STATE WITHIN A STATE ‘The invisible societal segregation’
The taste of pudding is in eating’ similarly “discrimination is best understood when faced!” it was only when I was asked to leave a park that I understood how it felt being segregated and discriminated against and since a pen is always mightier than a sword I decided to write upon the same and highlight how these forces of segregation have effectively positioned themselves in our cities and that there is a need to regulate these forces in order to prevent a struggle between the classes.
The force which I refer to here is the very famous RWA or the Residents Welfare Association spread throughout the Delhi NCR. Here is a case which illustrates how magnificently the RWA is promoting class differentiation.
Noida Sector 44, Block A is home to some of the wealthiest people in Noida. The economic affluence of the residents is evident by the presence of innumerable palatial homes and luxurious cars in the stated block. The RWA manages this sector. Geographically, the residents perhaps find themselves vulnerable to disturbance as their sector is closely located to the Challera village. Therefore in order to mitigate the potential harm from those residing at Challera, the RWA has barricaded the borders of the block and have even gone to the extent of policing out the non-residents from their parks. Day ago, I (non-resident) was conversing with a few friends of mine, a couple of whom are residents of the block, in one such park. Ours was a peaceful, harmless and a productive association. The guards spotted us and came to us for an inquiry (still justifiable), and here is the most interesting part of the inquiry, the first and the only thing that the guard asked us was, “kaha rehtey ho?”(Where do you live?). They were least bothered about what we were doing or what we could do, all that mattered to them was, if we were residents of the block or not. We were saved from public humiliation by those friends who really resided there but the personal humiliation which I and a few other friends of mine (the non-residents) had to undergo was devastating! I was reduced from the position of an educated, independent and constitutionally empowered individual to the position of someone who’s fundamental rights rested on the mercy of his friend. And if that seems modest here is something which is all the more disturbing. The friend who allegedly saved me from public humiliation was later defending the actions of the guard before us, not to claim his superiority amongst us but on the grounds that the block needed security and that is what the guards are pursuing through vigilance.
The above stated incident resembles the life of Indians during colonial days. It is similar to discrimination faced by Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa, in fact, it is even worse, for today this discrimination and segregation is not at the hands of aliens but at the hands of those whom we share nationality, our domicile with. It is degrading in the sense that it justifies the atrocities committed upon the Indians under colonial rule. It is unconstitutional in the sense that this is an encroachment upon our fundamental rights. It is criminal for it equates individuals to untouchables by denying them access to a public park in their state. It is haunting for it is dividing the society and implanting the concept of class distinction in young minds and it is a pressing issue for it can create rebels and revolutionaries.
The evils stated above are discussed below.
1. The Incident justifies the atrocities committed under the colonial rule.
I need not remind anyone nor list out the atrocities which the British committed on the poor Indians. The British may have committed those atrocities under numerous or various circumstances but the ultimate aim behind their each act of violence, of discrimination against the Indians was ‘to protect their interests’ which were largely economic. They attacked, discriminated and divided Indians every time they felt that their interests were at risk.
Now, the residents of RWA, Sector 44 block A may justify their act of segregation and of discrimination on the grounds of protection of their interests which in this case is not entirely economical but is psychological too. The whole argument here rests on ‘interests’. The residents may claim that they had worked hard to be a resident of the society and that it was to their interest that the fruit of their labour (residence in a superior area) remains impeccably clean. And in order to ensure this interest they are required to shoo off those who aren’t residents of that area and thus their discrimination is not really discrimination but is a means for promotion of interest.
The argument of the residents is strong but not strong enough. The argument fails on moral grounds for the argument prioritizes ‘earned Interests’ of a minority and it defends actions of untamable degrees for the protection of earned interests and thereby also defending the actions/atrocities committed by the colonial British over not just Indians but at every place where they had a colony. Personal interests, no matter how arduously earned can never be promoted at the cost of physical, psychological or economic degradation of someone who isn’t equal to you. And if we do so or defend so, we shall be going back to where we started from but this time role which the defendants would play would be that of the victimizer, guess that would be psychologically satisfying.
2. Unconstitutional for it encroaches upon our fundamental rights.
Article 15 – Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth
Article 19(c) – right to associate
Article 19(d) – right to move freely throughout the territory of India
These listed 3 articles are explicitly violated when an individual representing an organization acts in the manner stated in the case. And not to mention that a professional lawyer can list out many more constitutional violations and thus the RWA is at fault and those who defend their stand against the non-residents would basically be standing against the fundamental rights guaranteed to every citizen of this country.
3. The act is criminal for it equates individuals to untouchables and thereby potentially reviving the evil practice.
What is Untouchability? Untouchability is/was a practice whereby a certain section of the populace was denied / restricted access to commodities, services and resources because that section of the society was presumably into a degraded profession ‘x’ and the presumption was at many times proved by the indicator of income or of economic conditions of that person. A person’s touchability was defined majorly by the caste that person belonged to and partly depended upon the job of the person, which was in turn defined by the economic conditions of the person. Thus the economic stability defined the job a person would take up and this job in turn defined the touchability of that person.
The argument stated above is to prove that untouchability did not only depend upon the birth of person in a particular family, it also depended upon the job that person had to take up due to economic depravity. Untouchables was not a caste but was a ‘class’, the lowest class of individuals. A class which, given its economic conditions, was forced to do something which presumably made a person untouchable.
There are close to no evident traces of conventional untouchability in the Delhi NCR but the act stated proves that the expression untouchable has now been apparently replaced by the term ‘unacceptable’. And the definition of the unacceptable is but a modern and a liberal definition of conventional untouchability. Like untouchability unacceptability is also defined by the economic conditions of a person. Thus untouchability = unacceptability and by not accepting people who do not belong to our economic niche in our vicinity is logically the promotion of modern untouchability and is therefore criminal.
The stand of the RWA and of those who defend their stand is but a stand and a support of a crime punishable by law.
4. Haunting for it is dividing the society and implanting the concept of class distinction in young minds
Every child that dwells in the stated sector, despite his/her age knows that the barricaded area belongs to them and that those who live beyond the barricade are different and thus the two should not intermingle. The barricade is the border which demarcates and segregates ‘their’ world from the world of those who aren’t as fortunate as they themselves. The class disparity is being spoon fed and being taught to them. It is but frightening to imagine our country under their rule.
It is but rarely when individuals and children would question such a demarcation and would fight for the right of those living on the other side of the barricade to be a part of their world. Is this truly Mahatma’s India that we are living in? If this is how our country is planning to move ahead then I guess the first thing we should do is to no longer call Mr. M.K. Gandhi the father of our nation because a father like him would never create a world like this where the first that a child is taught is to not to cross the barricade. For beyond the barricade is the world of the poor and deprived, a world where crimes breed, a world people are ugly and unhealthy, a world of the unacceptables and a world which these children must stay away from.
The story does not end here because when people and children on one side of the barricade start considering those on the other side as aliens and ugly and degraded, there shall soon be a time when the barricades would require an army to be effective.
Is this where we want our society to head? Isn’t the action of the RWA laying the foundations of a future civil war? Isn’t the vision of our future haunting? And is the action of RWA still justified?
5. Is a pressing issue for it can create rebels and revolutionaries.
Never had I thought I would spend so many hours and so much more effort into writing upon an issue like this but the kind of humiliation I had to face made me do so and as a matter of fact, the more I think about it the worse it gets. Fortunately for the RWA and for the government, I am one of those who would prefer writing then rebelling. If the same attitude continues, I am sure that one day either the RWA will run out of luck or an individual would run short of his cool.
The action of the RWA is one such action which prompts an individual to act and given the modern socio-political situation, it wouldn’t be shocking to see such an individual turn rebellious.
FALLIBILITY OF ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF THE RWA
The RWA finds its support from those who live in such RWA administered sectors. The supporters of the RWA come with various logical and illogical reasoning and arguments to support the actions of the association. Some of the arguments put forward in defense of the association are:-
1. The sector is a private sector and the RWA has full authority to decide who shall be permitted within the sector.
2. The residents have paid for the maintenance of the sector and this payment has secured them the right to manage the area as per their whims and fancies.
3. The country needs capitalists and only by securing the interests of these capitalists can we lure them to stay here and thereby benefit our economy. If the capitalists want to keep their area clean, they must be allowed to do by all possible means.
4. Those who stay there are residents of that society only because they have worked hard in their lives and have earned the right to be there and their success which is an indicator of their hard work secures them the right to keep the fruit of their hard work as clean as possible.
5. The only reason why non-residents oppose is because they themselves crave to be a part of the higher class and they shall oppose only as long as they are themselves not transformed or upgraded as a resident of one such elite society. The cry of the non-residents is temporary and should thus not be paid heed to!
Let us now try and assess the arguments and highlight how each of these fail at numerous fronts related to the case.
1. The first argument is perhaps the most sound one for it instantaneously equates the sector to a private society, to a college campus, to a person’s private home and to all those enclosures which are privately owned by an individual or a group of individuals who/which acts as the sovereign in that given space and has the full authority to determine the degree of accessibility granted to the aliens.
The argument, if true, could have singularly defended the RWA. However, the RWA is not a person who owns the sector for if it so then probably the entire Delhi NCR is but owned by one person i.e. the owner of the RWA. RWA is but an association established by and for the residents of various sectors who aim to promote the welfare of the co-residents. RWA is therefore not a person who owns but an association for the promotion of interests of those who live in RWA administered sector. The RWA has therefore never bought the land from the government and the sector therefore does not qualify as a private society, or a college campus or a private home.
Right to administer does not imply a right of ownership for if it is so then the government of India, headed by the PM, is the body that owns our country and we are all but at their mercy. RWA stands for Resident’s ‘Welfare’ Association but the welfare of one should not be at the cost of others. The RWA cannot decide who is allowed in the park and who isn’t.
2. The residents pay a particular sum of money regularly for the maintenance of the parks and therefore it is argued that they get to decide who can and who cannot enter the park. The argument is one of the weakest arguments in favor of the RWA for it fails on the following two fronts
a) The citizens of India, like the residents of RWA, pay taxes which are in turn used for various purposes. Let us consider that a chunk of my tax money goes into the defence and in particular into the buying of guns. Now, can i, because I have paid for it, decide when and how will that gun be used? I had paid for the welfare of my co citizens and for the maintenance of national security but my payment for maintenance does not secure me the right of ownership and thereby I am not entitled to decide how and when that gun will be used! Similarly the residents may have paid for the maintenance of a public park in their sector, but they do not get the overwhelming authority to decide who shall enter that park and who shall not.
b) The amount paid for the maintenance of the park is paid for ‘maintenance’ and not for the regulation of audience in that park. The money spent by the residents is anyway providing them a greater amount of pleasure, in numerous ways, than to those who occasionally visit those parks and thus neither is payment for maintenance unjustified nor the access of non-residents to the parks.
3. Our nation definitely needs an economic boost but those who argue that the economic boost should be at the cost of national property are paving way for re-colonization of our country. A rich man can be sold a house but no matter how much he may pay and no matter what incentives he may propose, this rich man should at no cost be sold the public property because that property does not absolutely belongs to anyone to be absolutely sold and therefore no matter how much the residents might have paid for their magnificent houses and no matter how much they contribute towards the maintenance of the parks and no matter how much national economic boost they can possibly bring about none of these qualifies them as buyers of public property. And public property here implies roads, parks, colleges, wells, rivers etc.
Moreover, how do can we claim that capitalism is what the country? How can we possibly say that the problems in the country can be meted out only by luring the capitalists and by protecting their interests? India has, in my view, never been a completely socialist or a completely capitalist country. From the very beginning our economy has been a mixed one, though earlier there were greater traits of socialism and today there is greater traits capitalism. Never has our country been either purely a socialist country or a purely capitalist country and therefore we cannot really claim if capitalism, as advocated by those who promote the interests of the rich over those of the poor for national interest, will be the medicine that will cure our country of all the crisis that prevail.
J.S. Mill suggested that in order to decide which pleasure is a greater pleasure, it is but mandatory to first experience both and then give a verdict. Therefore we in India may come up with logics and facts that prove the efficiency of capitalism over socialism but the true test of potency of the two can only be proved when they are equally practically implemented and analyzed. Thus it would be wrong to claim that the protection of the interests of the rich people of RWA administered sector 44 is indeed in conformity with the promotion of national interest because we do not really know if capitalism over socialism or mixed economy is what our country needs.
4. The fourth argument invokes the argument put forward by John Rawls. Those who claim that the residents are those who are rich and they are rich because they have worked hard for it and therefore as a fruit of their hard work they should get the right to keep their vicinity absolutely clean and impeccable. These advocates fail to realize the fact that the rich are rich not just because they worked hard but also because of other factors, factors which are societal and natural in nature, factors which they cannot claim responsibility for and factors which involve the poor also. The fact that their richness is valued today is because there are others who aren’t as rich as them. Thus a certain degree of their success also depends upon the society they live in and the people that live around them. The rich should give credit to the poor for their success and shouldn’t debar the poor from entering their so called fruit of hard work, for the fruit isn’t entirely grown by their hard work.
5. The last argument is not just an argument but a glance into the future. The future which even Karl Marx talked about. It may be true that the people like me protest against such discrimination only as long as we are on the other side of the line and our rebellion dies as soon as we cross over to the other side. First of all, this isn’t really an argument in support of the acts of the RWA but is a statement against those who revolt against discrimination. The lack effort of the protester and his submission after evolution does not justify the class discriminatory acts of the RWA. Just like a rapist cannot be acquitted on the grounds that no one no longer is protesting against him, similarly cessation of a protest does not imply that the association was never at fault.
Karl Marx discussed proletariat revolution and the cycle which follows. When the discriminated protestors are promoted to the other side of the line the protest would cease but not end because only the protestor is upgraded and not the entire class which is discriminated and soon the class shall regroup and re-protest. The solution does not even lie in a hypothetical up gradation of the entire mob of protestors because even by doing so the protest shall only cease until someone someday identifies the class discrimination that would start prevailing among the rich. The solution lies in ending class disparities by ending class discriminatory practices and by promoting equality. The state needs to regulate the powers of such associations.