Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Malegaon precipice

Whatever may be the facts of the case, the aftermath of the inquiry in the Malegaon blasts has already become an ominous watershed in our politics. Much of the debate has centred on peripheral issues: the semantic squabble over what this kind of terrorism should be called, if the facts turn out to be true. Then there is the numerical worry: if true, how widespread is this kind of activity? But these questions simply deflect attention from the seriousness of the crisis. We are now moving towards a monumental tragedy. To see how deep the rot is, just think of the following five issues. Fringe groups and secessionist movements question the legitimacy of the state, but despite imperfections India survived as a legitimate state. But now the amazing thing has happened. Every single mainstream political party (repeat: every single mainstream political party) now openly questions the legitimacy of the state. Some political parties believe the state apparatus is unfair to minorities, some say it is grossly manipulated to assault the majority.
Each questions the methods, techniques, objectives and impartiality of the state. They disagree on everything else, but on one thing they are agreed: you cannot take the state at face value; it is out to persecute, trap, and conspire against someone or the other. Essentially, this is the state we are in.
After the BJP is done with what the state is supposedly doing to Hindus, and after the UPA is done with what it is doing to Muslims, does the Indian state have any shred of credibility left? If the mainstream political parties don’t trust it, what can we say to anyone else who questions the legitimacy of the Indian state, like the Kashmiris? Most states lose legitimacy because they are found to be manipulating the facts. We have pulled off the remarkable feat of rendering the facts irrelevant. No matter what the facts, the state has been declared untrustworthy even before it can render a final verdict. Can you imagine any political society surviving if all its main political parties acted as if the state were fundamentally untrustworthy? Second, political discourse has now locked itself into a vicious circle. Members of the BJP, such as Rajnath Singh, have committed themselves to the absurd proposition that innocence and guilt can be settled purely by definition. A large number of religious leaders, including Baba Ramdev whose contribution to public health is more...


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