OPINION
The monologue must end
BAS KARO AB 'MANN KI BAAT'
- VIPIN PUBBY

SPEAKING AT THE 50th anniversary of South India’s Tughlak magazine this week, Prime minister Narendra Modi said that he believed that there are two essential reasons "that our great civilisation has prospered. The first is India’s celebration of harmony, diversity and brotherhood. The second reason is the will and zeal of India’s people. Whenever the people of India decided to do something, no force has been able to stop them.”

Good and wise words certainly. He also went on to the say that "as India enters a new decade, it is the very people of India, who will guide India’s growth trajectory and take it to new heights”. He said he always "bowed to the people of India who have, time and again, upheld the constitution in letter and in spirit”.

These words coming from Modi, who specialises in one-sided dialogue whether it is through election speeches, public rallies, Parliamentary speeches and his Mann Ki Baat, are most welcome but the Pradhan Sewak must also reach out to the people of the country through meetings and dialogues. 

It must also be pointed out that he and his government had been talking to various nations on issues of international interest. He had been himself travelling extensively to engage in dialogue with foreign dignitaries and his government has most recently called for a dialogue on preventing an escalation of conflict between America and Iran.

Yet when it comes to the contentious issues within the country, he and his government are not willing to reach out and talk to the people agitating for long or wanting their voice to be heard.

The other day a news channel was interviewing women who have blocked a particular road and have been sitting on a round the clock dharna for the last few weeks in the national capital to demand withdrawal of Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.
 
These are hundreds of women, some with small children and some over the age of 80 years, who had no political affiliations. They were saying that no one from the government or the ruling party had turned up to hear them and that they were willing to lift the dharna only if someone senior could come and listen to them.

Similarly hundreds of protests are taking place in the country which are not being reported by the media for reasons beset known to it but the government has made no effort to reach out to them for a dialogue.

The debates on new television channels have become a farce. No body listens to or tries to understand the point of view of the other. Their responses are predictable and mostly on party lines.
 
Interestingly some of these panelists with well known party affiliations have started masquerading themselves as "political analysts” but viewers know better. There is just no effort to enter into a dialogue or to yield even an inch to the other side.
 
Such ‘debates’ are getting more shriller and irrelevant. No wonder most people have stopped watching these news channels. Those who still have the stomach to watch the anchors humiliating the guests or the panelists indulging in harsh and acerbic talk over each other. Hard news for which people want to watch TV is unfortunately is totally missing and people have to turn to digital media to find out what’s happening.

Over 100 retired very senior officers, each with a distinguished record of service to the nation, have formed a group called "Constitutional Conduct Group” which speak out on public issues. In a recent letter to the prime minister, the group has said that the citizens are fearful of some of the decisions taken in the recent past "more so when government has not entered into any dialogue on this issue”.

While protests over citizenship laws have been going over for last nearly a month, the lockdown of media in Srinagar has been there for over five months. The government has, however, not attempted to reach out to the people. Top political leaders of Kashmir still remain under arrest. The government has also failed to convene meetings and speak to other major political parties on these issues. 

It has not reached out to even the state governments and several of them have declared their intention not to implement  recently amended central act in their states. This may lead to constitutional crisis and impact centre-state relationship. It is likely that these issues would be resolved by the Supreme Court but it would have been better if the centre had extended dialogue with these states and various political parties.

The Modi government must give up arrogance of power and start dialogue with various steel holders including political parties, intellectuals, experts in diverse fields and even those protesting.

 

*(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.) 

 

 

 


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