When politicians resort to discriminatory policies recklessly without considering wider social and economic ramifications then PIL is the only recourse left for the hapless citizen to assert his or her individual right. The PIL against entry registration is the need of the hour and the govt of Meghalaya will have to do a lot of answering in the days to come. Merely shifting the merit of the case to the ‘wisdom’ of the court will not help. The wisdom of all 60 MLAs who supported the bill will be tested before the nation. The fact that not a single MLA voted against such a draconian law, which is constitutionally invalid as it infringes citizens’ rights in more than one way, is disappointing to say the least. Has the Government ever thought how much harassment is inflicted on travelers coming to the state ever since the gates became functional? Passengers are asked to apply online and provide details which are personal in nature. Does the government consider every individual who enters the state as tech savvy or internet literate? What about farmers, housewives, grandmoms, and petty business traders who barely know how to read or write or speak properly? How many individuals have smart phones for that matter? Has the Government distributed mobile phone or internet connection or digital literacy free of cost to enforce the form filling process? As per people who recently visited Shillong, the officers manning the gate are seldom assisting travelers to fill the form and instead asking people to download tourism app and fill it themselves. Weren’t they supposed to be facilitators in the first place? This is indeed ridiculous and unacceptable!
Chinese philosopher Confucius once said that there were three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. The PIL will surely test the wisdom of the Government via the third route. In this regard, several pertinent questions are bound to arise. For example, why does the Meghalaya Government see Indian citizens as a threat if they enter the state freely? What is the rationale to bring in a law similar to ILP which has already been rejected by the Centre? Why disclosure of information at the entry and exit points should not be seen as state surveillance and violating right to privacy? Where is the evidence/study to suggest large scale influx/ foreigners in Meghalaya? Why entry/exit gates were built on interstate borders rather than closer to the international border?
The Constitution of India has given enough privileges to the state and it is a fact that Meghalaya is not fully covered under the Sixth Schedule. But the Sixth Schedule is certainly not above fundamental rights and the Constitution of India. Moreover Meghalaya is a transitory state through which goods pass onto neighbouring states. The Government has to be prepared with the answers before the hearing commences in February. Until then, hope better sense prevails and the law is revoked sooner than later.
Truth transcends Right & Left
I appreciate the fact that Mr. Nongrum read my prior letter and responded to it in ST, Jan 16, 2021. I continue to respectfully disagree with him. I think we have different definitions of individual and systemic racism. Mine are intertwined and nuanced.
The case of George Floyd was not just individual racism as Mr. Nongrum asserts, but a culmination of strongly entrenched systemic racism within police forces in America. But this does not mean a denial of free-will as the Left often claims. I am against any denial of free-will or of personal responsibility. The cop who killed Floyd is squarely to blame for his action. Yes to this extent his act was a case of individual racism. Yet, individual racism does not stand in a vacuum, but is embedded within larger forms of systemic racism. It is utterly naive to deny the systemic racism that contaminates US police forces. It is equally naive to deny personal responsibility or free-will.
To say that because laws exist everyone has equal opportunity, is to be out of touch with reality in today’s America. It is also unkind to the living experience of everyday pain and fear in the African American community. For example: Indian laws prohibit many malpractices of Indian culture, including child marriage etc. Does this wash away the causal impact of the systemic character of petrified cultural practices? So free-will and individuality are intertwined with larger cultural practices.
Good laws alone cannot change individual actions, precisely because we have free-will. Besides, not all laws are moral, either in theory or in how they are applied. It is in how they are applied that many laws in the USA display systemic racism. This was one of the points Dr. King made in his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Mr Nongrum perhaps assumes that just because a law is just it will be applied equally and fairly to everyone. This is simply not the case. Such unjust applications are another sign of systemic racism in US police actions.
To sum up: I think individual racism and systemic racism are deeply intertwined. Individual racism is embedded within systemic racism and systemic racism is executed by individual racists. So free-will matters. Moreover, to think everything all the time is due to systemic racism is indeed a way of denying personal responsibility and free-will. It is also a paranoid projection of one’s own mind onto the world. Systemic racism should never be defined by denying individual free-will. That said, individual actions (good or bad) do not stand in a vacuum.
As for Black Lives Matter (BLM) and their tactics, to some extent they were infiltrated by those who try to discredit them. Many BLM protests were peaceful. For any that were not, indeed the means used (as Gandhiji said) determine the moral worth of the ends. Moreover, as Mr. Nongrum said, racism cannot quell racism. Two wrongs do not make a right. But again, it is too idealistic to expect BLM or any movement to be perfect. In the real world protest movements are messy — morally and practically. The bottom-line is that it takes a lot of courage to confront racism in America. I admire those activists who are doing so ethically, and at the risk of their lives. Because white supremacists (Mr. Nongrum does not mention them) are dead serious in their violence.
So my stance is not as black-and-white, but more nuanced — hopefully thereby also more objective. I am leery of Right and Left. I see them as two arcs on two sides of Conscience, both missing the true balance of Conscience. I think more truthful (hence nuanced) positions transcend both Right and Left. Racism, whether systemic or individual remains a sin and sometimes a crime.