THE HINDU EDITORIAL : FEBRUARY 27, 2018
THE HINDU EDITORIAL : FEBRUARY 27, 2018
a) Life in a deadly democracy
Yet another murder involving India’s political parties has taken place in north Kerala but this time it is different. It does not follow the pattern that we have got used to. The parties involved are not the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Communist Party of India (Marxist). A Youth Congress leader, S.P. Shuhaib, was killed recently, and the police have identified the killers who surrendered as CPI(M) workers. It is reported in the State’s leading newspapers that one of them confessed that the district leadership of their party was not merely in the know of it but had actually instigated the action. While we cannot be sure of the veracity of this statement, it is believable. A minister in the State cabinet is on record that in the 1980s, the leadership of his district in south Kerala had discussed the elimination of political rivals.
In a history of violence in Kannur district, the CPI(M) has lost many of its workers to killings by the RSS. This removes credibility from the claims of the Bharatiya Janata Party that the RSS is a victim of violence in Kerala; it is actually a perpetrator and not only deserves no sympathy but also its actions should be called out. The nation knows of its commitment to violence, evident in the assassination of Gandhi. However, I am here concerned about the situation in Kerala today. Here and now the promise of power for the RSS, through its proxy the BJP, is no more than a glint in the eye of Amit Shah.
The CPI(M) however is a major player on the political stage of the State and its actions must be viewed sharply. By now this party’s workers stand accused of killing widely across the political spectrum. Apart from this most recent killing of a young Congressman, its members are accused of the killing, in 2012, of T.P. Chandrasekharan, a former comrade who left the fold to form the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP), and of Muhammad Aslam of the Indian Union Muslim League, in 2016. The fig leaf of secularism, or more so of “fighting communal forces”, does not hold up as it would be difficult to argue that party workers of the Congress or the RMP are communal in any way. These murders are to be seen for what they are, a form of political vendetta and nothing more inspired. Unlike the Maoists who do not believe in parliamentary democracy, the CPI(M), while decrying Indian democracy as bourgeois, is happy to partake of the loaves and fishes of office. A reminder that the violence unleashed by those with access to state power has little to do with some lofty ideal came recently when a gang of men assaulted a pregnant woman over a property dispute in Kozhikode district. The woman was so bodily harmed that she lost her child. Press reports are that seven Left activists have been arrested, including a local-level CPI(M) leader.
Going a little deeper into the so-called political violence in Kerala, we are able to see a frightful pattern. Frightful not in terms of the violence, which is brutal even at the surface, but in terms of the class element clinging to it. In almost all cases the actual killing is undertaken by young men of the working classes while the party leadership rests with a class that does not soil its hands with labour of any kind. At the national level, so-called intellectuals lead the CPI(M) while its rank and file are of the subaltern class. It is members of this underclass that cannot hope to ever lead the party who find themselves in the frontline of the assault against opponents named ‘class enemies’. The leadership in Kerala is seen not just as property-owning but perceptibly rich. They are distinctly bourgeois also in the sense of advancing the career of their offspring. On the other hand, it is unlikely that the young men who commit murder in the name of a political ideology that they very likely do not comprehend will ever own as much.
It is this social distance that makes the situation approximate feudalism as it is understood. Under feudalism the lord owned the land which was farmed out to peasants who not only paid taxes for the privilege of cultivating it but also had to bear arms for their lord in the event of war. The striking similarity with the situation in Kerala today where a property-owning leadership directs unemployed youth to eliminate political opponents is evident. It is rumoured that in return for their murderous services these youth have their families provided for by the party.
Shroud of silence
Gandhi was able to see that for the poor, god appears in the form of bread. In the formal democracy that is India, where the equipping of the poor with capabilities that set them free has not been a priority of the state, it appears that politics appears in the form of food. Despite Kerala’s much-vaunted social indicators, economic inequality here is the highest in India, and the subaltern can perhaps yet be encouraged to kill in return for material gain. Of course, the case of assailants mesmerised into seeing an aesthetic in violence cannot be ruled out. What is uniform, however, is that the killers are foot soldiers of a party which is firmly in the hands of a clerisy that teaches but does not itself do.
Unsurprisingly, the Malayalee nomenklatura has remained silent on the recent killings. The communist intelligentsia have always glorified “necessary violence” while delegating murder to the working class. Condemnation of the use of violence in a democracy does not rest on moral considerations. Actually, no criterion external to democracy itself is required. Violence is to be rejected on the ground that it is contrary to the essence of democracy, which is deliberation through public reasoning. When aimed at eliminating political opponents it eliminates the space for deliberation and disables democracy. In a contest between political parties, most parties represent the people. Therefore, to kill a representative of another party is to set upon a section of the people themselves. Democracy is legitimised by the existence of the demos or the people. Parties that turn against the demos delegitimise themselves.
But surely, supporters of the CPI(M) cannot be singled out for their silence. There is little outrage in Kerala in the face of the visible butchery. In a democracy the demos can hardly escape blame for the violence, for they are expected to discipline the political parties. Kerala’s identity-conscious populace fails to converge on the greater common good but effectively makes common cause on a form of welfarism. Welfarism is a re-casting of democracy as the citizens’ entitlement to unlimited public services without the responsibility to deliberate upon the common good and how to attain it. We should hardly be surprised that in such a society, this February 22 a mentally-challenged Adivasi was dragged out of the forest and beaten to death by a mob. And it seems Kerala’s political class can never be separated from violence. A man present on the occasion, and reportedly clicking selfies with the youth while he was being humiliated, has been linked to the Indian Union Muslim League. It speaks volumes for our democracy that a hungry citizen is killed for stealing rice while politicians facing charges of corruption never leave the stage.
b) Xi unlimited: on Xi Jinping’s presidential term
The Chinese Communist Party’s proposal to abolish term limits on the presidency, and thereby allow Xi Jinping to stay on in power beyond 2023 when his second term ends, is not completely unexpected. When he was re-elected party chief and President for a second term in October, no one was projected as a potential successor. This was a break with tradition and triggered speculation about him remaining President beyond the second term. Mr. Xi is arguably the most powerful leader of China since Mao Zedong. At the 19th Party Congress in October, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” was written into the party charter, setting him apart from his recent predecessors. He does not just control the main pillars of the Chinese state — the party, the government and the military. In 2016, the party accorded him special stature by making him the “Core Leader”. Just as Deng Xiaoping oversaw China’s economic rise, Mr. Xi has raised its profile in global geopolitics. He has pursued a more assertive foreign policy in China’s neighbourhood and launched massive infrastructure programmes across the world as part of the Belt and Road Initiative. But despite the power amassed, long-term projects launched and his own apparent ambitions, the constitution was seen as a limit to his stint in power. With the latest proposal on removing the term limit, which is certain to be endorsed by parliament, Mr. Xi may find greater room for manoeuvre in speeding up the next generation of economic reforms.
The timing of the announcement itself, however, has taken many by surprise. Mr. Xi was about to begin his second term as President next month, and so has five years to introduce the constitutional changes needed. But with a proposal moved to amend the constitution a week ahead of a People’s Congress convention, Mr. Xi has made it clear he does not want to leave anything to chance while consolidating his position. At present there is no rival power centre within the Communist Party to challenge Mr. Xi. But the centralisation of so much power in one individual, which is the antithesis of China’s professed commitment to ‘collective leadership’, may well impact the power dynamics, given the succession battles of the past. The party introduced the term limit in the post-Deng era principally to bring in order and stability at a time when China was becoming an economic powerhouse. Two of Mr. Xi’s immediate predecessors stepped down after their second term, having groomed the next generation of leaders, including Mr. Xi. By breaking with this pattern, Mr. Xi risks taking China back to the days of personality cults, internal power struggles and possibly chaotic successions.
Meaning: Bring about or initiate (an action or event).
Example: “They instigated a reign of terror”
Synonyms: Begin, Initiate, Launch
Meaning: Conformity to facts; accuracy.
Example: “Officials expressed doubts concerning the veracity of the story”
Synonyms: Truthfulness, Truth
Meaning: The authority to represent someone else, especially in voting.
Example: “Britons overseas may register to vote by proxy”
Synonyms: Deputy, Representative
Meaning: Give out or reflect small flashes of light.
Example: “Her glasses glinted in the firelight”
Synonyms: Shine, Gleam
Meaning: A prolonged bitter quarrel with or campaign against someone.
Example: “He has accused the British media of pursuing a vendetta against him”
Synonyms: Feud, Blood feud
Meaning: Publicly denounce.
Example: “They decried human rights abuses”
Synonyms: Denounce, Condemn
Antonyms: Praise, Overrate
Meaning: Belonging to or characteristic of the middle class, typically with reference to its perceived materialistic values or conventional attitudes.
Example: “A rich, bored, bourgeois family”
Synonyms: Middle-class, Property-owning
Meaning: Join in (an activity).
Example: “Visitors can partake in golfing or clay pigeon shooting”
Synonyms: Participate in, Take part in
Meaning: Cause (a strong or violent force) to be released or become unrestrained.
Example: “The failure of the talks could unleash more fighting”
Meaning: Of a noble or elevated nature.
Example: “An extraordinary mixture of harsh reality and lofty ideals”
Synonyms: Noble, Exalted
Antonyms: Base, Lowly
Meaning: Very unpleasant, serious, or shocking.
Example: “There’s been a most frightful accident”
Synonyms: Horrible, Gruesome
Meaning: Remain persistently or stubbornly faithful to.
Example: “She clung resolutely to her convictions”
Synonyms: Adhere to, Hold to
Meaning: A person possessing a highly developed intellect.
Example: “A prominent political thinker and intellectual”
Synonyms: Intelligent person, Learned person
Meaning: Of lower status.
Example: “The private tutor was a recognized subaltern part of the bourgeois family”
Meaning: The most important or influential position in a debate or movement.
Example: “It is doctors who are on the front line of the euthanasia debate”
Meaning: That can be seen, heard, or noticed.
Example: “The past year has seen a perceptible improvement in working standards”
Meaning: A person’s child or children.
Example: “The offspring of middle-class parents”
Synonyms: Children, Sons and daughters
Meaning: The social system that developed in western Europe in the eighth and ninth centuries in which people served a man of high rank by working and fighting for him and in exchange were supported and given land and protection.
Meaning: A poor smallholder or agricultural labourer of low social status (chiefly in historical use or with reference to subsistence farming in poorer countries).
Example: “Peasant farmers”
Synonyms: Agricultural worker, Countryman
Meaning: A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.
Example: “Education is a right, not a privilege”
Synonyms: Advantage, Right
Meaning: Boast about or praise (something), especially excessively.
Example: “The much vaunted information superhighway”
Synonyms: Parade, Flaunt
Meaning: Hypnotize (someone).
Example: “He was mesmerized when at the point of death”
Synonyms: Enthral, Spellbind, Entrance
Meaning: Describe or represent as admirable, especially unjustifiably.
Example: “A football video glorifying violence”
Synonyms: Ennoble, Exalt, Elevate, Lift up
Antonyms: Dishonour, Vilify
Meaning: The expression of very strong disapproval; censure.
Example: “There was strong international condemnation of the attack”
Synonyms: Censure, Criticism
Antonyms: Praise, Plaudits
Meaning: Withdraw legitimate status or authority from.
Example: “The country has been delegitimized by the world community”
Meaning: The people living in a particular country or area.
Example: “The party misjudged the mood of the populace”
Synonyms: Population, Inhabitants
Meaning: The principles or policies associated with a welfare state.
Meaning: A large crowd of people, especially one that is disorderly and intent on causing trouble or violence.
Example: “A mob of protesters”
Synonyms: Crowd, Horde
Meaning: Formally put an end to (a system, practice, or institution).
Example: “The tax was abolished in 1977”
Synonyms: Put an end to, Do away with
Antonyms: Retain, Create
Meaning: It may be argued (used to qualify the statement of an opinion or belief).
Example: “She is arguably the greatest woman tennis player of all time”
Synonyms: Possibly, Conceivably
Meaning: Importance or reputation gained by ability or achievement.
Example: “An architect of international stature”
Synonyms: Reputation, Repute
Meaning: Politics, especially international relations, as influenced by geographical factors.
Example: “We were entering a new phase of global geopolitics”
Meaning: Be very economical or mean about spending or providing something.
Example: “He doesn’t stint on wining and dining”
Synonyms: Skimp on, Scrimp on
Meaning: Recommend (a product) in an advertisement.
Example: “He earns more money endorsing sports clothes than playing football”
Synonyms: Support, Back, Approve (of)
Meaning: Move skilfully or carefully.
Example: “The lorry was unable to manoeuvre comfortably in the narrow street”
Synonyms: Steer, Guide
Meaning: Make minor changes to (a text, piece of legislation, etc.) in order to make it fairer or more accurate, or to reflect changing circumstances.
Example: “The rule was amended to apply only to non-members”
Synonyms: Revise, Alter
Meaning: Strengthen (one’s position or power).
Example: “The company consolidated its position in the international market”
Synonyms: Strengthen, Make stronger
Meaning: A person or thing competing with another for the same objective or for superiority in the same field of activity.
Example: “He has no serious rival for the job”
Synonyms: Competitor, Opponent
Antonyms: Partner, Ally
Meaning: A contrast or opposition between two things.
Example: “The antithesis between occult and rational mentalities”
Synonyms: Contrast, Opposition
Meaning: In a state of complete confusion and disorder.
Example: “The political situation was chaotic”
Synonyms: Disorderly, Disordered
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