The enthusiasm and fanfare which greeted the establishment of the new political start-up, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), is fast evaporating. It has only itself to blame.
Social and political mobilisation against entrenched oppression and rampant corruption invariably impart an attractive flavour. Unless carefully crafted and managed, such protest, as history has repeatedly shown, invariably degenerates and results in unintended conclusions. A protest led by the Mothers’ Movement in Brazil in the early 1960s facilitated conditions for two decades of military rule.
The much-heralded Arab Spring, which was expected to resonate on a Western democratic and pluralistic template, resulted in large-scale destabilisation, the use of force and intervention in Libya and continuing chaos in Syria.
Egypt perhaps provides the best example. The crowds gathered in Tahrir Square protesting against three decades of oppression by Hosni Mubarak resulted, in the first instance, in the election of the Islamic Brotherhood.The brotherhood was subsequently overthrown in a counter coup, again placing political power in the hands of a military ruler who could end up more authoritarian and repressive than Mubarak.
The use of a mob as an instrument in political negotiations is risky at the best of times. The mob led by the law minister of Delhi, Somnath Bharati, seeking vigilante-type justice, and the agitation mounted by the chief minister of Delhi, seeking either full statehood or control of the police, add a still more dangerous dimension because both were elected representatives who had taken the oath of office. They had sworn to operate within the coordinates of the law and the constitution.
It is unforgivable that the law minister asked the police to take unlawful action. If he does not know that residential premises cannot be searched without a warrant or that women cannot be arrested at night, at the very least, he should step down and be sent back to law school. The fact that he has now been identified by a Ugandan women as the person who led the mob that subjected her and others to inhuman treatment makes his continuation completely untenable.
The racial stereotyping and profiling of foreign nationals and subjecting them to vigilante-type justice are entirely condemnable. No civilised country can afford to behave in this manner. The Ministry of External Affairs did well in summoning African envoys to explain that these regrettable incidents were an aberration. Women’s organizations and the National Human Rights Commission should be allowed to do the rest. We should keep our fingers crossed that the misguided actions of the inexperienced political novices of AAP does not resonate internationally either in human rights fora or make our large overseas population vulnerable to similar reprisal action.
The attempt to justify the intellectual promiscuity of prominent AAP leaders as reflecting freedom of expression and internal party democracy borders on the absurd. Activist Kumar Vishwas apparently has a very poor view of women in general and those from a particular part of the country, in particular. Democracy in action outside Kerala Bhavan is now in full evidence.