Wednesday, February 8, 2023
HomeEditorialActivists' arrest reveals govt's intolerance towards dissent

Activists’ arrest reveals govt’s intolerance towards dissent

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I don’t know what is making me sad or what is really bothering me these days as a writer or a journalist. I am also confused about many things happening around and have deep concern over the functioning of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government. I am pained by his fake promises and lies. I voted for him keeping a lot of faith for development and expecting to be a ‘Ram Rajya’ kind of ambiance in my country. Ever since BJP came to power, I have seen meanness and unkindness in Modi’s eyes. He just remained a chatterbox, talk, talk and talk until people got bored of his speeches. He is most of the time silent on all those issues where his intervention was needed; he spoke on all those issues, which were not of our interest. I am least bothered what Nehru did and what Gandhis are doing because I voted them out of power and you are yet to realise that. What is bothering BJP? Why are they so scared of losing in 2019? Why the country is witnessing this “undeclared emergency”? Why there is so much restlessness, lies, and violence?

Modi government at the Centre is destroying democratic institutions and Undermining the Constitution. There is an atmosphere of fear.

It is said that one can enjoy an intelligent enemy much more than a stupid friend. Why is this government scared of the judges, writers, journalists, think tanks, and intellectuals? Since 2014, they are killed, harassed, or arrested under the pretext of communists.

On Tuesday, the police raided the homes of the prominent human rights lawyer and national secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Sudha Bharadwaj, Dalit intellectual, and writer Anand Teltumbde, peoples’ poet Varavara Rao and lawyer and author Arun Ferreira, human rights activist Vernon Gonsalves, and former secretary of People’s Union for Democratic Rights Gautam Navlakha. The arrests, as stated, are a part of an ever-widening probe into the violence visited upon a massive Dalit protest. Many have criticised the arrests of the social activists and the leftist intellectuals including Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, and several others. The arrests are part of a clear design to lock down on democratic dissent, undermine free speech and create a climate of fear. This is completely alarming.

These arrests, as well as the raids on the homes of a total of nine people in Delhi, Ranchi, Mumbai, and Hyderabad, are purely planned to persecute dissenters and those critiquing rights violations by the government. They are based on utterly vague, numerous flimsy, and sweeping accusations. According to information available, the highly undemocratic legislation, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 is being invoked against those arrested. The UAPA is a draconian statute that is in open contempt of fundamental political freedoms and should not have any place in a civilised society. It affords free rein to the police to target and harass virtually anyone they wish to. It allows the hypothesis of guilt, and alleged ‘intention’ to commit crimes to become the basis of arrests, incarceration, and prolonged denial of bail.

These raids and arrests were the part of a strenuous onslaught by the State to clamp down on politics that is inconvenient to the ruling dispensation. Slapping the label Maoist has become as a routine option for the State to crack down on dissent. The ‘discovery’ of incriminating Maoist literature/letters is a piece with this dubious strategy.

BJP believes that the revolutionaries, Maoists, and Naxalites are using a different strategy of hiding behind Dalit, human rights, creative writers, and intellectuals robe. The objective is the same, i.e. to extricate elected governments and dissolve the State though they are working within the framework of the Constitution. Media depending on the ideology of the owner will play up or down. This is the new circus in town. The way the poet waives his hand after the arrest shows he doesn’t have any distresses about the arrest and shows the intent of police in nabbing them. The so-called raids carried out on the houses of these activists are aimed at creating a spectacle, as the writings and views of these intellectuals are already publicly known and are well-documented. This seems like a conspiracy to divert attention from the gravity of the Sanatan Sanstha conspiracy to carry out serial bomb attacks on Eid and Ganesh Chaturthi! The same outfit was also involved in the murder of Gauri Lankesh, as per the ongoing investigations by the Karnataka police. Tuesday’s arrests have been carried out in order to give cover to the murderers of Gauri Lankesh. People like Sudha Bhardwaj, Gautam Navlakha, and others who have been arrested are friends of the people who have dedicated their entire lives to the betterment of the Indian public. By arresting them, the BJP is only exposing its insecurities and its intolerance to any dissent or criticism of its policies. The arrests should be seen in extension with the recent attacks on pro-justice voices such as Swami Agnivesh, Umar Khalid and many other student activists from Delhi to Lucknow.

Sudha Bhardwaj gave up her American passport after her parents returned to India. She would eventually become a committed activist and trade unionist steadfastly fighting for the rights of the dispossessed in the mineral-rich state of Chhattisgarh, where some of India’s poorest and most exploited population is settled.

As a professor of law at a leading university, the 56-year-old taught about tribal and land rights and endeared herself to students. But it was her three-decade-long work among the poor in Chhattisgarh that made her a shining beacon of hope for many in the fight for justice. She and four other activists and lawyers were arrested from different cities for what the police say is their role in an incident of caste-based violence and their alleged links with Maoists, who, according to a former prime minister, pose India’s “greatest internal security challenge”. Supreme Court must intervene to stop this persecution and harassment of independent voices. The government can’t call people that you vary with terrorists and lock them up. Others said that the crackdown was resonant of the Emergency in 1975, when the then prime minister Indira Gandhi suspended civil liberties, threw opposition leaders and journalists in prison and gagged the media.

Although, many of its ancient texts encourage inquiry, doubt, and challenge, India has a cheered history of dissent. Antiquated colonial laws remain in the books and continue to undermine free speech. For decades, governments have used a colonial-era sedition law against students, journalists, intellectuals, social activists, and those critical of the government. The Indian state, which often appears to be feeble or unwilling to impose the rule of law, can be selectively harsh on dissenters. What is different this time? Many say that this is a concerted campaign by the government to target the dissenters.

The silencing of rebellion, and creating fear in the minds of people violate the demands of personal liberty, but it also makes it very much harder to have a dialogue-based society.


(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on [email protected])

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for past 16 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazine Beyond The News, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs. Besides journalism, she is also an Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author.
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