On foreign front, India received a severe beating worldwide, religious freedom and treatment of its minorities and dalits were criticized. Worldwide, media showed India in bad light. All our neighbours became hostile, the latest being Nepal, only Hindu majority country other than India, over border disputes. US State Department showed India as a non-democratic authoritarian country notwithstanding Prime Minister’s personal tactical bonhomie with President Trump. India has been depicted as a country with rising social divide, tension, and social strife, pointing the nation is not the right destination for foreign investors.
On completion of the first year of the second term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s NDA Union Government on May 30, 2020, the country witnessed Hitlerian Blitzkrieg strategy, inflicting collateral damages on millions of migrant labourers and general citizenry, slum dwellers and workers leaving them in lurch walking, barefooted with blistered sole, dehydrating, hungry, starving, gasping for breath and left uncared for to die. Many, indeed, died in road accidents and collapsed while walking, about 600 of them based on the data collated by NGOs and civil society, giving impression that country has had no place for the poor. Buoyed by the massive public response to his call for beating dishes and lighting lamps to ward off pandemic of coronavirus on one day Janata Curfew on March 22, 2020, Prime Minister comes on the air at 8 P.M. on March 24, 2020 and announces first tranche of 21-day nationwide curfew (lockdown) from same midnight, giving only four hours to people to prepare for the fait-accompli informing them that Mahabharata was won in 18 days, coronavirus war would be won in 21 days, yet treating people with another mythical analogy to consolidate majoritarian votes.
Lockdown is viewed by the people as ‘Kasmirification’ of India with the difference that in Jammu and Kashmir people were deprived of all types of connectivity for five months and in the nationwide lockdown people retained connectivity, in the process losing their right to life, personal liberty and livelihood. Entire country like Kashmir was converted into open prison. Lockdown reinforced people’s perception of the Union Government ruling arbitrarily and in dictatorial way without forethought, without consultation/consensus, with awe, shocks and surprises as witnessed in the demonetization in November 2016 and ill-timed implementation of the much-touted GST, all from midnight from announcement at 8 P.M.
Migrant workers and people at large were not given seven to ten days’ advance time to leave for home. All sorts of public and private transport were stopped abruptly. Arbitrary clampdown of nationwide lockdown, according to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), has had long time consequences. About 12 crore people lost their jobs and over two crore micro, small and medium enterprises shut their shops. All trade, commerce and industry grinded to halt. According to forecast by leading lights of economists, Indian economy may contract, thus dashing the much-hyped Indian economy reaching a high of 5 trillion US dollar economy. GDP may contract by 5 per cent. About 2.5 crore people have been rendered hungry during the 60 days of lockdown.
Rather than take the lockdown as an opportunity to unify the people across the country to fight the pandemic of COVID-19 unitedly, the Government served its agenda of communal divide to fissure in the country further and wider to tear apart the social fabric, thus killing the soul of India. A particular community was targeted as super spreader of coronavirus, hate campaign and Islamophobia was allowed to raise its head ferociously, particular community’s poor selling fruits and vegetables were attacked, beaten mercilessly and boycotted, those youth, activists and student leaders who took part in peaceful anti-CAA/NPR/NRC protests were arrested by the police in BJP ruled states and charged under draconian anti-national laws like terrorism, even journalists doing their jobs were not spared, dissent against government was considered anti-national crimes of sedition, thus subverting the rule of law based constitutional democratic governance in the country. Those who actually incited violence in the captive media and in the ruling political parties are still roaming free on the streets. Some feeble thaw in hate campaign is somehow noticeable following Arab world and confederation of 57-nation OIC taking cognizance of Islamophobia, dismissing Indian expatriate workers who were caught indulging in Islamophobia on social media and threatening enmass dismissal and repatriation of Indian workers. Prime Minister’s tweet,however, was belated and feeble, by which time the all-around damages had been done.
On foreign front, India received a severe beating worldwide, religious freedom and treatment of its minorities and dalits were criticized. Worldwide, media showed India in bad light. All our neighbours became hostile, the latest being Nepal, only Hindu majority country other than India, over border disputes. US State Department showed India as a non-democratic authoritarian country notwithstanding Prime Minister’s personal tactical bonhomie with President Trump. India has been depicted as a country with rising social divide, tension, and social strife, pointing the nation is not the right destination for foreign investors. India’s image abroad, thus, got a severe beating so much so that even the United Nations Human Rights wing intervened in the Supreme Court where illegal and unconstitutional CAA has been pending for considering its constitutional and legal validity.
Coming to judiciary, the Supreme Court appeared to have abdicated its onerous role as defender and protector of the human rights of our people as can be seen in some rulings in the recent past giving impressions that it was siding with the executive although some High Courts outshined. Right from the dilution of special constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir, reducing its status, state wide lockdown, depriving the people of their fundamental rights to life, personal liberty, livelihood and connectivity, alienating them further. The apex court, however, issued a suo motu order belatedly on May 26, asking the Centre and the States to provide food, water, shelter and free transport to migrant workers both stranded and on the move. Ten conscientious senior advocates of the Supreme Court had urged the apex court to rescue the poor migrants.
NDA Union Government must account for its cumulative authoritarian governance bringing colossal hardships to the people as never before. After all, in our constitutional democracy, government, elected by the people are accountable to them. Coronavirus triggered lockdown has failed massively at phenomenal costs to the nation. States have been treated as vassal fiefdom by the authoritarian Centre, putting last nail in the coffin of cooperative federalism. However, there is a glimmer of hope in that no government since the first General Elections has won more than 50 percent votes, which means, beyond a point any government, however, authoritarian and fascistic, will finally bow to the people to let the rule of law based democracy triumph!