INDIAN EXPRESS EDITORIALS AND EXPLAINED 28TH DECEMBER 2019

ISSUE: CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT 2019

Editorial highlights that through National Population Registergovernment makes clear that it does not trust the citizens.

And that the onus of proving trustworthiness is, primarily, not on government, but on the people. This shifting of the burden of proof lies behind many of the statements and assertions emanating from the top echelons of government in recent days.

The National Register of Citizens process, which demands proof of belonging from citizens, is a culmination of this larger paradigm shift.

As citizens scramble to make the cut, present documents, do their duty, the government evades the questions on a deepening economic slowdown, on the dwindling of jobs, on the rise of anxiety and waning of optimism, or on a law that violates the letter and spirit of the Constitution by introducing religion as a criterion for citizenship.

It was another country and a different time, but the last regime that sought to talk up fundamental duties over and above fundamental rights, was the one that inserted the former in the Constitution as an attempt to subdue citizens and distract attention from its own attempts to curb their rights and freedoms — the government of Indira Gandhi, during the Emergency.

ISSUE: SWAMI SHRADDHANAND 

Who was Swami Shraddhanand?

Shraddhanand was born on February 22, 1856 at village Talwan in Jalandhar district in Punjab province. Sometime in the early 1880s, he came into contact with Swami Dayanand, the founder of the Arya Samaj.

As per the Arya Samaj website, the meeting with Dayanand was a turning point in Mushiram’s — as Shradhhanand was known — life. “Propagation of the Vedic Dharm was his mission and he never deviated from this path,” it says.

Shraddhanand wrote a book called “Hindu Sangathan”. In the book’s introduction, he has written, “In the following pages an attempt has been made to describe the history of the Hindu decline and to trace the causes which led to its present deplorable downfall. As a corollary an attempt has been made to show the way to the nation’s emancipation.”

Furthermore, he called untouchability a “curse” and a “blot” on the reputations of the Hindus. “Those who enslave and trample under their feet almost one third of their own kith and kin, have no right to complain of the tyranny of the foreigner.”

Jawaharlal Nehru on Shraddhanand

About Shraddhanand’s assassination, Jawaharlal Nehru has written in his autobiography, “The end of that year 1926 was darkened by a great tragedy, which sent a thrill of horror all over India. It showed to what depths communal passion could reduce our people. Swami Shraddhanand was assassinated as he lay in bed. What a death for a man who had bared his chest to the bayonets of the Gurkhas and marched to meet their fire!”

What is Arya Samaj?

Arya Samaj is a Hindu reform movement that was founded by Dayanand Saraswati in 1875 in Bombay. The movement believes in the infallible authority of the Vedas.

According to the website of Arya Samaj Houston, the central objectives of Arya Samaj is to, “eradicate Ignorance (Agyan), Indigence or Poverty (Abhav) and Injustice (Anayay) from this earth. This mission is enshrined in the ten Niyams or Principles.”

The website says that contrary to the misconception, Arya Samaj is not a religion or a new sect in the Hindu religion.

ISSUE: IS HONESTY REALLY THE BEST POLICY

“Honesty is the best policy” was a favourite topic of debates in school. It is another matter that both sides — for and against — ended up supporting the motion; the only point of difference being whether honesty was its own reward or it came with an avoidable cost.

Is honesty to be understood as a pragmatic way of dealing with situations or is it simply an ethical response to any given situation influenced by an individual’s character?

For instance, an auto driver finding a passenger’s purse in his vehicle, may decide to look for the passenger, deposit the purse in a police station, or report the matter to his owner. As long as he doesn’t keep the money with him, he may have acted honestly. His honest act may or may not be rewarded, but he has chosen to exchange the pleasure of pocketing the money with the comfort of his conscience.

Honesty as a policy always comes with a price. It demands a premium like an insurance policy, although it might appear not to command a premium or provide any insurance. The path of honesty, like dharma, is straight yet seldom simple. It often turns out to be tortuous, consumes more energy, sometimes even damaging the vehicle because of unfavourable road conditions. The honest, however, go on regardless, perhaps driven by an inner force that borders on recklessness.

The honest, one could say, are those who are honest to their job and achieve the desired result by adopting honest means, being neither unduly swayed by the pressure to perform at all costs nor weighed down by passive principles that shackle performance. For example, in the case of a civil servant, accommodating popular expectations is not necessarily an act of dishonesty; succumbing to the pressure of the present is.

The Prevention of Corruption Act is meant to be a deterrent against exercising judgement with malafide intent; if it throttles individual initiative taken in right earnest, bureaucrats would be more servants and less civil.

The essential characteristic of an honest person is that he or she is truthful. His action is based on an inner voice that guides him to make a distinction between what is right and what is wrong, generally influenced by the prevailing law, his moorings and morality.

There is a price for honesty as for everything else in life. Being prepared to pay that price, directly or by way of collateral damage, is part of the honest act. The price depends on who bears the brunt of honest action. The sermon is that honesty is its own reward and it is recognised in the long run.

t would be mawkish to think that those who do not stand by the honest are dishonest. People are generally good; they are also generally timid. Fear cannot always be associated with evil, just as fearlessness cannot be always associated with good. The absence of fear gives courage. Without courage honesty is a pathetic virtue.

The honest may not be physically strong or powerful; they have courage and that courage is their strength. Those that do not stand by them in that hour of grief, need or isolation, might not be courageous. They are like spectators who rise to applaud after the drama.

Even if they empathise with the actor, they don’t take part in the play. They may watch the protagonist suffer, even shed a tear at his plight, offer a silent prayer in his favour and wait for the denouement before they laud his part. They are either happy at the outcome or rue the tragedy. After all, what is drama if there are no silent spectators? They face the dilemma of “to be or not to be”.

 

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