Former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan on Friday praised people such as Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone, Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa, civil servants S Sasikanth Senthil and Kannan Gopinathan – who resigned from the Indian Administrative Service because of their unhappiness with government policies – and civilian protestors. Such people, he said, show that the spirit of the Constitution is still bright and that they demonstrate the meaning of a “dutiful citizen”.
“When a Bollywood actress registers her silent protest by meeting with the victims of the attack on JNU, even though she puts attendance at her latest movie at risk, she inspires us all to take stock of what is truly at stake,” Rajan said in a blog titled A Resolution for the New Decade on Linkedin. Padukone’s brief visit to JNU on Tuesday to show solidarity to the students has been criticised by mostly BJP leaders and Hindutva supporters.
He was referring to the recent mob attack on students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University, where 34 people were injured. Several eye-witness accounts and videos indicated that in most places, police personnel present at JNU did almost nothing to stop the violence, and, in fact, allowed the attackers to exit the university without apprehending them.
“In recent days, the news coming out of India has been worrisome,” Rajan said, referring to the JNU violence. “While the identities of the attackers remain unclear, what is clear is that many of the attacked were activists, and neither the government-appointed administration nor the police intervened. And this was in a capital city where everyone is usually on high alert.”
“When elite universities become literal battlegrounds, accusations that the government is attempting to suppress dissent – even if by apathy rather than design – gain substantial credibility,” he added. Though it is easy to blame the leadership, the people bear an equal responsibility since they put the leaders in office, he said. Democracy, Rajan said, was not just a right but also a responsibility – “a burden to be the keepers of our Republic, not merely on election day but on every day”.
“After all, it was the citizenry that put our leaders into office and acquiesced in their divisive manifesto, which they have taken as their marching orders,” the former RBI governor wrote. “Some of us were hopeful that they would focus on the economic agenda. Some of us agreed with their speeches, which scratched and inflamed our own prejudices. Some of us were indifferent, thinking politics was someone else’s problem. And some of us feared the consequences of being critical, as critics were ruthlessly made examples of.”
He also cited other examples to show that people who “never marched for freedom” were now fighting to preserve it and the Republic of India.
“When young people of diverse faiths march together, Hindus and Muslims arm-in-arm behind our national flag, rejecting artificial divides stoked by political leaders for their own gain, they show that the spirit of our constitution still burns brightly,” Rajan said, in reference to the protests that have recently raged across India against the Citizenship Act, the proposed National Register of Citizens, the National Population Register and even against the violence at JNU.
In an apparent reference to former IAS officers S Sasikanth Senthil and Kannan Gopinathan, he said, “When officers of the administrative service resign their dream jobs because they do not believe they can serve in good faith, they are living testimony that the sacrifices made by the generations that got us freedom still inspire emulation.”
“When an Election Commissioner carries out his duties impartially despite the harassment it brings upon his family, he asserts that integrity has not been completely cowed,” he added. “When some members of the media work tirelessly to get the truth out even as their colleagues succumb to government pressure, they demonstrate what it means to be a dutiful citizen of the Republic.”
Only a cynical person would be unmoved by these instances, he said, adding that these people “show through their actions that they think truth, freedom, and justice are not merely lofty words, but ideals worth sacrificing for”.
“It is they who are fighting today for the India that Mahatma Gandhi gave his life for,” he added. “It is they, who never marched to win freedom, but today march to preserve it, who give us hope that Rabindranath Tagore’s dream … ‘into that heaven of freedom, My Father, let my country awake’ … will continue to be a reality.”