After the violence in Bengaluru over the contentious Cauvery water-sharing issue with Tamil Nadu that involved the torching of a 100 odd vehicles, the office of Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tweeted…
Violence cannot provide a solution to any problem. In a democracy, solutions are found through restraint and mutual dialogue: PM
Violence cannot provide a solution to any problem. In a democracy, solutions are found through restraint and mutual dialogue: PM— PMO India (@PMOIndia) September 13, 2016
While those are responsible words and represent admirable sentiments, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Indian politics thrives on violence and most politicians have achieved long-lasting success through it.
Just take the Jat reservation agitation that took place in Haryana this year. The scale of violence was unprecedented and the whole State came to a standstill. 30 people died in the violence and one report said the losses suffered were to the tune of a whopping Rs 34,000 crores.
What happened? The State immediately gave in to all the demands and so the violent agitation was a great success. (That it may get stuck in courts is another story however)
Before that we had the Telangana agitation and it was even longer and more widespread. From 2011-13, there were high-profile protests which ended in virtual anarchy in the State with even the Chief Minister doing a dharna.
Rail and road blockades, chaos in the Assembly and umpteen violent incidents led to the formation of Telangana. Today the leader of the agitation KC Rao is Chief Minister and his family and supporters are nicely enjoying the perks and privileges of power.
Take the case of the BJP itself. Till the 1980s the Bharatiya Jana Sangh/BJP always played the junior partner in most governments. But after the violent Ram Janmabhoomi movement, it stormed to power and has registered at least 100 Lok Sabha seats in all the six general elections that have taken place since then.
Before that we had the violent Mandal Commission agitations that secured reservations for the OBCs. The self-immolation bid of Rajeev Goswami actually made him a national icon.
In West Bengal thousands have been killed in Leftist violence in the State and the CPM muscle power actually helped it rule for 34 years uninterrupted. The TMC had to match them with the same muscle power to topple them.
Similarly Lalu Prasad Yadav unleashed an unprecedented Jungle Raj in Bihar for 15 years in the 1990s onwards. Still in the recent Bihar elections his Jungle Raj reputation got him 80 seats as against Nitish Kumar’s good governance (71 seats) and BJP’s development plank (53 seats).
Mulayam Singh Yadav unleashed Goonda Raj in Uttar Pradesh and then Mayawati brought things under control. But in the last elections the voters went with Mulayam’s SP anyway. Violence returned in Uttar Pradesh but the media, intellectuals and liberals seem quite OK with it unless Dadri can be whipped up to flog Modi.
Then what of the Emergency? The violence unleashed by Indira Gandhi’s was unprecedented but the people still forgave her and gave her a landslide in 1980 anyway.
The Opposition was no different. George Fernandes was a violent union leader. He was involved in the Baroda Dynamite Case that saw plots to blow up government offices and railway tracks. Prime accused was Fernandes.
And Fernandes subsequently made both Railway Minister and Defence Minister. How bizarre is that?
In the days of Jawaharlal Nehru, the violent language agitation dictated the formation of the states of a linguistic basis. That way the violent Telangana agitation under Manmohan Singh shouldn’t actually have come as a surprise to anyone.
Finally, what of Independence? It is a lie that Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence gave us freedom. The violent Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 started it all and the violent Bombay Mutiny of 1946 convinced the British that they couldn’t continue and left they did.
Now let us come back to the Cauvery issue. The Karnataka government has always made a weak case in front of the tribunal and failed to secure the rights of the State. Fali Nariman is being paid a hefty fee by Karnataka and also represents Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. Is that a conflict of interest?
How fair is it for Karnataka to continue releasing water during years of severe drought? The original treaty was done by the British between Mysore and Madras in 1924. That treaty expired in 1974 and that has led to the current mess. Should the Central government set up a new committee and begin from scratch again considering how contentious this whole issue is?
None of this is being discussed. If you watched the news coverage on those days then the entire focus was on the daily violence and not on the core issue.
Nobody is asking the current Karnataka government any uncomfortable questions thanks to the violence. They must actually be pleased at the agitation because all attention is being diverted away from them.
The irony is that the more violent the agitation gets, the more it will save the State government from their goof-ups being exposed.
So in the end most political violence actually benefits politicians and parties.
That’s a really sad fact of India.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here