AAP protest isn’t the way of ‘swaraj’

Was AAP putting forward a model of controlled lawlessness, a preview of a counter-revolutionary upsurge that can potentially be seized upon by reactionaries?

The country will breathe a sigh of relief as the Aam Aadmi Party called off its agitation, which threatened to torpedo the Republic Day parade, following a compromise in the wake of clashes with the police. However, the government’s decision to send a couple of police officers on leave, pending inquiry, to placate the AAP would remain a subject of debate.
The AAP agitation was as much about the Republic as Republic Day, with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal threatening to field a lakh of his volunteers on Raj Path on January 26 to obstruct the traditional parade. The Republic Day spectacle is an official ritual — not mounted by a civil society body or a class organisation — but Indians are emotionally invested in the event. The country would have been be jolted as if by electric current if it were to be cancelled because someone staged a protest.
Democracy in India is the result of a decades-long struggle against a foreign power. In practice, it suffers from serious flaws. Yet, we are proud of it as it endeavours to uphold the rule of law. We believe this is a system superior to any other on view. Without question, the right to peaceful protest is fundamental to a democracy. However, was it this which AAP was presenting before us?
Or, was AAP putting forward a model of controlled lawlessness, a preview of a counter-revolutionary upsurge that can potentially be seized upon by reactionaries? Its top leaders publicly announced a peaceful dharna by a handful of people, but apparently mobilised thousands in secret from states near the national capital to appear on the streets of Delhi, commando-fashion. Violent clashes were waiting to happen, especially when the so-called protest programme was spread over 10 days. This is hardly the way of “swaraj” which Mahatma Gandhi had espoused and to which Mr Kejriwal appears content to pay lip service. In any event, the official machinery could not have permitted the Republic Day parade to be hijacked by mob action.
There exists deep-seated anger — and anxiety — about police behaviour in India, and for reasons that have repeatedly been shown to be valid. AAP has evidently tapped into this. However, the Delhi police were right and Mr Kejriwal’s ministers wrong in giving the police irregular orders to raid people’s homes without warrants (and on the basis of false information, as it turned out) last week. A judicial inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the facts. But AAP leaders seemed impatient to have the policemen punished without waiting for the inquiry findings. If we must expect mayhem and mob action if the probe by the judge shows the ministers in poor light, then we are definitely on the wrong track as a people.

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