I’m so excited about the new India around us. Times are changing for the better, we’re told. Employment is going to improve by leaps and bounds, children will go to school and learn much more; rivers will be linked and dams, ports and miles upon miles of (densely green) freeways will be built. In return, we must learn new ways of working, living, worshipping, dressing and behaving. Just a small price to pay for a new India.
But, all this will only happen if we do the right thing. Absorb the evidence being presented and passively accept the transformation taking place before us. No questions asked, no varied points of view solicited or needed. Dispensable are people, organisations, forests and animals getting in the way. We can share facts through our friendly media and convince the masses about their inherent anti-social nature.
So let’s start with facts:
Fact # 1: NGOs cause untold harm to the nation.
NGOs are a money-grabbing lot, more concerned about how to extract money from a foreign donor and where their next junket will be. They are also concerned with pushing the agenda of the said (foreign) donor, rather than working for the betterment of the country. Which is probably a good thing, because if they really do get down to work, things would actually become worse.
Fact # 2: People’s movements are anti-development.
All that these “movements” want is to bring down the GDP of our nation (thus causing it significant “economic insecurity”); indulge in anti-development activities (by asking all those pesky questions and inciting local communities against big dams, hydropower and mining projects and other pro-poor activities) and generally make a nuisance of themselves.
Fact # 3: NGOs and people’s movements should be put in their place.
That’s easy. Pick an organisation that is following all the laws of the land, accuse it of indulging in anti-national activities, then threaten to (if not actually) revoke its ability to work within the country. And if they claim — as some of them claim of working well within the mandate of the country’s laws (including raising their own resources and filing their audited returns), scare them into silence.
Fact # 4: Women’s rights groups and activists are ruining the image of our country.
Women’s rights activists make (unsubstantiated) claims about the rising cases of violence against women and girls. They do their own (so-called) research and pull out (inconvenient) government statistics about the increasing brutality of the crimes. They hold forth about how the structural nature of violence is worsening gender violence. They demand more accountability from the criminal justice system. Yada, yada.
But good news, folks! We have found the root cause of all this bellyaching about the violations of human rights. It is not caused by patriarchy corroded by neoliberalism and the corresponding rise in inequalities. The answer is actually much easier.
It lies in the unchecked activism of people’s movements and funded groups allowed to grow in this country. It is because — in the past few decades — a benign and naïve State assumed that a democratic society has a right to diverse voices. That communities have a right to share their opinions and be consulted. That the right to speech and expression are actual freedoms that have been written into our Constitution.
It’s time to put an end to all this posturing! Time to stop students from bringing out college magazines, classical singers, dancers and cultural artists from sharing their (banal) thoughts about the political climate, people from sharing even remotely dissenting opinions on social media. That is the only way the new India can ever move towards happiness.
The author is an activist working
on issue of women’s rights (and wrongs!)