It is essential to understand this: that a prince cannot observe all those things for which men are considered good, for in order to maintain the state he is often obliged to act against his promise, against charity, against humanity, and against religion.—Machiavelli
The18th chapter of Niccolo Machiavelli’s famous work The Prince is titled “How a Prince Should Keep His Word” and the very beginning of the chapter is as follows: “How praiseworthy it is for a prince to keep his word…nevertheless the princes who have accomplished great deeds are those who have cared little for keeping their promises and who have known how to manipulate the minds of men by shrewdness.”
Doesn’t the image of our Prime Minister come to your mind when you read the above quoted sentences of Machiavelli?
The gau rakshaks publicly flogged four Dalits in Una on July 11, and nearly one month after, Narendra Modi reacted ‘sternly’ by saying that the government will not tolerate atrocities against the Dalits and in his characteristic rhetoric, he said: “You can shoot me rather than targeting the Dalits.” Who are the ‘You’? The gau rakshaks? No. You and I and everybody who has no role in the atrocities against Dalits are included in that ‘You’, but nobody who perpetrates the atrocities. Modi doesn’t want the gau rakshaks hear his criticism and the gau rakshaks don’t mind his criticism either, because the ‘criticism’ is meant to satisfy those who are against such vigilantism.
Narendra Modi is a consummate politician who has used the politics of silence to look the other way when violence is perpetrated on the hapless people by those who are the part and parcel of the political organization or party he represents.
He has used this silence in 2002 when hundreds of innocent people were being butchered on the streets of Gujarat. “On March 6, as many as 96 bodies of genocide victims were buried in a mass grave in the Dudheswar graveyard….another mass grave for about 200 victims was being readied in Sarkhej…A big grave was dug and the bodies lowered into it one by one. … Among them were five children, including a six-month-old baby; 46 women, including one who was pregnant, and a handicapped man whose crutches lay by the side. 500 persons silently watched and prayed. CM Narendra Modi driving less than a kilometer away did not visit the graveyard.”—says Communalism Combat (March-April 2002, page 19).
He has used this silence when Muhammad Akhlaq was lynched in 2015, and when the Dalit youths were flogged in 2016. After using the silence of politics very fruitfully, he would use his rhetoric to ‘condemn’ the ‘anti-social elements’ in order to reiterate his distance from them. Of course, he keeps his safe distance from them. He doesn’t have the intention to reign in the vigilante and other fringe groups who have donned the mantle of protecting the cow and the culture of India, especially since Mr. Modi became the PM. At the same time, with his rhetoric, he unfailingly sends the message that he ‘criticises’ such vandalism in strong words. That is all.
It seems that the nature of all our politicians can well be explained by the words of Machiavelli. But Modi becomes the perfect politician to suit Machiavellian description of a good prince. He says that “it is not necessary for a prince to have all qualities, but it is necessary for him to appear to have them. Furthermore, I shall be so bold as to assert this: that having them and practising them at all times is harmful; and appearing to have them is useful; for instance, to seem merciful, faithful, humane, trustworthy, religious and to be so; but his mind should be disposed in such a way that should it become necessary not to be so, he will be able and know how to change to the contrary.”
What we witness in our country today can only be explained fully through the words of Jawaharlal Nehru: “[T]he alliance of religion and politics in the shape of communalism is a most dangerous alliance, and it yields the most abnormal kind of illegitimate brood…the combination of politics and of religion in the narrowest sense of the word, resulting in communal politics is —there can be no doubt—a most dangerous combination and must be put an end to. This combination is harmful to the country as a whole.”
It seems that Indian democracy is under siege from the vigilante groups— the most abnormal kind of illegitimate brood Jawaharlal Nehru refers to. What we witness today in our country is the vigilantes of various hues belonging to a particular religion enjoying impunity to indulge in hooliganism in the name of protecting the cow or the culture. In a democracy the weakest sections should enjoy safety and security just as the strongest section. But in the present day India atrocities are perpetrated on the Dalits and Adivasis with greater impunity than in ancient India. The killing of Kalburgi in Karnataka, the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in U P, the flogging of Dalit youths in Una, spring from the same source –the cultural intolerance that is diametrically opposite to democratic values.
The basic problem seems to be that the Modi government has nothing to deliver for the well-being of the people as a whole, especially of the downtrodden. The government is looking after the affairs of the corporate sector in deed and only in words it looks after the downtrodden. That is why the vigilante groups are given absolute freedom to ‘engage’ the people. In his 32-minute long speech delivered extempore at the Central Hall of Parliament on 20th May 2014, Narendra Modi said that his “government is one which thinks about the poor, listens to the poor and which exists for the poor. … The new government is dedicated to the poor. This government is for the villagers, farmers, Dalits and the oppressed, for their aspirations and this is our responsibility.”
We have a Prime Minister who said that this government is for the Dalits, and the same Prime Minsiter says nothing when Dalits are publicly flogged by the gau rakshaks. Everybody knows on whose side he stands, but with his rhetoric he tries to convince the civilised world that he criticises the vigilantism that targets the Dalits.
The day after tomorrow we are going to celebrate the 69th Independence Day and we are going to hear the Prime Minister’s commitments towards the poor and the downtrodden in his passionate rhetoric. You should not compare his speech with the realities; the speech is only a speech, that is all.
The author is a frequent contributor to Countercurrents.org