Democracy under assault
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Radical Humanist, political analyst and human rights activist
The morning news of raids and arrest of five activists from different parts of the country by the Pune police is a chilling reminder that talks of political dissent and human rights are a crime and those who are lynching people in public, threatening people to send to Pakistan or openly threatening writers and journalists are roaming free and being awarded by the political leadership of the ruling party, even following them on the social media.
In democracy people have right to differ and have their opinion on various issues. Most of those arrested are well known writers and activists. Many of them are known through their work with the marginalised communities while some are known as ideologues of the left, some of them are as old as to be termed as senior citizens. Father Stan Swamy would be around 80 and so is Mr Varvara Rao. One is a human rights defender who has devoted his life to empower the adivasis of Jharkhand leaving all the comforts of his home state in Tamilnadu for the last three decades while the other is a literary figure based in Hyderabad and known as an ideologue of the left.
Political thinker and public intellectual Anand Teltumde’s home too was raided. He is a vocal critique of current economic policies and has been articulating bringing and merging the class-caste issues to fight the bigger battle. He is a prolific writer and his detailed analysis are available on Economic and Political Weekly. Gautam Navlakha belong to PUDR and has been fighting for the human rights of the marginalised for long.
All of them are ideologues and believe in countering an argument through an argument. All believe in rule of law and constitution of India. It is therefore surprising what kind of ‘clinching’ evidence the Pune police has got to arrest them. Good that the Delhi High Court has stayed the arrest of Gautam Navlakha till tomorrow when it hear the petition on an urgency basis.
Ms Sudha Bharadwaj is a well known activist dedicated her life for the rights of trade unions and fighting their cases free of cost. She has been active also for the rights of the adivasis. That a lawyer who is fighting cases of the marginalised and poor can be arrested by the police send us the message that they can reach to any one and criminalise them. It is a direct assault on our democracy.
There are serious issues emerging from these arrests which is why is the Pune Police not able to finish the case. Rather than arresting the goons who resorted to violence in the aftermath of the rally at Bhimakoregaon, it arrested the Ambedkarite activists on a very large scale in the entire Maharastra state while completely leaving the goons of Elgar Parishad to roam around and threaten. So many cases were filed against the Dalit activists that they are fighting it now. Unfortunately, it did not stop with that. Several activists who might have participated in the event at Bhimakoregaon were arrested earlier and perhaps based on extraction of statement from them, there were raids on these five people.
This is difficult time for all who believe in human rights and political dissent. It is time to be together. As elections draw nearer, such stories would be cooked. You will get intimidated by the goons in the street, threatened with dire consequences and on social media there will be character assassination. More than that, on the North Korean Channels and newspapers you will get the ‘break news’ through ‘selective’ leakages of stories about the people who are arrested. The dalals will shout loud and bring out stories while the police will intimidate, assault and silently leak the stories to the obliging ‘patrakars’.
The modus operandi of the power is clear to get the activists physically assaulted like what they did to Umar Khalid or Swami Agnivesh then file cases against the victims and allow the goons and accused to go scot free, lynch the victim on the TV trials through their ‘spokespersons’ on the channels, plant stories in the media, drag the case as long as possible and build up the narrative of threat to the supreme leader.
And this is not alone. One side the Maoist narrative, the other side the Muslim, Pakistan, terrorism narrative. With the most helping hand coming from the Bania media, completely exposing itself now, we can only fight the battle through legal means and joining hands together. The most unfortunate part is the silence of political people and parties who are unable to speak and condemn such assault on our freedom.
This is the dark hour. During emergency, the work of political parties, activists, media and judiciary was complimentary. When Jai Prakash Narain gave a call, Ramnath Goenka and other joined hand, though a majority of papers surrendered but what is most threatening and intimidating today is that state apparatus is providing ammunition to spokespersons in the North Korean channels and cooking up new stories. We blame social media but it is the electronic media and print media whose integrity and credibility is now under the threat and a majority of who are openly criminals and supporting them.
Democracy is under the stress today. Our human liberties and values are assaulted. Political freedom is endangered. The message is clear for all of us that you will be targeted for your views. Dont speak of people’s right over resources. Dont talk about land rights. Seal your lips and stay silence because the greedy corporate want to make an entry into your region to suck your resources.
Will the political leadership of different parties stand up together and speak up against this intimidation. Will our Courts speak up and send an unambiguous message to those in power not to cross the line and not to intimidate activists. Will the international rights bodies speak up. The space for civil society is shrinking in this country. It is these forces which can create an atmosphere for peace and harmony. It is these people who talk of democracy and constitution to get people their rights and not those who burn the constitution and yet roam free.
We sincerely hope that the courts will take cognizance the matter and restore the confidence of the people in our judiciary and political system. There is a credibility crisis now and only courts can save them by their quick intervention. Let us wait for the verdict of Delhi High court tomorrow for one of the cases ?