It was reported on 8 July that in view of the “extraordinary times” the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in its wisdom in a bid to lighten the burden on students of the higher secondary level, has decided to remove from the textbook of political science sections on federalism, nationalism and citizenship as well as “democracy and diversity” and “popular struggles”. These sections are on subjects are of vibrant current relevance and represent values for which our Constitution has been long held in admiration for making democracy in a country known for its exceptional diversity of race, religion and culture inclusive and dynamic.
Political science is of course a favourite Arts subject and it also attracts aspirants for civil services. It is a mercy that the idea of democracy has not been thrown out on the plea of extraordinary times. One is not sure how long these times will continue and how long the government would like to prolong its extempore and ad hoc measures in response to them. So the revision has every chance of becoming permanent and herald other changes.
There is no denying the fact that the process of undermining had begun during Congress rule, when as I have mentioned a few times the modern world history textbook dropped all reference to the century-long anti-colonial and national liberation struggles. The erasure was presumably inspired by an effort to make “globalisation” a natural and spontaneous progress towards world unity and deletion of any inkling of exploitation and oppression. Now that this logic has been rendered implausible by contradictions eventuating in crisis, nations led by America are reneging on international treaties and agreements and looking after their own interests, but again under the watch of global finance capital.
Since ideas of democracy are a tinderbox that may set alight fires on the prairie of frustrated popular hopes, dictators of different colours are popping up everywhere,whether already in power or itching to seize it. They are “law and order presidents” or governments dedicated to ensuring “public order” by battering down the masses. So democracy is an idea that must be hollowed out to mean only getting votes by hook or by crook.
Significantly, at this very moment the press have reported that 69 retired judges of high courts and the Supreme Court have expressed their reservations on the constitution of a committee to reform the Criminal Procedure Code or CrPC and criminal laws. The great majority of the members are high office-bearers of the National Law University or academics from its faculties. The signatories express their alarm at the lack of both diversity and transparency in the way the committee is functioning. They expect any such committee to recommend measures to uphold constitutional values such as dignity of the individual and fundamental freedoms whereas it is an open secret that the state has now been hustled into threatening them.
The constitution of the committee has probably been shown as a response to widespread public misgivings and outrage at the worsening crime record in the country and the gradual criminalisation of the police tending to turn it into some kind of home-cooked Gestapo. There may be some cosmetic changes conceded by the government based on the report but its driving interest is very likely to be much greater concentration of power as well as an unimaginable growth of impunity and unaccountability. The main democratic recommendations, if any, of the report may be swept aside by the crafting of some tame bureaucrats who are experts in diluting unpalatable choices for government and Ministry of Home Affairs.
The author is a socio-political commentator and cultural critic. The views are personal.