THE SHRINKING SPACE FOR CHOICE
We live in a world where individualism is prized, where the young direct their rebellious energy into differentiating themselves. Gen Y does not shy away from asserting its character in any sphere of life, even that which is taboo for the older generation. The process of finding oneself now undergoes the lit¬mus test of pushing boundaries, social or otherwise. “Meri marzi”, or “my choice”, is the new anthem.
However, the state as well as the self-proclaimed guardians of our morality would have none of this. They want to be arbitrators of citizens’ “marzi”. India’s social fabric has come under the strain of “moral po¬licing” in the past, but this is the first time the state has decidedly usurped the personal space, thereby en¬couraging the likes of the Sri Rama Sene to follow suit. To the extent that even moderate faces of the Narendra Modi government have to justify “Ghar Wapsi” and “Love Jihad”.
This begs the question: does the political and social space for a citizen to choose really exist in this country anymore? What does the “reconversion” campaign mean for freedom of reli¬gion when the state is actively wooing a billion-strong ma¬jority community on the basis of its reli¬gious identity? How long before some zealous government graduates from ban¬ning beef to banning con¬sumption of garlic and onion, or something else for that matter? And I always wonder what would happen if the “moral brigade” catches me taking a walk with my wife in Lodhi Garden? Would we be made to marry each other all over again?
Though I suspect she would cher¬ish the thought.
Nation-building is a pluralis¬tic project that cannot be sacri¬ficed at the altar of religious divisiveness. Indeed, democratic norms dictate that freedom of choice must be recognised as a primary right. In this context, stripping Muslims of their vote— as proposed -fey the editor of Saamana, the mouthpiece of Shiv
Sena, a partner in the Modi government—is as much an affront as the British barring their Indian subjects from clubs. In fact, even in Parliament, freedom of choice is curtailed by the diktat of whips. To assume that an MP representing two million people cannot take decisions in public interest is an affront to democ¬racy. This has resulted in degeneration of the relation¬ship between the state and the legislature. I was shocked when the government refused a discussion on the “defence preparedness of the armed forces” citing sensitivity, secrecy and “national interest”. If briefing Parliament on national security is against national in¬terest, what exactly is in nation’s interest then?
If this wasn’t enough, the legislature has increas¬ingly acceded space to the judiciary, as witnessed most recently in cases of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. While the judiciary struck down Section 66(A), thereby allowing for voices of dissent on the in-ternet, it upheld Section 377, which decriminalises “unnatural sex”. My sensibilities struggle to come to terms with a law that defines citizens’ bedroom habits. In an age when sexuality is celebrated in popular culture—in films, books, adver¬tisements—and is all pervasive thanks to the internet, we refuse to debate it on a public platform; we still don’t have sex education in schools. Perhaps, Konark and Khajuraho could serve as guides.
The state expects Gen Y to sub¬mit to its limits on personal liberty. But it is mistaken as the ongoing debate on net neutrality has shown—mostly young people del-uged the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India with emails, more than one million and count¬ing, protesting any dilution of a neutral internet. To be told by the state what to say what to eat, who to be with and how to pray is un¬palatable to them as it is to me. They want to be free.
Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje was advised by a soothsayer friend to bring a few pairs of large-sized Japanese koi fish for the pond at her Civil Lines resi-dence in Jaipur. This was before she left for Japan in early April to seek investments for Rajasthan. But after comparing the price list, difficult transport conditions and poor chances of survival back home for the Japanese fish, Raje opted to invest in koi fish bred in India. They were cheaper and also compatible with other ornamental fish in her pond. A victory for ‘Make in India’?
OUT OFTHE SCENE
There have been omissions in Rahul Gandhi’s inner circle ever since his return from his overseas introspection break. Jairam Ramesh, a former Rahul acolyte and the architect of the UPA’s land acquisition act of 2013, is miss¬ing in action all through the Congress Vice President’s vociferous opposition of the NDA’s proposed amendments to the land acquisition bill. Ramesh was absent from the April 19 farmers’ rally in Delhi which Rahul addressed, he was not even in the train that Rahul took to Punjab to meet grief-stricken farmers. Party insiders say Ramesh joins the list of leaders who have lost favour with the Congress vice president. Other notable exclusions include C.P. Joshi, Mohan Prakash and Madhusudan Mistry.
ZERO-INTOLERANCE POLICY ”
elangana CM K. Chandrasekhar Rao suspended 24 teachers in five government schools in his home district,
Medak, for awarding zero marks to students in the Senior Secondary Certificate (Class X) internal assessment exams.
In this year’s SSC exams, 80 marks has been allotted to written exam and 20 for internal assessment in every paper.
Jittery education authorities have now asked the SSC board to permit the five schools to re-evaluate the papers.
HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s desperation for an image make-over saw a dinner party invitation for BJP MPs and their spouses at her Tughlak Crescent residence on April 28. The event was hosted under the aegis of ‘Kamal Sakhi Manch’, an informal forum of wives of BJP MPs. The dinner was preceded by a two-hour presentation on the HRD ministry’s work. Irani’s enthusiasm for the event was evident from the fact that the invites, usually handed out by convenor Prachi Javdekar (wife of Environment Minister Prakash Javdekar), were sent out on Irani’s official letterhead.