By NS Venkataraman
All over the world, in totalitarian countries, people are generally unhappy about the rulers, who run the country. In such countries, curtailment of individual freedom and liberty is common practice and transparency is conspicuous by absence. However, people put up with problems and stress, fearing suppression.
In democratic countries, where a more civilized form of governance is claimed to exist, the rulers are elected by the people in national elections. The elected people are supposed to be persons who enjoy high level acceptance and popularity amongst people.
However, over the years, these politicians in democratic countries also seem to be losing the confidence of the people and their credibility is suspected. They are often accused of being self-centred and are blamed for compromising with the value system for the sake of winning the elections by hook or crook and getting into power. They are also accused of forming an unprincipled alliance between political parties in the elections to get into power.
In the process, the overall image of the politicians in democratic countries are now getting tarnished. There may be good politicians with principled approaches, but these days they seem to be few and far in between.
In such circumstances, activists, who claim to be working for genuine causes such as overall social welfare, for defeating corruption and nepotism in public life can be the counterforce to politicians, who are not of desirable standards. This is one major reason why activists have been generally looked upon approvingly by people, placing faith on their integrity and sense of values.
It is against this backdrop that the activists appear to be filling in the gap. Not without reason, activists claiming to be representing different causes such as environmental issues, defence of individual liberty and freedom of speech, to prevent casteobased oppression and exploitation of the poor etc. are increasingly getting media attention.
While the concept of activism is highly desirable and much needed in any society, activists must ensure that they remain blemishless, without hatred and prejudice and without preconceived notions and views, indeed non-partisan.
Of course, one can see erosion happening, too. Some people have started wondering whether they are also going in the same way as politicians. The scenario is that a number of politicians are there in the guise of activists and the difference between the activists and politicians has now become difficult to identify.
Just as in the case of politicians being identified as leftists and rightists, many activists are also being identified as leftists and rightists, and sometimes even ultra leftists or ultra rightists. Just as in the case of politicians, in the case of several activists, too, one can guess beforehand as to what would be their stand on a particular issue even before hearing them.
Not without reason, the ongoing toolkit episode in India has led many to suggest those claiming to be environmentalists have no hesitation in involving themselves in an activity which may be political, not directly related with environment. The suggestion is that, these activists take the cover of environmental activism but indulge in politics.
Questions are being raised about Greta Thunberg, who has attained fame as a young environmental activist, and whether her position and reputation is being used for spreading the message of supporting the farmers’ agitation in India. Those who criticise her believe that her supporters are commenting on issues more as human rights activists instead concentrating on environmental issues.
The police in Delhi has suggested that three activists, who claim to be environmental crusaders, have tried to fight for the cause of the separatist Khalistan movement, instead of restricting themselves to environmental activism. It has led them to help spread the view that a dangerous separatist movement is being helped by a few individuals who are environmental activists, that they are motivated fighters indulging in anti-national activities.
Meanwhile, some activists, who are also lawyers, professors or historians by profession, have jumped in to support these environmental activists. They are trying to give these activists an image being anti-government. One has to see how the law and order machinery deals with the situation and how judiciary decides on it.
The net result of the toolkit episode is, there may be a blurring of difference between activism and politics.
*Trustee, Nandini Voice for The Deprived, Chennai