Prof. SP Bhattacharyya
(The author is Retd. Principal, Assam Engineering College)
I begin with the proposition that politics is the name of a game played with mind, money, and muscle in which all kinds of divisive traits in the society like religion, language, ethnicity, etc, are created and exploited as starters. Politicians are in general crafty people and can easily discover any number of seams and joints, particularly in a pluralistic society like ours and then pick any of these (depending on the circumstances) to play up public sentiments and create the necessary space for starting the match and set the ball rolling. More than any other game, politics, to my mind, resembles the well-known game of ‘chess‘ and common people unknowingly play the role sacrificial pawns in it while the so-called political leaders, big and small, play the roles of ‘other powers’ (bishop, knight, rook, etc,) and get either brickbats or bouquets depending on which side of the game they belong to, though the face of the real contestants largely remains unseen and even unknown.
The above analogy, however, is by no means perfect and politics is really much more than a conventional game or sport. It is essentially a mind-game, complex and difficult to comprehend even by the most knowledgeable of persons amongst us. In a country where the majority of people are illiterate/semi-illiterate, one cannot expect common people to understand the tricks and techniques of this mind-game i.e. politics which usually has an innocuous beginning and gradually snowballs into a communal strife/civil war/even full-fledged war in course of time, taking its toll of flesh and blood of hundreds and thousands of innocent people before achieving its desired goal, whatever that may be. They (the players in the field) kill and get killed — because that is the nature of the game though the why and wherefore of it they do not understand. The unseen sponsors of the game, the merchants of death and destruction, however, make their fortunes in the process and are always on the lookout for fresh ground to restart their murderous game on some other pretext at some other place. The trick of the trade is their uncanny ability to divert people‘s attention from the real issues confronted by the majority to cheap emotive issues of little significance, all the while pretending to be the servants of the people.
We all know that Einstein‘s Theory of Relativity applies all over the universe including our minds, and politicians are a class of clever people who take full advantage of the same in pursuit of their goal. For example, an object may appear black or white, round or flat, long or short and even good or bad depending on the viewer‘s angle of vision. Narrower the angle, more misleading and deceptive is the vision. To get a better and more realistic perspective of anything, one has to see (or sometimes think) from a wide-angle and the ability to do that comes with age, experience, and education and above all, a scientific temper (though in spite of all these some remain only grown-up children even in their old age!) How many common citizens in the street know the real cause of their backwardness and suffering? If asked, every person will give his/her perceived notions according to his/her angle of vision. In a state of helplessness, they generally take recourse to pray to the Almighty and resign to their lot. Looked at from a different angle, they become little different from moving corpses, and an ideal feast for the likes of ravens and vultures of the sky — for that is what most of these sadhus and sadvhis, as well as the so-called politicians amongst us, really are in disguise. Both the breeds capitalise on the mortal fear of death and dispossession coupled with man‘s ever-expanding need and greed for what is unachievable and even unnecessary. Very few can realise that these merchants of religion and politics enter through this very dark corridor of human desire and then try to establish their business of sort to earn fortunes for themselves by devastating their unsuspecting followers in the process.
History is replete with examples of how religion and politics have been used as ‘Bramhastras’ (atom bombs?) from the very beginning of civilisation to divide and weaken people more than to unite and enlighten them. Paradoxically, the phenomenal growth of science and technology has added a new dimension to this technique of exploitation, particularly in backward countries such as ours. There seems to be a clear tendency once again to mix up religion and politics and thereby confuse people by talking ambivalently on every socially contentious issue with an eye to garnering maximum votes in the election. (Incidentally, the same techniques were also used by our colonial masters to keep the multitude of people of this country under their control for centuries.) Is it not surprising that all of a sudden we see lakhs and crores of rupees being spent to celebrate pseudo-religious fests and fun like ‘Namami Brahmaputra‘, ‘Namami Barak‘, ‘Brahmaputra Pushkar’ etc, even though more than 70 years after independence and residing on the very bank of the Brahmaputra, majority of Guwahati denizens are unable to get an assured bucketful of safe drinking water?
It seems that after consolidating power, politicians of the ruling dispensation have become very vocal about majoritarian nationalism on the basis of religion (more in its restrictive and superstitious sense), language (in its domineering sense) and culture (with a sense of delusion of past grandeur) — all of which have enough disruptive potential for diverting the society away from the proclaimed goal of ‘sabke sath sabka vikash’. Will chanting of such slogans alone give a square meal to every hungry mouth and a modicum of healthcare and education to the country's crores of a poor and deprived lot? Or, is it another clever ploy to bring back our social divisiveness to the fore and divert public attention from the main issue of 'roti, kapda aur makan'? Let us hope that better counsel will prevail with our leaders and them will stop playing their politics of mind game over and over again, because the country needs rapid and sustained economic growth more than a debate on national language or finding a new definition for the rich (as benefactors of the poor?) at this juncture.