay even in the demarcation of the line of control in Jammu and Kashmir and the military withdrawal from the occupied territories across the international border. India had to show considerable patience before Pakistan could be brought round to settle a crucial issue like this.

I

It was understood at the time of Simla agreement that Pakistan would soon recognise Bangla Desh and that this would be followed by official level talks for the release of prisoners of war, for the final settlement of the Kashmir problem and for the restoration of diplomatic relations. But President Bhutto has chosen to adopt delaying tactics in the matter of recognising Bangla Desh. At one stage he expressed the view that he would do this after the March general elections in Bangla Desh which he tried to influence in a variety of ways. He perhaps expected that the opposition parties would gain some strength–especially the pro-Muslim League and the pro-China and anti-Indian parties. But disappointment over-took him as Sheikh Mujibur Rehman was returned with a thumping majority. Even now he is averse to recognising Bangla Desh.

It should be clear to him that even though it is financially burdensome to keep 90,000 prisoners of war, India will not release them unless Bangla Desh gives her consent for it and that no such consent would be forthcoming unless he recognises Bangla Desh. He is trying his best to mobilise international public opinion and bring pressure on India to release the prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva convention and also on humanitarian grounds. But India is not prepared to yield to such pressures. To her the continued friendship of Bangla Desh is far more important than the so called international goodwill. This friendship has now become an integral part of India’s foreign policy. Peace and stability can return to the sub-continent only on the basis of such friendship.

President Bhutto perhaps is unable to adopt a course which in the long run will prove beneficial to his country because of the internal and external pressures on him. Internally the army clique and the elitist ruling groups in the civilian population especially in Punjab are not yet become reconciled to the new situation in the sub-continent created by the war of December 1971. They still hope that with the help of China and the United States they could take vengeance on India. Punjab is the key Province in Pakistan and so long as the attitude of Punjabis continues to be hostile to India and Bangla Desh Bhutto cannot do much, whatever his personal convictions may be. There is also the pressure from China. To the ruling circles in that country keeping up tensions in the Indian sub-continent is necessary if India is to be prevented from becoming a major political power in South Asia. They are prepared to extend any amount of military and financial aid to Pakistan to make her an effective instrument for the execution of their policies, and the President is he as unable to overcome the pressure from China as he is unable to meet the pressure from his own military clique. In fact the two are closely related. There is also the influence of the United States on him. This super-power continues to regard the maintenance of a balance between India and Pakistan to be in her national interest and this is why she has resumed the supply of arms to Pakistan. This encourages Bhutto and the military clique in their hostile attitude towards India. Normalcy in the relations between the countries is being delayed and both the countries are compelled in consequence to divert a good proportion of their limited resources to defence expenditure. Economic and social development suffers. Herein lies the tragedy of the whole situation.

There is a feeling in the ruling circles in India that China is reconsidering her policies towards this country and that she might give up her blatantly hostile attitude just as she did in the case of the United States. Among the indicators noticed by the Government of India are higher level Chinese officials attending Indian Republic Day Reception in Peking, a more senior diplomat being posted to head theChinese embassy in New Delhi and the Chinese officials in general in different parts of the world showing a more normal attitude in their contacts with their Indian counterparts. These are a few favourable straws in the wind and it is not as yet clear how much significance has to be attached to them. It is only when the situation is so changed as to make it possible for opening a dialogue in regard to border disputes in the Himalayan and Ladakh areas that one can think of closer relations between the two countries. Such a situation might have arisen but for the Indo-Soviet Treaty of friendship. To China to-day her disputes with Soviet Russia on her borders with that country are of the greatest importance. Her foreign policy is being moulded with a view to the settlement of the border tensions. That India has come closer to Soviet Russia in consequence of the Treaty of friendship is a matter of some concern to China in the context of her relations with Soviet Russia. She knows that it is purely a defensive treaty. In spite of this she has not chosen to substantially change her attitude towards India and all the moves we have so far made to bring about a change have not borne fruit.

The recent resumption of arms supply to Pakistan by United States has retarded the pace of more normal relations being established between the two biggest democracies in the world. All arms supplied in the past to Pakistan were used against India and there is nothing to show that they will not be so used again. It is quite possible that the resumed supply is a part of the execution of the new policy of the United States in the region of the Persian Gulf. All the same India has every justification to entertain misgivings about its ultimate effect on the peace and stability in the sub-continent. It is true that the resumption of arms supply to Pakistan has been accompanied by the resumption of economic aid to India. But this has not completely expelled the fears of this country. It is a matter of history that Super-powers live on tensions between lesser powers. They create tensions where they do not previously exist. This explains why India entertains doubts about the bonafidesof the United States in resuming her arms supply to Pakistan.

In this discouraging atmosphere one bright spot is the victory won by the party led by Mujibur Rehman in the first Bangla Desh general elections in March. His party is wedded to democracy, socialism and secularism–the ideals which India has set before herself. More important than this is the interest of his party in maintaining friendship with India. Weshould not forget that there are powerful elements in Bangla Desh which are anti-Indian and pro-Pakistan and pro-Chinese. They have campaigned against India during the general election. Though they have been defeated they continue to be a force. It is in this context that the return of Mujibur Rehman’s party to power is of great significance to us.

Our relations with Soviet Russia have become closer in recent months. This is to the advantage of both countries provided that we do not become a sort of a satellite of Soviet Russia. As a prominent Indian political scientist observes “It seems to be the only major power which for its own interests, has a stake in India’s emergence as a strong and stable state.” What is necessary is that we do not abandon our democratic values and take to communism under the influence of the vigorous propaganda carried on by Soviet media of mass communication.

II

The elections to the Lok Sabha in 1971 and to the State Assemblies in 1972 resulted in an electoral verdict in favour of political stability combined with the formulation and execution of progressive policies in the economic and social spheres. This was how the political observers of the elections commented on their significance. But recent developments have shown that politicians who control the destinies of the country have little or no appreciation of the value of political stability.

The method adopted by Srimathi Indira Gandhi to secure political stability in various states have not yielded the expected results. Her method was to impose her own men or women, as chief ministers of states, the ostensible reason being that the factions inside the Congress party were incapable of selecting proper leaders. This method has suffered from two serious shortcomings. One was that it interfered too much with the autonomy of state legislature parties to choose their leaders. It came into conflict with the basic principle of federalism. Regional sentiment continues to be strong in the country and events have shown that in a conflict between national and regional loyalties it is the latter that appeal to the politically conscious sections of the people. A second shortcoming of the new method is that almost all the Chief Ministers imposed from above had no local base of support and they showed little capacity and willingness to build such a base. They felt that local support was not needed so long as they commanded the confidence of the Prime Minister and the central leadership. They cared little for their own colleagues in the council of ministers and for the leaders of different groups in the state legislatures or in the state Congress organisations. Even on matters of little or no importance they sought the advice of central leaders in preference to that of local men of influence in their own party. They spent most of their time in making visits to New Delhi. This led to the demoralisation of the Congress party in various states and to the strengthening of factional intrigues.

Between 1967 and 1972 political instability in some of the states was due to no party having a majority in their assemblies and coalition ministries coming into existence. Such ministries did not last long because of internal quarrels. Several states came consequently under President’s rule. The electorate was consequently dissatisfied with the role and functioning of the parties in opposition to the Congress and this was one of the main reasons for the debacle of these parties in the elections of 1971 and 1972 and the restoration of Congress dominance at the Centre and in the states. The electorate realized–and this is the view of political observers and commentators–that it is only through one-party dominance that political stability could be secured.

Recent events have shown that even under one-party dominance it may not be easy to secure real political stability. In Andhra the Congress majority under the chief ministership of Narasimha Rao failed to give stability because of factionalism inside the party. Those who were at heart opposed to the Prime Minister’s imposition of his chief ministership, took advantage of the controversy over Mulki rules, started the separatist movement in the Andhra region and brought about the downfall of the ministry and made President’s rule inevitable. A similar situation developed in Orissa leading to the fall of Nandini ministry followed by President’s rule. Similar moves are actively afoot in Mysore and Gujarat and to some extent in U. P. also. All this is due to rampant factionalism inside the Congress party and factionalism exists because of the conviction that no opposition parties would be able to take the place of the Congress however intense the internal quarrels may be.

Political morality has always been at a low ebb in the country and it is at the lowest ebb to-day. There is bitter struggle for power among the partymen in Congress. This is responsible for factionalism in the party and the attempts made by each faction to oust one ministry in office and replace it by another. Lip sympathy is paid to ideology and the so-called socialist programmes. When persons come into power they use it mainly to further their self-interest and a second place is given to public interest. When a faction or group is unable to come into power it defects from the party. It is defection that is responsible for the fall of the Nandini ministry. There has been a large amount of talk on the need to undertake legislation against defectors but, as in many other cases, the talk has not resulted in any action.

The well-known International Economist and Political Scientist, Gunnar Myrdal, refers to the lack of social discipline as a characteristic of “the soft state” as it has developed in India and other developing countries. He also refers to the widespread corruptions prevailing in these countries as one of the forms of this indiscipline. That there is considerable truth in his observation is borne out by the unscrupulous conduct of the factious elements in the party in power and the unashamed way in which politicians defect from one party to another. In very few democratic countries do we find the kind of “defecting” “Aya Rams” and “Gaya Rams” which we find in our country. There has been no fall in their numbers.

One-party dominance has not only failed to secure real political stability in states but also contributed to the frustration of opposition parties and their frequent resort to extra-constitutional activities to create trouble for the party in power. Discipline has suffered in Parliament as well as in state legislatures and direct action has become a part of the normal political process. This is bound to adversely affect the country’s political ability in the long run.

All this leads to the conclusion borne out by the experience of mature democracies, in the world that democracy works best only when there is a balance between the party or parties in power and those in opposition. The question is not whether there should be only two parties or a multi-party-system. Political stability is possible under both systems provided that parties in opposition at one time have chances of coming to power later. It is this kind of interchange that ensures adherence to constitutional norms. Our electorate is immature as yet and does not understand the need for strong parties in opposition. This is partly due to the parties in opposition not spending adequate time and energy in building their strength in the electorate and in evolving policies and programmes which really appeal to the electorate and educating the mass of voters in the utility of such policies and programmes. If democracy has not yet produced the kind of results which it is expected to produce, the responsibility for it lies not merely with the Congress party which has almost all along been in power but also with the parties in opposition and with the electorate. It should also be recognised that more cannot be expected from the electorate–illiterate and tradition-bound as it is. The initiative should come from political parties. They should develop more of public spirit; their standard of morality should reach a higher level both in respect of the means they adopt to get power and influence and to retain them. There is need for more discipline and less corruption.

III

The growth of violence has been another feature of the internal situation in the country in recent months. All direct action appears to start peacefully but it is not really so. It takes a violent form immediately. In the areas where it breaks out words like “Law” “Authority” “Peace”, “Order” and “Legitimacy” cease to have any meaning. Not only do they have no meaning but they cease to have any place. Life becomes completely paralysed.

Violence has been resorted to for achieving aims and objectives both unworthy and worthy. It was with the aim of obtaining cheap cinema tickets that it was resorted to in Punjab. In Assam the aim was to find a settlement for the linguistic problem, the problem whether the Bengali-speaking minority should have the freedom to use a language other than Assamese as the medium of instruction at the university level. In Orissa it was a small editorial in a Calcutta daily that led to serious riots. In Andhra the aim to start with was the scrapping of Mulki rules but a short time later it took the form of a demand for a separate state. Campus violence has become a normal phenomenon and on most occasions it is aimed at the settlement of issues which have very little, or nothing, to do with education.

Democracy is valued primarily because it opens avenues for the peaceful settlement of issues. Its significance is brought out by the oft-quoted statement that it substitutes ballots for bullets. Those who rule the country under a democracy are the representatives elected by the people themselves and not alien or indigenous groups whose authority is imposed on them. Whenever an issue arises which needs settlement, there are various peaceful channels open for settlement. It is open to those interested in the issue to make representation to the government of the day. Meetings for shaping public opinion may be held. The press may be used for the same purpose. Public attention may be attracted through processions. If the issue is a serious one there is scope for calling for bandhs and strikes. There are the legislatures which serve as forums for expression of popular opinion and also for taking action on all public issues. Is it not a folly to resort to violence when so many peaceful and less costly methods are open for the settlement of issues?

It is often argued by those who resort to violence that in our country Government doesn’t respond to peaceful agitation and that it yields only to violences. This is a hasty and unproved statement though it is repeated from all platforms. Even if there is some truth in this argument, the less costly course is to try peaceful methods first and when it is clearly established that all such methods have failed violence may be thought of. It is also not true that Government yields only to violence, and violence has not brought dividends in all cases.

It is paradoxical that in a country like ours where even freedom from alien rule was secured through non-violent co-operation under the unique leadership of Mahatma Gandhi violence is being resorted to for the settlement of issues which are of little significance. What the cost of violence has been was very well brought out by Sri I. B. Ramakrishna Rao who led the 107 days marathon strike of N. G. O’s in Andhra. He said in justification for calling off the strike:

“The Andhra employees’ leaders had to take into account the acute hardship caused to poorer sections of the people by the strike. We are painfully aware that some of them were denied even the basic necessities of life on account of the strike. Further continuance of the strike will mean untold misery to the people in drought affected areas besides retarding progress.”

This is only a mild statement of the kind or paralysis that has overtaken the Andhra region as a result of the violence that broke against Mulki rules. The C. R. P. which was sent to suppress violence naturally resorted to greater violence in carrying out its task. It is the people that became victims of violence. It has been calculated that in consequence of the enforcement of the Mulki rules the Andhra would have lost 2000 jobs of all grades in the course of a year and no one considered seriously whether for retaining such a small advantage it was worthwhile to resort to large scale violence for months involving huge destruction to property and administrative paralysis and complete erosion of all democratic values and of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Even common sense tells us that there should be some correspondence between the value of the ends we try to secure and the cost and sacrifice we have to make for securing such ends. Violence makes men blind even to the lessons of common sense.

There is no need to dwell at greater length on the harmful consequences of resort to violence. The consequences are not only of immediate significance. They affect the nature of our public life in the long run. They strengthen the forces which are at the root of social indiscipline to which Gunnar Myrdal refers. The sooner we realise this the better it will be.

Political scientists all over the world have written volumes on various “isms” which have shaped the lives of the people of the modern world–“isms” like Individualism, Socialism, Communism and Fascism. Here is a new “ism” which deserves study by them. It is difficult to find an appropriate name for it. It may however be designated “Rowdy-ism” or “Hooliganism” or “Goonda-ism”. The name does not matter. It is the phenomenon and forces that have created it that require study and it is hoped that political scientists in India will devote some attention to it for the simple reason that it is this “ism” that has cast its spell over the political life of the country and has become a prelude to the kind of chaos and anarchy which remind us of the days that followed the collapse of the Mughal Empire.
–March 26, 1913

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