That’s what it feels like. As we look on in bemusement, everything we considered malign and frightening is starting to go away. I am, of course, referring to our brand new, thoroughly unexpected Maharashtra government that has come to power on a roller coaster series of twists and turns that would be hilarious, if it were not a sobering comment upon the state of Indian politics today. Oh what the hell, it is hilarious to see the mighty brought low and the low imagining it is going to last forever.
That is what is worrying me and why I cannot really take pleasure in watching the old arrangements fall, one by one, steadily each day so that I actually look forward to reading the headlines once again.
It started with Aarey and its activists having cases against them withdrawn. This was after the tree cutting in the “forest” was stalled and the applause had barely died down when we needed to start clapping again. We know that the cases against people who were protesting against the chopping down of trees was a load of rubbish so withdrawing them seems just common sense. But the first niggling worry began. What does this say about our policemen? Will they do everything that they are told to do by the party in power?
Then there was the announcement that all payments with regard to the on-going infrastructure projects were being stopped. For now, it was said, to give the new government time to go into them, weigh them for irregularities. Nothing to complain about there either, except that we would like said new government to know that we don’t really want to stall the Metro project because we have gone through too much misery over it, borne the continuous, years-long digging and disruption, been maddened by a city that is now the most uncomfortable in India, in terms of traffic, pollution and transportation.
Next to be held up – the bullet train, but who cares when we actually dreaded the way it was hanging over our heads. We were more interested in other cases being withdrawn, like Bhima-Koregaon, and lo and behold, we barely say it and the government does it. Or at least, they are thinking about it and figures are being mentioned, upward of 600, provided the allegations against them aren’t too serious. Whatever that means.
Then it was activists clamouring for the speedy release of activists and intellectuals and lo and behold, it looks as if for our “urban Naxals” there is hope, a fine line of silver on the horizon. Has a new broom swept so clean, so steadily and have you noticed that the friendly neighbourhood policeman, he who charged you with a brutal lathi at Aarey as you were trying to protect trees being chopped down in the dead of night, is back, looking like a pussycat?
Yesterday evening, it was the turn of P Chidambaram to be released from Tihar jail where he had been locked up for 106 days in the INX Media money laundering case brought against him by the Enforcement Directorate. The same agency that practically ran for cover once our Maratha strongman offered to surrender himself when they suggested he should be investigated.
What happens to such agencies when governments fall, change or are toppled? Are we expected to trust that these people will toe the straight and narrow path?
Most worrying of all, what does this say about the judiciary, right up to the highest body of all, the Supreme Court? A few days ago, there seemed no likelihood of Chidambaram coming out for a long, long time. Then the government changed here, with a ripple effect everywhere, and whole landscapes began to change.
But the hollowing out of the institutions and the agencies that together make up a democracy – that has remained, and we are going to suffer from their violation for a long time to come.
Like they say – this has only been the trailer. Picture abhi baaki hai.
Former journalist, now media educator, still curious about everything.