PUCL Bulletin, June 1981
First J.P. Memorial Lecture
by Dada Dharmadhikari
Justice Chagla was to have delivered today's lecture. It is our misfortune that he is no more. And so today you have to listen to a lecture by me.
the People" is the title of a little booklet by Jayaprakash. In Hindj,
it is translated by the word, Lokniti. Chintamani Rao Deshmukh had hailed Jayaprakash
as the "sentinel and custodian of the Indian conscience".
On this occasion I cannot help ask the painful question: where are those whom we call the people of India? Are we a people, and have we a conscience? I do not expect an answer from you. All of you will have to search for an answer within yourself. I am also in search of that. iayaprakash's entire life was devoted to such a quest. In that quest he dared and accomplished, and in that quest he died.
Friends, two qualities
were unique to Jayaprakash Narayan. This man was never a "candidate"
for any office.
Democracy allows a legitimate space for "candidature". But this man was never a candidate for office is indeed
exceptional. In our country at least, with the exception of Gandhi, there is no other such example. Jayaprakash was not intimidated by failure. It could never compel him to abandon his search. The long line of failures were for him 'stepping stones' towards success. This was something unique about Jayaprakash. Being with him one could risk being wrong. For many like me, it was a privilege and sheer joy to be with him in endeavours that involved the risk of grave failures. And yet the longing to overcome and accomplish never ceased.
Today, on this occasion in his memory, I want to direct your attention to another aspect. The Indian nation is crumbling. It is dissolving into bits and fragments. Like the jumble of various odds and ends, in a wayside shop, this nation lies scattered in innumerable castes and sects (sampradayas). The 'community' is nowhere in sight. Of the 'Nation' there seems not a trace.
I have just come from Ahmedabad. To me Ahmedabad seems a city without 'citizens'. They are nowhere. Who are those 'citizens' in whose name you speak of 'liberty'? You are striving to be the 'custodian and protector' of the liberty of citizens. Where are those citizens? They seem lost. in the crowd. Their entity is submerged in numbers. 'Crowd' and 'people' are two very different things. But then what is a crowd? In a crowd there are several heads but no brain. In it, thousands of bodies devoid of any unifying intelligence jostle-an aggregate of bodies without a heart. On one side is arrayed such a crowd. That crowd sometimes wields the 'danda'. On other occasions it uses stones. On the other side stands the constable of police. His 'danda', my friends, has become quite useless.
I go to Uttar Pradesh,
Bihar and the police constable tells me: "Huzur, we feel lost. True. we
have the danda but
so does the crowd and the goonda." Remember my friends, these 'goondas' are no longer what they traditionally used to be. Among them there are college students and our 'educated babus'. Street mobs bent on mindless destuction are assuming the dimensions of a social stratum. Their numbers are swelling. Any day a handful of people in Bombay can grind life to a halt. The 'citizen' is fearful and terrorised. What then is to be the fate of civil liberty?
A student andolan (Gujarat) is in full swing. Students who want to attend classes are afraid of being beaten up. The students said to me they had never indulged in violence, they had never so much as raised their hands. Then how was this fear born? I told them that during the entire agitation the Chief Minister had not so much as slapped anyone. Personally he had never indulged in violence. And yet could one deny the unending police excesses and brutality. From where had it all come? How does one explain the numbing fear of the police? Make no mistake about it, this is violence-of the State, and of the crowd. It is not rebellion but simply mindless violence. It is not a people's movement, my friends, it is terrorism-a riot of unbridled violence and mindless destruction. Riots do not transform society, 'insurrection' does not make an 'armed revolution'. Struggle and riot are two very different phenomena. Riots breed heartless, inhuman cruelty.
Censorship of the crowd is no less tyrannical than the censorship-of the State. College boys have beaten editors. Their offices have been burnt. Their lives have been threatened.
Fires of a 'caste war' are smouldering in this country. The middle class, our 'educated babus', have become 'counter-revolutionary'. Who are the people? Guns are in the hands of the police constable. The crowd is armed with stones. Those who have no guns or stones to wield, the citizens: where are they? Roads are blocked, vehicles are stoned. This is the pattern of vhat is mistaken as lokandolan (people's movement). In such a lokandolan, the lok, the citizens, cease to exist.
Would the young men and women who feel with JP offer resistance? It would require extraordinary courage. To fight a police constable is easy enough. To fight the crowd requires infinitely greater courage. The goonda can beat you up on any street corner. I have known police constables lament: "Hazoor, consider our plight. Apart from the gun we have nothing. If we use the gun an inquiry follows. If we don't we are bashed up in the streets." Crowds of college boys roam the streets threatening women and children. Peaceful citizens are harassed. The doors of ordinary homes are smashed. The police constable is demoralized He does not want to act.
Recently I read an article on Ahmedahad in Roy Saheb's journal, The Radical Humanist. And what does it say? The time has come to replace the police by the B.S.F. Why? The police, we are told, is divided on caste lines. If there is a riot in Bombay, the Gujarat police is sent. What is the meaning of all this? If there was serious trouble on an all- India scale, do we call foreign police? Is this our nationalism? frightening things have been said in the article. The article recommends a united front stretching from the untouchables to the Muslims. Just consider its awful implications. In this country there are innumerable minorities. There are religious minorities like the Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Christians. They should feel secure and free. Then there are the Adivasis. They have their own traditions and their own past linked to a distinct cultural sensibility. But, do not forget, my friends, we have sworn to abolish the minority called 'untouchables'. It is our sacred undertaking that in this country there shall be no untouchables Today they feel their very existence threatened. The upper-caste Hindus have opposed whatever attempts the government has made o protect them.
In the entire country there is not a single region where one jati or another does not feel threatened and in need of protection. What sort of a community is this? Where is the nation' for whose liberty you feel so concerned? Friends, I confess, I am dazed and scared. I am fearful that we are imperceptibly slipping towards anarchy and chaos. And let is not forget that when things break down, petty local dictators rule the streets. Power passes completely into the hands of the goondas. Their jati or religion makes little difference. That ought to be resisted. And the youth who speak in the name of J.P. should take the lead. In this if we fail, civil life would become impossible in our country. And when civil life disappears, civil liberty has no meaning. Almost every day soldiers have to be deployed. The police is ineffective. Citizen-power is a mere symbol. The citizen in a democracy is sovereign. But in this country the citizen is timid and spineless. He is a coward. Democracy does not mean the rule of numbers. It is rule by majority. In our country there is no majority. The 'Hindu majority' a myth-a figment of imagination. The Hindus, where are they? Consider the case of Uttar Pradesh. It is ruled by six jatis. A similar situation prevails in Maharashtra. In reality our linguistic states are jati states. Each village and each town is a 'Jatistan' of one variety or another. Each region is a"Bhashistan'. And Pakistan is the natural progeny of this dynamic. It was not something that burst upon us from nowhere. It is lodged deep in our midst. Its seed lies somewhere in the womb of our traditions and our past.
We dare not forget this. I am anxious to direct your attention towards this because there is still time. But if our young citizens do not recognise this before it is too late, citizenship and the citizen shall disappear from this land. and then perhaps even those who are in search of it, would not survive.
I am tormented. Our educated young have become counter-revolutionary. Communal riots are organised under their leadership. The inhabitants of this land have made it their sacred mission to see that there are no Gujaratis in Maharashtra, no Marathis in Gujarat, no Kannadis in Belgaum. They want to determine which people, belonging to which language, shall partake the water of Krishna and bathe in the Ganga. If we do not concern ourselves with these issues now, we may never be able to face them. You who are young, have to live. My days are numbered. You should regard me as a being almost of the world hereafter. It is your concern, that minorities would survive in the world you wish to live in. There are minorities who have settled here from other countries. Foremost among them are the Parsis. And, perhaps, no one has loved and served the country as much as the Parsi minority. Amongst all of us they are perhaps the most patriotic. Then there are the Jews. They have never claimed a separate language. In your world, would they and others be secure ? Would they be able to live in the midst of riots and strife-with dignity?
The author of that article in the Radical Humanist has demanded an alliance of all the minorities. .And who are these minorities? Is the situation of the Muslim minority the same as that of the minority called untouchables? Are their roles and pasts identical? Their roles are very different. It has been our endeavour to abolish the minority called untouchables. That is our solemn resolve. Terrible confusion prevails. At the moment our minds are enmeshed in a tangle of twisted ideas. The imperative need is to untangle and free our minds, and strive to think in terms of the entire country.
One more thing, and 1 would have finished. After 1948 there has not been a single national figure whom the people knew. J.P. was the last representative. A few ruins like me still linger. Then of course there is Indira. In power or out of it, people recognise her. All others, including those who occupy national office, are dwarfs and pygmies. Their state, their village and their districts define their ultimate boundaries. We are becoming a land of pygmies. They want to live in their little hovels. For them India does not exist. We have to search a way out. Do not ask anyone's guidance. Many are keen to guide. These people never cease to hawk guidance. But hardly anyone among them would want himself to search a way out. Beaten tracks take us nowhere. The need is to carve out new spaces. Let us resolve to protect and nourish, for the sake of our India, the seeds of nationalism in the hearts of the people.
Bombay, March 20, 1981
[Translated from Hindi]
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