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Sharad Pawar Slapped: is it the right way for showing discontent?

Nothing pains the human heart more than a brooding sense of injustice. In a society that is hardly egalitarian, the pangs of injustice are felt much more by the powerless in the society. Karl Marx propounded the theory of historical materialism and found that society was always uneven. The underlying inequality at the economic level (base) spreads and affects the entire superstructure which consists of various institutions. Later theorists have criticised him for giving undue credence to economic situation as power is often concentrated in religious or political institutions to the detriment of economy. Even later Neo-Marxists have shown the relative autonomy of other institutions from economy. This leads us to the fact that power is scarce and is distributed across the wide range of spectrum of institutions. The society at large is the consumer of the services offered and has very little direct say as to how things get allocated.

Our government is one such powerful institution exercising supreme political control over the affairs of the state. Although, India is a federal democracy, which binds in many layers, which extend up to the villages in the form of panchayats, there has been no participative democracy in the true sense. The phenomenon of coalition politics has ensured that the will of the people has become a fanciful concept with little practical undercurrents. State governments are largely dependent on funds received by the Union government, which has increased at the slow pace notwithstanding the consecutive reports of the Finance Commission. Local self-governments have little power to bring about a measurable change. Common citizenry is presented by this picture of gloom day after day. When the grudge becomes unbearable, some people tend to resort to violence, which is at times is directed at functionaries of higher offices under the government.

An eye for an eye would make the whole world blind! Martin Luther King Jr. one of the leading campaigners of Black civil rights movement had famously remarked, "Christ gave me the message; Gandhi showed me the way". King Jr. was able to lead a peaceful non-violent campaign against racial discrimination at a time when hate crimes were common and African-Americans had little recourse in law for the wrongs committed against them. Mahatma Gandhi himself had experimented with truth and non-violence against the biggest colonial power the world had ever seen and emerged triumphant. His life and his message were not only for the times to which he belonged, but for the generations to come.

The man who slapped Sh. Sharad Pawar reasoned that he was fed up of corruption and price rise. He seemed to have clearly lost all hope in the law and order of this country, as he said blandly that all politicians are thieves. But the news media made the mistake of interpreting this incident in the light of a general feeling of despondency and unrest amongst the youth in the country. Instead this incident ought to have been investigated at a more psychological level. This individual had a history of assaulting politicians in the past. So this represented to an extent a general dislike towards all members of a clan. Dissent can be showed through more constructive channels, though it may not catch the eyelids immediately, but ultimately reason has prevailed over even great dictators. Non-violent social movements have been aimed quite regularly at the state apparatus in the post-independent India. Selfless volunteers have been able to drive home a valid point even against a government enjoying full majority or a corporate house neck-deep in money without raising arms or resorting violence.

What Mr. Harvinder Singh did is certainly not the right way to show dissent. Irrespective of what he might have felt about agrarian policies or issues concerning price rise. What every person must remember is that revolutions do not spur from stray incidents of violence. They require a gestation period, during which someone must bore the mantel of explaining the masses about the urgency of his demands, chalk out a clear plan of action and at all cost ensure that any movement for realistic change should remain non-violent or else it would be brutally crushed by the state machinery in the womb.

Pranay Chaturvedi