‘Politics is about people and people are about relationships’

As the hundredth anniversary of Nehru's birth, 14 November 1989, approached, I copied a long paragraph from his autobiography on to a large sheet of paper:

"Law and order, we are told, are among the proud achievements of British rule in India. My own instincts are entirely in favour of them. I like discipline in life, and dislike anarchy and disorder and inefficiency. But bitter experience has made me doubt the value of the law and order that states and governments impose on a people. Sometimes the price one pays for them is excessive, and the law is but the will of the dominant faction and the order is the reflex of an all-pervading fear. Sometimes, indeed, the so-called law and order might be more justly called the absence of law and order. Any achievement that is based on widespread fear can hardly be a desirable one, and an 'order' that has for its basis the coercive apparatus of the State, and cannot exist without it, is more like a military occupation than civil rule. I find in the Rajatarangini, the thousand-year-old Kashmiri historic epic of the poet Kalhana, that the phrase is repeatedly used in the sense of law and order, something that it was the duty of the ruler and the State to preserve, is dharma and abhaya — righteousness and absence of fear. Law was something more than mere law, and order was the fearlessness of the people. How much more desirable is this idea of inculcating fearlessness than of enforcing 'order' on a frightened populace!"

Nehru's words not only reflected my own sentiments exactly but were so entirely appropriate at a time when the State Law and Order Restoration Council was imposing rule by fear in Burma. I hung the sheet of paper in the entrance hall of my house at a place where the security personnel, usually members of the military intelligence, who were my only "visitors" could not fail to see it. At the bottom of the sheet, I wrote "Jawaharlal Nehru" in large red letters not just in acknowledgement of authorship but as a defiant name flung at all who had a warped view of law and order.

... contd.

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