B S Raghavan

Growing resistance to authority and control

B.S. RAGHAVAN | Updated on September 27, 2012

What I am going to say might be unpalatable, and even sound like being irreverent to the Father of the Nation, especially with the UN International Day of Non-Violence in his memory falling on October 2.

But it is a matter of historical record that Mahatma Gandhi had to face intense flak from personalities of the stature and calibre of Right Honourable V.S.Srinivasa Sastry, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru and even Motilal Nehru when he first sought to take the Congress in the direction of mass disobedience of the laws in force during the British Rule and flouting the established authority of the government of the day in the name of non-cooperation movement.

Among those prominent in public life in those days, Sastry was perhaps the closest to Gandhiji. But it was Sastry who was the most candid and blunt to his last days in expressing his total disagreement with Gandhiji on his methods of fighting foreign rule.

In letter after letter, Sastry never hesitated to point out that Gandhiji was sowing the seeds of indiscipline and contempt for laws and institutions, and that this evil genie, once released from the bottle, could never be put back. Sastry used to warn that Gandhiji’s methods would ultimately spill over into the ethos and culture of Independent India and grievously undermine rule of law and respect for authority.

Worse, it would lead to the very opposite of Gandhiji’s vision of free India given to truth and non-violence.


It was the most enlightening and fascinating debate of India’s freedom struggle between two great men who were almost like brothers and whose affection and regard for each other knew no bounds.

Looking around, I have begun worrying whether Sastry’s prophecy has after all come true. The command and control system, beginning from the family to government that is the underpinning of society, seems to have broken down everywhere. Even the slightest attempt to exercise or enforce authority — whether by a parent, teacher or anyone holding a supervisory position — meets with resistance and increasingly with murderous attacks.

The flare-up of violence in the Manesar automobile plant of Maruti Suzuki ending in a General Manager being burnt to death was reportedly a sequel to the suspension of a worker for beating his supervisor following an altercation. Even the security forces, from the police to para-military to defence formations, whose loyalty, discipline and deference to uniform were previously unquestioned, have begun reacting violently to decisions or orders they don’t like. There have been many instances of senior officers being shot dead by their juniors for such trifling things as their leave or transfer not being sanctioned for the asking.


At one time, the orders passed by the courts and judicial forums were sacrosanct and required to be instantly obeyed. Not any more. Any number of judgments and directives of High Courts and the Supreme Court, with time limits prescribed, have oftentimes been ignored, and even violated with impunity.

Of a piece with these formerly unthinkable trends is the recent ugly development of the media and the Internet being filled with a relentless barrage of vitriolic attack on bureaucrats. It has always been their lot to be subjected to vilificatory campaigns, with the IAS bearing the brunt as the most detestable villain of the piece.

In the last year or so, even highly placed officers of the Defence forces have joined in the virulent onslaught with the use of the kind of intemperate invectives not usually associated with civilised discourse.

Just a sample: “…till the day dawns when the MoD will be rid of the last BABU, (the) adversarial situation between the Forces and the babu will continue.”Even former Army Chief of Staff General V. P. Malik has come out openly saying that the alienation between the civilian government and the armed forces has gone from bad to worse.

To my mind, these are all symptoms of restiveness against any form of supervision and control. Unless they are faced frontally by means of an extensive brainstorming in an inter-disciplinary group of dispassionate persons in government and civil society, there is every danger of things spinning out of control.

Published on September 27, 2012

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