For over six decades we have raked the benefits of our nascent democracy with hiccups and dissipation. We have ridden the sinusoidal curves of highs and lows; ecstasy and wretchedness, supernova and catastrophe, ratiocination and insanity, passion and abomination and so on. Our democracy though battered and beleaguered survives. For most it augurs well, for some it affords an opportunity to forage for and exploit its frailty and fragility and to further their pretentiousness and personal design. Let us examine the latter a bit closely.

They propagate and promote a movement that seeks a rebirth of the nation’s soul by overcoming its degeneration. They promise not merely a return to “the good old days” but an extreme and usually violent, new beginning and a very bright future. The national revival comes through a ‘populist’ drive towards mobilizing the energies of all those considered authentic members of the national community, with the charismatic aura of the leader and “the pervasive use of theatrical and ritual elements in politics”. Their contention is that there be “groups identified with physical and moral decadence,” whose ejection from the nation would be a step towards its rebirth. Amen to their vision and malfeasance and nightmare for ordinary Indians and their democratic rights.

Lest we forget, after WW I, Germans were ambivalent to the parliamentary republic and increasingly open to extremist options. In 1932, Hitler ran for the presidency. He came in second in both rounds of the election; garnering more than 35 percent of the vote in the final election this established him as a strong force in German politics. Hindenburg reluctantly agreed to appoint Hitler as chancellor in order to promote political balance. Hitler used his position as chancellor to form a de facto legal dictatorship. The Reichstag Decree, suspended basic rights and allowed detention without trial. Hitler also engineered the passage of the Enabling Act, which gave his cabinet full legislative powers for a period of four years and allowed deviations from the constitution. After having achieved full control over the legislative and executive branches of government, Hitler and his political allies embarked on a systematic suppression of the remaining political opposition. By the end of June, the other parties had been intimidated into disbanding. On July 14, 1933, Hitler’s Nazi Party was declared the only legal political party in Germany. WW II happened; over tens of millions died which included Hitler’s betes noires, the Jews.

Lest we forget, after Lenin’s death, in 1924, Stalin set out to destroy the old party leadership and take total control. At first, he had people removed from power through bureaucratic shuffling and denunciations. Many were exiled abroad to Europe and the Americas, including presumed Lenin successor Leon Trotsky. However, further paranoia set in and Stalin soon conducted a vast reign of terror, having people arrested in the night and put before spectacular show trials. Potential rivals were accused of aligning with capitalist nations, convicted of being “enemies of the people” and summarily executed. The purges eventually extended beyond the party elite to local officials suspected of counterrevolutionary activities. Stalin forced rapid industrialization and the collectivization of agricultural land, resulting in millions dying from famine while others were sent to camps.

Lest we forget, In 1968, Saddam participated in a bloodless but successful Ba’athist coup that resulted in Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr becoming Iraq’s president and Saddam his deputy. During al-Bakr’s presidency, Saddam proved himself to be an effective and progressive politician, albeit a decidedly ruthless one. On July 16, 1979, Saddam Hussein became president of Iraq. Less than a week later, he called an assembly of the Ba’ath Party. During the meeting, a list of 68 names was read out loud, and each person on the list was promptly arrested and removed from the room. Of those 68, all were tried and found guilty of treason and 22 were sentenced to death. By early August 1979, hundreds of Saddam’s political foes had been executed. Saddam, whose political power rested in part upon the support of Iraq’s minority Sunni population, worried that developments in Shi-ite majority Iran could lead to a similar uprising in Iraq. On September 22, 1980, Saddam ordered Iraqi forces to invade the oil-rich region of Khuzestan in Iran. The conflict soon blossomed into an all-out war, but Western nations and much of the Arab world, fearful of the spread of Islamic radicalism and what it would mean to the region and the world, laid their support firmly behind Saddam, despite the fact that his invasion of Iran clearly violated international law. During the conflict, these same fears would cause the international community to essentially ignore Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, its genocidal dealing with its Kurdish population and its burgeoning nuclear program. On August 20, 1988, after years of intense conflict that left hundreds of thousands dead on both sides, a ceasefire agreement was finally reached.

Lest we forget, that demagogues and provocateurs are born amongst us , nurtured and elevated by us for causing mayhem, destruction and death to some of us!