February 23, 2008competitive intoleranceConstitutionhistorynon-violencepoliticsPublic Policy

Grammar of Anarchy

Lessons from another Maharashtrian

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Those who take to the streets often invoke Mahatma Gandhi. Like Raj Thackeray. Surely, if the Mahatma could break the law, then it’s perfectly kosher for lesser mortals to do so?

Not quite.

Because once the Constitution of India came into force in 1950, the rules of the game changed. In one of his last speeches to the Constituent Assembly, on 25th November 1949, Dr B R Ambedkar said:

If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgement we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us. [Archives of the Parliament of India]

That manoos from Maharashtra got it right: political violence—and non-violence outside the constitutional route—are the grammar of anarchy. So don’t let the invocation of Gandhi be a fig leaf for practices that have no place in a democracy.



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