Monday, 24 January, 2022

Stop Politics In Apolitical Institutions

Prof. Bhupa P. Dhamala


It is a well-known assumption that the government once instituted by the majority is also the government of the minority. Whereas there can be several parties, governments cannot be established in equal numbers within a single state. So, the government of a nation is a common platform for all citizens. Even as several parties contest in the election with their partisan views, they are expected to forget party differences once the election is over and the elected officials commence their official responsibilities. In this sense, even the government can be called an apolitical body, be it central or local.

Needless to reiterate the basics of democracy, one thing is still worth discussing, which I find not yet seriously taken by the stakeholders. That issue is the overuse of partisan politics in what we call apolitical institutions.

Neutral attitude
However, when I say apolitical institutions in this write-up, I mean other institutions such as police, army, court, and academia. The essence of apolitical practice, as everybody understands, lies in the sense of neutrality, or neutral attitude for that matter, in executives and personnel while behaving with any person belonging to any sect or creed. As there is immense diversity in nature and society, it is impossible to assume homogeneity among the parts that constitute the whole. So, the executives and personnel should respect the heterogeneity of the people with divergent views and behave neutrally even in state affairs.

Police must be neutral because their main responsibility is to control crime no matter what creed the criminal belongs to. For this very reason, I argue, police should be denied membership of any political party. If they are members of a party, they may favour the criminal who may belong to the same party. For neutral action, the police should cultivate a non-partisan outlook. Similar should be the case with the army. While the chief responsibility of the army is to safeguard the nation from the attack of the enemy, they should obey the order of only the state in accordance with the rules and regulations. If an individual commander belongs to a party, they might be inclined to the party leader, who may sometimes usurp the power that is detrimental to the state.

Most importantly, the judges in the court should essentially be neutral with both plaintiff and defendant and reasonably pass judgments on the cases with impartial eyes. If they belong to a political party, they may be tilted to one side resulting in injustice. The judges then lose credibility, which may spoil the justice system, and ultimately, there will be no rule of law. It is a matter of regret that the Supreme Court of our country has recently been in controversy with the debate that the Chief Justice has been engaged in sharing of political appointments. Let the accusation be not true, yet even a tint of doubt raised about the judiciary's credibility is an unfortunate one.

One might quickly argue that educational institutions cannot be as neutral as we think they ought to be since their function, among others, is to educate people about the role of politics. Further, it might as well be argued that the teachers at schools and universities can impart democratic education, or in the worst cases, totalitarian principles in autocracies, so naturally they can belong to a political creed and thus may be a member of that party.

This argument is by no means a genuine one, although it may sound valid on the surface. Our universities and schools nowadays, I regret to say, spend their valuable time not being engaged in teaching and research. Instead, they are found engaged in contesting elections for the posts of party executive committee officials or seen taking photographs with influential leaders of the parties they belong to. If they plead for one leader against the other, how on earth can they be critical in thinking and neutral in research to find out the truth that a party or its leader may dislike? To our great astonishment, CPN-Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda has recently advocated the need for partisan politics by the teachers. This is a classic example of how conservative our politicians still are. Unless this orthodox thinking goes out of the minds of leaders, nothing worthy can be expected.

As a matter of necessity, no employee who is paid wages from the treasury of state with the taxes its people pay should be allowed to participate in partisan politics. Contrary to this assumption, however, we can see the political streets strewn with employees taking part in party politics who should have otherwise been engaged in duties assigned by the state in their respective fields. In recent days, teachers and employees, who are regular wage earners from the state treasury, are chanting hymns of their respective parties and the executive officials or even shouting slogans for and/or against those that they dislike. They have indeed the right to vote for or against the parties and the candidates in ways that any citizen can do following the principles of adult franchise, but no employee should be allowed to overtly engage in partisan politics, most unlikable though it may sound to some unwise political leaders.

The influential political leaders can inculcate a political ideology into the minds of millions, that they can establish a political doctrine that holds sway for a time, but the former cannot make the latter internalise the fundamental principles and practices of democracy unless they themselves do not practice its norms and values in real sense. My contention is: only the non-wage earners should participate in partisan politics. It is not too late to understand that ideological indoctrination alone cannot guarantee the flourish of democracy. If democracy is to sustain and if the state is to smoothly run, we should instantly stop partisan politics in all apolitical institutions.

(The author is the chairman of Molung Foundation.