George Floyd issue: the tyranny of the majority

By Cleofato A Coutinho
22 June 2020 22:13 IST

A country founded on a protest movement called the ‘American Revolution’ is on fire. Citizens defied curfew across USA. There are protests across the world for racial justice in U.S.  The kneeling down by Canadian president along with the protestors drew global attention. World faces difficult times due to corona virus pandemic and the richest country is worst hit. Despite the equality and liberty   provisions of the U.S. constitution, racial discrimination has been the problem for decades. Who would believe that the U.S. administration would be accused of racial disparities in medical aid during the covid-19 pandemic that led to higher rate of fatalities in non-white community?

Pope Francis said street violence is self-defeating and self-destructive. The’ black lives matter’ movement has brought significant change in the U.S. psyche but what sparked the present movement is the death of a 46 years African American George Floyd whose neck was pinned by a white policeman Derek Chauvin. The arson and mayhem may have shattered glass fronts and malls looted. That is only a peripheral matter, the core issue being police brutality and broader systemic racism. The blacks have been at the receiving end from white policeman for decades. 24% of the people dying at the hands of the U.S. police were blacks, despite their population being 13%. Thus a black faces 2.5 times higher risk than a white American to be killed by police. Even the corona virus has been harsher on them! That’s the core issue-the awakening of America to racial justice. The violence is only the by-product of the malaise.

1) S. president Donald Trump has been finding the political weather tough. The writing on the wall was becoming clearer as Democrats showed an early march over the republicans. Traditionally in the aftermath of black-protests, the republicans benefitted. Trump decided to fish in troubled waters. He glorified violence against protestors. His call for’ thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcing officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and wanton destruction of property’. He was getting law enforcement at the centre of political identity. And at election times it is identity politics! With 66 % of the electorate being white Americans, it was a clear attempt to consolidate his white supporters -a clear attempt to polarise the polity. Divisive forces work that way. It is the tyranny of numbers in full display- an attempt to get a second term via majoritarianism.

When institutions are in place, it becomes difficult to have a free run. Defence Secretary Mark Esper rejected president Trump’s proposal to invoke the ‘Insurrection Act’ which allows the president to send active duty military troops into cities to curb protests. He said Trump is ‘the first president in his lifetime who does not try unite the American people, does not even pretend to’. For Trump  his strength  lies in a divided America.One cannot imagine India’s defence minister or the army chief taking such a  bold stand.

The racial justice movement had it’s echo in India also. It is quite fashionable to condemn fascist tendencies in other countries. But we in India are are past masters when it comes to violence against minorities and dalits. From 1989 onwards our polity is veered towards such a trajectory and the election results of 2014 and 2019 are fruits of that project. The hate and hatred rhetoric has pushed the 16% muslim minority into a corner. The cow protection groups have been having a free run in their lynching programme. At least 44 persons including 36 muslims have been trashed to death with the perpetrators of crime laughing all the way as they get acquittal certificates.  The Delhi Minorities commission’s report  on riots  in North East Delhi recently said it was one sided and well planned with maximum damage to shops and houses belonging to minority community.  The Gujarat riots of 2002 and  the Babri-Masjid were clear majoritarian projects which helped consolidate the majority community

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO found similarity between President Trump and India. He  said “and there are cases in India where  for example someone said  ‘Hey if the police don’t take care of this, our supporters will get in there and clear the streets”. The slogan of ‘desh ke gadaro ko, goli maaro salon  ko’ is also similar to trump’s rant.

In many parts of the country Kashmiri students and businessmen are harassed,  beaten up and evicted. The police, administration and the powerful look the other way. There are ministers in the central cabinet who abuse the community with uncivilized language. The home minister called illegal migrants (Bangladeshis) as termites, knowing   well that they are all muslims. These days muslim community face the brunt of the majority community  and the   police for being muslims and covid-19 spreaders

The problem in our country is our institutions are compromised. Despite the immunity claim and the slogan of “when looting starts, shooting starts” repeated by president Trump, the four policemen stand dismissed from service and charged of  murder in third degree within four days of the crime. Can we expect that here where an FIR would get filed against unknown Riots and protests bring to the fore past divisions in society. They help consolidation of divisive past. Progressive thought bring in the elements of reconciliation. The participation of large white populace in the recent protests in U.S shows a new trendpersons and everybody shall say ”kuch nahi hoga”?

Riots and protests bring to the fore past divisions in society. They help consolidation of divisive past. Progressive thought bring in the elements of reconciliation. The participation of large white populace in the recent protests in U.S shows a new trend. The death of George Floyd has fired the Black Lives matter movement which has primed the U.S.A for a new groundswell. The local and National Politics and the pervasiveness of racism looks to head in different direction. The Anti CAA movement here also showed signs of forging progressive thought across communities. That’s  a silver lining.  



Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

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