Democracy is not Majoritarianism
That the Republic is being subjected to a majoritarian putsch, especially across the cow belt, is by now all too obvious. Even as one side of the official mouth swears allegiance to the Constitution, the other seeks to take bigger and bigger bites at its substance in consonance with a good old political agenda.
That this sort of aggression would reach the law-making Assembly in Jammu & Kashmir is clearly an ominously new endeavour.
It is the BJP's case that an old law does exist within the Ranbir Penal Code (1931) prohibiting the slaughter of beef in the state. True enough; and the High Court which upheld a P.I.L seeking enforcement of that provision may not thus be faulted, never mind the further fact that the honourable Supreme Court of India issued a stay order on the Hight Court's decree prior to the party thrown by Engineer Rashid—a fact that puts him on the right side of the law.
But here is the question: that old Ranbir Code also has two other provisions, if one is not mistaken. It holds prostitution to be legal activity and, secondly, enjoins that anything said or written against the government of the day constitutes sedition.
Suppose, therefore, another P.I.L were to go the High Court seeking order to allow prostitution in accordance with "existing" law, would the Bharatiya Janata Party go along with that perfectly legitimate demand? Or with the demand to render all things said or written against the government as sedition? In fairness, after their stand on the matter of beef, these questions need to be answered, lest it be said that, true to pattern, laws that flatter prejudice are to be held lawful, and laws that do not unlawful.
Of course the larger question remains: are personal choices to be dictated by the state? Gandhi certainly did not think so—reason why he strenuously resisted demands to ban cow slaughter despite his consuming veneration of the animal. What did he say: that you do this sort of thing in one place and similar demands will come up in some other place not to your liking; and, all importantly, that such choices cannot be enforced by fiat but must be the result of voluntary convictions.
Quite rightly did Omar Abdullah ask whether, inspired by the course the BJP has taken, groups of people should go around the state and lynch all and any caught drinking liquor, as Mohammed Akhlaque was lynchied in Dadri? I know of many who imbibe now and then in the valley, but I do not know that any of them thus far have received visits from religious fascists threatening their life and limb. And I hope that the experience the state has just had with Engineer Rashid will ensure that such a thing never happens.
Democracy cannot be an expression of majoritarian diktat, be it of one religious or social preference in one place and of another in some other place. Especially, the personal living habits of individual citizens must under all circumstances—except such as the Constitution enshrines—remain ineluctably beyond the reach of group prejudice or religious injunction.
Precisely because beliefs are everyday sought to be rammed down reluctant and unprepared souls has the word turned into a sweltering arena of bloody contention.