Whose Freedom, anyway?

What is at stake and in peril is our very freedom which ordinarily covers our commitment to secular democracy, rule of law, development, justice, and human rights.
Whose Freedom, anyway?
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It seems like the beginning of time for me, a green-horn trying to find his place in the dog-eats- dog business of competitive journalism, TV channels yet to make their full impact felt; yes, this story goes back some sixty years plus. One of the few last remaining Brits in my paper the Statesman then was my News Editor and I had just handed in a feature story, as distinct from a hard news story. It was about stalls mushrooming around New Delhi's Jamia Masjid, selling discarded books, gramophone records, crockery, an assortment of this and that, left behind by those who had migrated in consequence of the partitioning of the sub-continent. Yes, you could find rare objets  left behind or sold away at throwaway prices by the departing British ruling elite having ended their almost 300-year-old rule over what was called British India, distinct from the princely States which had their own subject-master relationship with Britain. Muslims too in larger numbers had left for their promised land just across the line drawn by the Brits. Must return to my Brit boss and the dos and don'ts he taught me every day. Never pass on police allegations against someone  until the charge-sheet was framed, never  give your assessment of the loss, say, in a fire which was for the insurance companies to assess. Don't accept the police version as gospel truth unless you have made your fool proof investigation. Must remember one thing, do you get me, the man said, releasing a cloud of smoke, thanks to the half burnt cigar held firmly between his teeth: never start a story with a quotation and certainly not by posing a question as your opening shot.  That's the lazy man's way out. With apologies to my long dead 'gora' mentor of six decades ago I do plead guilty 65 years later opening this piece with a quotation from  George Bernard Shaw's   The Man of Destiny: "There is nothing so good or so bad that you will not find Englishmen doing it, but you will never find an Englishman in the wrong. He does everything on principle. He fights you on patriotic principles, he robs you on business principles, he enslaves you on imperial (nationalistic) principles." Shaw should in fairness have added  the footnote : when the Englishman set out to govern you or your country he does  so according to legal principles, so far as it is consistent with his self-centered round his  patriotism, with his business and with his  political (imperial) interests. In the aftermath of World War II Independent India did pronounce its pledges and aspirations and enshrined them in the Constitution, in the process making its tryst with freedom as our chosen destiny. In 2018 the Indian nation now finds itself in a state of anguished despair and sad disillusionment. We are once again at the crossroads. What is at stake and in peril is our very freedom which ordinarily covers our commitment to secular democracy, rule of law, development, justice, and human rights. What could perhaps have  been  the best of times has tragically turned to be the worst of times. This is a time for serious reflection and hopefully for purposeful action for reconstruction of India, its rededication to the ideals which are woven into the ideology of constitutionalism and human rights.The similarity between the former imperialist rulers  and India's present ruling party would indeed seem marginal. The Bharatiya Janata Party, left to itself would do  away with our Constitutional heritage, wholly if possible, by eroding all its democratic, liberal ethos, if necessary. Slowly but surely it has been using all the weapons available to it to erase the dream the founding fathers of India, may have dreamt while drafting the Constitution, stealthily depriving it of whatever rights it had conferred on citizens irrespective of their faith. Their personal liberties were guaranteed, the people's right to practice their faith was guaranteed, not to speak of the all the other rights conferred on the people, the minorities' rights protected in many ways. Alas the very constitution that safeguards our fundamental rights is being nibbled constantly. And to my horror the media too has been emasculated – beyond recognition. The fake news of the American President Donald Trump seems to have discovered many takers in the country. Aside from stifling the mainstream media the government  has cracked down  on digital media to prevent the opposition from making any headway. To prevent digital technology from becoming a liberating or mobilizing tool, the government has gone out of its way to ramp its surveillance  of all online activities. Facebook had over a period of time tried to fulfill the many demands made by the BJP but it appears that the FBwallas may be reluctant to comply with the Modi Government's demand that the Whatsapp be made "more responsible", an euphemism for curbing its activities. Other drastic measures to tilt the level playing field includes harassment of opposition parties, branding all of them as unpatriotic, voter intimidation, suppression of minorities, lumping them together under the brand name anti Hindu Rashtra, the BJP's other name for India. Of Muslims and the Muslim minority the less the better. It's a harrowing tale  which for some more time may go untold and overlooked. For such is  the  intensity of hate for the community nursed with much care over the last nine decades by the saffornites, headed by the RSS and of which the ruling BJP is but a limb.  Constitutional revolution more amiable to their view of India, a Hindu Rashtra, home to the Hindus of the world but not for the largest minority to which it is the only home it has known for over 1200 years, if not more.

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