Friends, Indians and Countrymen,
“Arise, Awake and Stop not till the goal is reached”
The fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India empower the people of India to establish a democratic institution of the people, by the people and for the people who uphold the dignity and worth of the individual. It envisages the general elevation in the character of the people and hence it becomes a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. Its aim is the respect of individuals and idolizing of none. But under conditions prevailing now, instead of becoming a satisfying, affirmative alternative to man’s individual and collective progress, our present practicing democracy has become a means to reduce men to mediocrity in character and culture, to vulgarize man’s conception of life, their moral codes, manners and conduct and to endanger their legitimate rights.
Our democracy as seen presently totally lacks the spirit of reverence in all public acts which prevents people from doing wrong by respect for authority and for the laws, having an especial regard to those who are ordained for the protection of the underprivileged and oppressed. Democracy alone, of all the forms of government gathers the full force of man’s enlightened will which is the most natural and the most consonant with individual liberty that recognizes the individual as higher and independent power, from which the state derives its power and authority and treats him accordingly. But the democracy as is being practiced to day is making a mockery of individual liberty and the underlying power of the people and their authority.
Democracy is a great institution and being great, the chances of abuse of democracy are also great. The remedy lies in reducing the chances of abuse to the minimum and not in avoidance of democracy. That power lies with the people only. If the people do not understand their own power and if the people’s power is not recognized properly, the democratic institution will, sooner or later, destroy the liberty or civility or both. Then the people may not value virtue but become dupes of pretended patriots.
Obviously the passion for power is an unquenchable thirst in man. Democracy is based on the old dictum that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” and that the power is very dangerous and that it is extremely important not to let any one or any group have too much power for too long time. Power intoxicates and it is never voluntarily surrendered. Hence no man is wise enough or good enough to be trusted with unlimited power. So opposition is essential and inevitable in a democracy. A good statesman always learns from his opponents than from his fervent supporters. But once the government is committed to the principles of silencing the voice of the opposition, it has only one way to go and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures until it becomes a source of terror to all the citizens and creates a nation where every one lives in mortal fear. The duty of the opposition is to act as a watchdog to eliminate the abuse of power and to correct the government with its positive approach and constructive criticism. If the government is to function properly it must have dissent and the true test of democracy is the freedom of expression which will hear the voice of criticism. But under the prevailing conditions in India, the ruling party in power and the party in opposition are in no way different from each other. They exchange tirade against each other instead of helping the nation to keep up good governance and to safe guard the security interest of the nation.
The supreme issues involved in a democracy are the encroachment upon the rights of many by the powerful few and the legitimization of the lust for power which corrupts absolutely. Experience constantly shows that every one who has power is impelled to abuse it and greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse which gradually erodes from the mind every human and gentle virtue. Under these circumstances, the success or failure of democracy rests on the public opinion that is being created. The destiny of democracy depends upon the soundness and integrity of public opinion. Public opinion is the people’s armour. All right things can be achieved through the irresistible power of awakened and enlightened public opinion. Even wealth has a wholesome respect for the law when public opinion is free and uncontrolled. To befool and mislead the people, to falsify public opinion is to pervert and destroy a democratic form of government.
The conditions that gave birth to Fascism cannot be overlooked. The first and the most dangerous symptom is the abandonment of equal justice to all, the placing of some groups in a preferred class of citizenship at the expense of the other groups. Under these circumstances the fraudulent and ambitious find a motive to mislead and even to corrupt the common sentiment to attain their ends if they fail in their means of obtaining power more honestly. But true democracy wages a relentless war to prevent such happenings by harnessing the power of the public, inspiring the valiant and patriot even to sacrifice to uphold the value of life.
Democracy restores to man a consciousness of his values, teaches him to listen to the dictates of reasons by removing of authority and oppression, gives him confidence to treat all other men as his fellow human beings, and to regard them as his brethren who come to assist him in need and not as enemies to fight against. Thus in a democracy the power of the rulers is “nothing else but what is only derivative transferred, and committed to them in trust from the people to the common good of them all in whom the power is yet remains fundamentally and cannot be taken away from them, without violation of their birth right.”
“Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.” Democracy is a dynamic power and not a static condition. It is not absolute. It cannot be taken for granted. Its condition is freedom and its aim is truth. It is never fully won. Its essence is eternal struggle and struggle must we to preserve, protect and defend the integrity of the nation and liberty of the individual.
What if we do not fight for the fundamental principles of our rights and natural justice? “Either some Ceaser or Napoleon will seize reins of government with a strong hand, or your republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste by barbarians in the Twentieth Century (now 21ST Century) as the Roman Empire in the Fifth with the difference……that your Huns and Vandals will have been engendered within your own country by your own institutions” Do you want it to happen.? No! No! No!
Anna Hazare, the 75 year old Gandhian has kindled the dormant desire and imagination of the common public particularly that of the youth. The spirit and the zest and zeal hidden among the ordinary citizens of India have been brought out in to the open uniting the entire populace of India in to peaceful action to assert their right as the supreme power of the Indian Constitution. If that right has to be preserved and perpetuated then the clarion call to action is “Arise, Awake and Stop not till the goal is reached.”