Suppressing voices of members of the legislative assembly in Madhya Pradesh could be counter-productive for Indian democracy.
Legislators in Madhya Pradesh must not ask sensitive questions.
India has been marred by internal conflicts ranging from those occurring in small towns and cities to widespread ones across provinces. With over 3,000 castes and nearly 25,000 subcastes in India today, the country is a collection of natives with varying lifestyles and ideologies. With so many classes of the Hindu society, characterized by degrees of ritual purity or pollution and of social status, the voices of those belonging to these caste systems cannot be muffled. However, a certain amendment by the Madhya Pradesh government is perhaps changing how politicians conduct their daily affairs in the Assembly. Apparently, the MP government has prevented Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) from asking, discussing or explaining any information, question or insight regarding the riots that take place in the province or in any part of India. Apart from this, discussing any and all ‘sensitive issues’ has also been banned. According to these amended rules, the speaker of the House - enjoying a neutral position - and hailing from the ruling party will have precedence over a no-confidence motion from the opposition parties.
The decree as per the Madhya Pradesh Assembly by Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, who belongs to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is considered to be promoting the ideas of the Indian government and especially those of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Apparently, the legislators are asked not to ask any question that refers to communal riots, confidential issues or any query encouraging secession or anything that threatens the unity of the country.
Under this amendment, the legislators cannot talk about any sensitive issue which will make the job of those legislators difficult who are honest and law-abiding citizens. Perhaps this is another way the Indian government has devised to hide its flaws and shortcomings. Where the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, is known for harbouring extremist intent against the Muslims and the minority sects of India - with riots against Muslims going out of hand during the Gujarat riots when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat –this amendment in the MP Assembly only goes to further demonstrate how the government wants its secrets to remain hidden.
However, a concern among the legislators would be to know the definition of "sensitive issues" and what the governed and the ruling party mean by this term and to what extent they would consider an issue sensitive or insensitive. While the government of India has imposed their will on the legislators and the politicians from the opposition party, this rule is also meant to keep all social menaces hidden from the public's eye. Moreover, this newly imposed law is against the very foundations of democracy the Indian constitution is based on where everyone has the right to ask questions, explain situations, deliberate upon events, take decisions and collectively brainstorm on tasks to be completed by all levels of the state and government.
The legislators are, therefore, the people’s representatives who have to unearth questions, provide the people with answers and present with solutions. However, how can legislators and state officials provide solutions to social problems if they cannot share them in the House and have a
meaningful discussion on sensitive issues plaguing society? When such issues are not discussed, their resolution is not possible. The opposition parties now need to join forces and stand against this atrocity as it is their constitutional duty to address all issues affecting society. When members of the assembly are unable to present their problems, the very essence of democracy is lost and makes no sense at all.
Such prevention of expressing thoughts and feelings as presenting a realistic picture of society will create a gap between reality and expectation and broaden the distance between the opposition and the government.
Perhaps, in the near future, the general public will lose its will to take sides with the government and be one with the opposition when the government chokes the life out of the public and a revolution brews up to take on the government. It is yet to be seen if a revolution will occur in India and, if so, what will be the intensity?
With the BJP taking away from the members of the legislative assembly their basic right of speaking and expressing their problems, they will be made to sit quietly whiteout raising their voices. This may give way to a rebellious attitude which would be detrimental to the BJP government and the cause of democracy that it constantly champions.
A rebellion at the national level with many Hindu groups not having their issues resolved may drive them to take their concerns to the streets and this would compound the headache for the government.
The MP government has prevented Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) from asking, discussing or explaining any information, question or insight regarding the riots that take place in the province or in any part of India.
The writer is a columnist and author. His areas of interest include political and social issues.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh.