By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
The American Congress has finally confirmed the victory of democratic party leader Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the US elections 2021. It means that it is now officially confirmed that Joe Biden will take oath as US President on January 20th with Ms Kamala Harris as his deputy.
The Congress’s defiance came after US democracy got severely bruised today when the President Donald Trump asked his supporters to walk to Capitol Hill in Washington DC, which is the place of the US government, a highly secure zone where normal protests too are not allowed. The thuggish mob then climbed up to the gates of the Capitol Hill and entered the Congress building where the joint session was being chaired by Donald Trump’s deputy Mike Pence, for the Congressional approval of the victory of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. It was a brutal assault on the institution of democracy and the pictures have striking similarities with what happened on December 6th, 1992 at Ayodhya when the Hindutva mob not merely demolished Babri Masjid but the soul of our constitution which guaranteed protection of every religious place.
The chaos in and around Capitol Hill and now in various states where Donald Trump’s supporters are marching to state offices to show their ‘disapproval’ for the election of Joe Biden is a sign of deep polarisation in the United States. While American media and to some extent lawmakers showed enormous statesmanship in dealing with the situation, things are not over yet. Donald Trump has declared that he has not accepted the defeat and that this election has been stolen from him. It means that we are going to see a deeply polarised atmosphere in the United States in the coming days.
Though American Congress and Vice President Mike Pence, a close associate of President Trump can be appreciated that they followed the procedures and finally the Congress approved the Electoral college victory in favour Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as 306-232. However, things are still serious and can not be taken lightly. Donald Trump can do anything and he has brought disgrace to the high office of the President of the United States. In democracy peaceful transfer of power has been its biggest strength. Leaders in the past have shown magnanimity and grace in demitting their office and welcoming the incumbent. Trump does not have the grace to accept the truth that he has been defeated and that accepting his defeat would have helped strengthen democracy in America but his continued insistence that elections have been fraudulently managed by the Democrats is a dangerous sign not merely but for other democracies which do not have strong institutions.
While in the United States, its media has worked tremendously to defy the diktats of Donald Trump, the social media like twitter and Facebook were quick to take action against him by blocking his account. This is unprecedented but it shows how each one of these institutions are worried about the danger of Trump’s rhetoric on American democracy as well as the integrity of their country. In these hours of crisis American institutions have shown spine and courage to stand up and disown a man who is nothing but a megalomaniac.
In the Trump led protests we saw some Indians too joined hands with waving our national flag. This is shameful. These thugs promoted him in India, worshipped him and many wanted to create a temple. So many of them ‘celebrated’ his birthday. Of course, our Supreme leader asked for ‘ab kee baar Trump Sarkaar’. The diplomatic faux pas that they committed has inflicted a great damage on the relationship between the two nations and it is certain that the new American administration would be aware of such things.
American chaos created by Donald Trump can have dangerous impacts in other parts of the world particularly those democracies where institutions are still stumbling. What will happen in India where the institutions have completely succumbed to the authoritarianism of the ruling leaders and only show their suppressing powers to the opponents while keeping a blind eye on the ruling party leaders and supporters. Our courts have no time to listen to the cases of human rights violations, bails, illegal arrests. Police are engaged in more paperwork to implicate the political opponents then managing law and order. The less said about the state of media is the best because they have turned themselves as mercenaries and involved in the dangerous game of weakening democracy by targeting the opposition and opponents. We can’t expect Indian media doing the same with the hate speeches or fake speeches of our ‘iconic’ leaders. In fact, the media has just become part of the grand propaganda machinery of the fascists who are intentionally targeting democracy and democratic forces. In today’s India media has become the biggest threat to democracy and democratic practices in India.
How would Indian media report on such issues if it happens in India. They would have started dividing the opposition, pushed a divisive agenda and promoted fake news. Can we expect that social media companies like twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp blocking accounts of our ‘national’ leaders. Is it possible to hear that a tweet by PMO or HMO is wrong and not in the greater interest of the country ?
Is social media becoming the biggest threat now to democracy ? Is it creating chaos and encouraging conspiracy theories. The biggest dependence on ‘news’ and ‘knowledge’ in India is coming through social media. We know well that western world will be able to manage this crisis but it is very difficult to expect miracles on our part unless our institutions are strengthened. Social media is deliberately used to spread fake news and farce narrative. In a society where education level even those who pass through ‘prestigious’ universities is questionable not to speak about ordinary people who have got no opportunity to even get educated at a government school, such fake narrative can be devastating but then democracy has become the biggest tool to retain power and the dominant are doing that. In the United States, the white supremacists feel that their country is now going elsewhere or their legitimate control is being diluted and in India they have understood that in numbers they don’t stand so use the divisive narrative and hijack it through different means. Media has become the biggest legitimacy tool for them.
Hence, this is testing time for not only the United States but for all other countries who respect the American Democracy. What will the lawmakers do till January 20th ? What is the President going to do ? Will he accept his defeat gracefully now or will he continue to threaten the American democracy by his disgraceful act?
Whatever happens, one thing is clear that it is time that a good leader is not ‘necessarily’ good looking or great orator or a great mass mobiliser. At the end of the day, your leadership qualities will be counted in as you governed your country and what is the status of democratic institutions there. Self obsessed leaders with least respect for democratic practices and norms are the biggest threat to it. It is time for all the institutions, political parties, media, intellectuals, activists to think in those lines. Country is much bigger than the leaders. American institutions as well as people will protect their country though it is deeply divided and polarised. The age of polarisation is threatening us all. I can’t imagine whether our institutions have capacity to respond to such a crisis ?
– Vidya Bhushan Rawat
January 7th, 2021