Sup­press­ing Democ­racy

Sup­press­ing voices of mem­bers of the leg­isla­tive assem­bly in Mad­hya Pradesh could be counter-pro­duc­tive for In­dian democ­racy.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Muham­mad Omar Iftikhar

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.

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