Nation deserves better, not “Enemies of people” refrain – Jay, IIMB Alum

“Enemies of the people” – it’s a term that was used very often by the former American ‘President’ Donald Trump – to denounce a part of the press that was showing him up for what he was.

The phrase has old roots, even appearing in a Shakespeare play, but it became well known in the 20th century when it was adopted by dictators from Stalin to Mao, and Nazi propagandists. Especially with Stalin it made possible the use of the cruellest repression, against anyone who in any way disagreed with Stalin, against those who were only suspected of hostile intent, against those who had bad reputations. A little before that, Hitler’s propagandist Joseph Goebbels and other Nazis would describe Jews and other groups that his government targeted for detention and murder as “enemies of the people”. Mao Zedong used the term to denounce his enemies, as he crashed through several deadly ideological campaigns, including the “Great Leap Forward” that created a terrible manmade famine, and the Cultural Revolution.

Such is the dark history of the phrase, and the fact that it’s mostly dictatorial/fascist regimes resorted such phraseology – one would assume that ‘never again’ such a phrase be used either in an ideological or political context, again especially in democracies.

Especially post Modi’s ill fated visit to Punjab, it is rather sad, and alarming that political opponents are being termed as enemies of the people.

Modiji’s cavalcade stuck for 20min due to farmers road blocking, Jan 2022

When Janata Party won against Indira, when JP led a movement against the emergency and the prevailing political culture, when VP Singh won against Rajiv Gandhi, when Vajpayee won against MMS, when NTR won against Bhaskar Rao, when DMK and AIDMK played musical chairs, when Shivsena/BJP won against Congress – it was always on issues, alleged corruption etc., issues that were addressable within a constitutional framework, a legal framework, a judicial framework but never in the ‘against the nation’ narrative – never in the history of democratic India that political narrative has been that of one is the saviour of the nation and the other one is the enemy.

Bleeding from head, nose, lips due to stones thrown at her, bandaged Indira Gandhi continued her tour of Orissa and Bihar, Feb 1967.

She continued to have Sikhs in her security in spite of the advice to contrary by the security agencies after Operation Bluestar. Unfortunately the nation lost her…

The report in international media

Globally there is a shortage of ideological battles through which a party can claim a differentiator on any front – hence nationalistic fervours tend to take centre stage. The natural evolution of nationalistic politics is that one has to necessarily paint the opposition as enemies of the nation to acquire and retain power – at most times as a counterbalance against scrutiny of governance and performance.

But this has a long lasting and debilitating effect on democracy – that it weakens democratic institutions so much that it will take a generation to recover and restore vibrancy. The cost of that – inclusive social and economic development and damaging the social fabric of a pluralistic country. While I have hopes that extremes of fascism and dictatorship won’t creep in, but electoral authoritarianism certainly will.

For having been democratically elected twice by the world’s largest democracy, both Modi and BJP owe this to India that they keep the democracy vibrant in India – by fighting their political opponents on morals, issues and performance and not on the plank that they are against the nation.

The nation deserves that.

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