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16 February, 2009

AHRC: Empty rhetoric more dangerous than political bankruptcy

The following is a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong:

Is there a relation between the residents of the Gaza strip and the Indians? Other than for the fact that the Government of India supports the Palestinian cause, there is no apparent connection between an ordinary Indian and a person living in Gaza. Yet, for politicians in India like Mr. Prakash Karat, the Israeli action in Gaza is an issue of importance to the Indians, one which Karat took the trouble of enlightening the inquisitive Indian public’s minds about, with his reflections on the Israeli invasion of Gaza and its implications for India.

In a statement released last week through the party media People’s Democracy, Karat shed tears for the Palestinians. He accused the political parties in India, obviously other than the party Karat himself leads, for being politically bankrupt. In the article, Karat accuses the Congress and the rightwing BJP for their alliance with the 'imperialist' western forces. When the state governments led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) forcefully evicted farmers from their lands to create special economic zones for foreign entities, Karat, the General Secretary of CPI-M, looked the other way.

The Communist spirit of the British-educated Karat is not worried about the alarming number of extrajudicial executions carried out by the Border Security Force stationed in West Bengal along the Indo-Bangladesh border. Probably, Karat is busy defending Mr. Pinarayi Vijayan, his colleague in Kerala, who is facing prosecution for bribery charges. Vijayan, the State Secretary of the CPI-M , is accused of misappropriating public money to the amount of US$7,500,000.

Indians have their own problems that keep them preoccupied. For example, an estimated 622 million Indians, which amount to 54.8 per cent of the population, earn less than $1.50 a day. For these 622 million individuals, finding a proper meal a day is their immediate concern. It is believed that 150 million Indians live in slums. They have no source for clean drinking water or any other sanitation facilities. It is estimated that 53 percent of the children in India suffer from malnutrition and malnutrition induced sicknesses.

The percentage of the population living in extreme poverty and malnutrition in the country is the highest in the world. It is even higher than the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa where there are no stable governments. A democratic underperformance to such an extent, that it creates living conditions even worse than all the states in Sub-Saharan region means that there is something awfully wrong with the government in India, past and present.

The problem starts with the Indian parliament. One-third of the parliamentarians in the country are criminals, facing charges of rape, murder, corruption or other serious crimes. The seat of democracy, the parliament, has thus become a repository of criminals. For these criminals to remain in power or to return to power whenever they require, two factors are essential -- there must not be a functioning rule of law regime and the ordinary electorate must remain illiterate.

Institutions in the country contribute their share in the above process. For example, most of the Indian media are divided along religious, caste and political lines. Depending upon the picture a media would like to paint to its reader, of caste; political affinity or religion; they defend or prosecute the politicians and their policies. So much so, there is no more 'free media' in the country. It is either a BJP media or a Christian news agency or a mere party propaganda tool. The link between the reader and the journalist is reduced to the money a reader pay to watch or read the so called news.

As for the rule of law regime, it has become defunct in the country since the past few decades. Laws in India works for those who can afford to buy it. The rule of law is sold in police stations, courts, legislative houses and in brothels across the country. In a country where police officers, politicians or their henchmen run most of the brothels, it is natural for the brothels to have a status equal to that of the legislature.

Corruption in public life is so open and apparent in the country that it is no more perceived as evil. On the contrary, it is considered as an essential requirement to get things done in the country. To register birth or death; to file a complaint to the police or to get a telephone connection; to admit a child to school or to get treatment at a government hospital; to book a train ticket or to obtain bail from the court, all require the 'lubricant' to be applied at appropriate places. Corruption is the seminal cord that links the police, the politician and the ordinary person in India.

In addition to the brothels and many other similar institutions in the country where 'justice' is sold and deals are negotiated, the police stations in India play the important role of being the collection houses for bribes and the public relations office for the politicians. If, by mistake, the police act against the whims of the ruling political party, the police stations are attacked and the officers assaulted.

In the past six months there were at least seven such incidents in Kerala state alone. When the officers arrested the cadres of the CPI-M , the ruling party of the state that Karat represents, the party cadres attacked the police station and released the detainees. Courts, judicial process and the rule of law are just meaningless words when it comes to protecting political interest. It is the same throughout all of the country. In Uttar Pradesh it is the Bahujan Samaj Party, in Gujarat it is the BJP and in Assam the Congress party.

The politicians appropriately reward the police officers for their political slavery. For example, the Director General of Police in West Bengal, Mr. Anup Bhushan Vohra, in December 2008 asked his officers to assault ordinary people, whenever required, with the definite intention to break their bones. Vohra made this statement in public, addressing his subordinate officers on December 10, the International Human Rights Day. Please see the link to watch a video that showcases what policing means in India. Arrest of a doctor and a lawyer in India. The officers involved in this incident continue to 'maintain' law and order in the country.

Vohra continues as the chief of police in that state. No police officer in the western countries would continue in their post after making such a speech, instigating his subordinates to violate the law. As for Vohra, officers like him are required in West Bengal, for the state government and the politicians who run it to continue their corrupt way of life. There are obviously a few things to be learned from the imperialist side of the world. But unfortunately for India's politicians, it might not be all that welcome, since sometimes, such lessons could challenge their corrupt way of life.

For politicians in India to continue in their corrupt ways, regular Indians must remain poor, torture must be encouraged and practised in the police stations, courts must not function properly and the electorate must remain divided as Hindus, Christians, and Muslims maintaining their caste hierarchies, no matter which religion they follow. Poverty must thrive in the country so that a lesser number of Indians will have the strength to challenge the slavery imposed by the landlords and the local politicians who steal life and honour from the poor.

What is important for the Indians is that they must be aware of the Israeli actions in Gaza. They must condemn it, since anything else spoken about India by a citizen might challenge politicians like Karat. Opportunity to reflect on one's own living conditions will expose the empty rhetoric of the Indian politicians. Such voices might also challenge the corrupt bureaucracy.

Hence, it is important for the politicians in India to preoccupy the Indian public, filling their minds with irrelevant world affairs that would not fetch them a meal. And for Israel, it must continue invading its neighbor, for that will provide Indian politicians with a subject to be concerned about.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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