Repression As Distraction

Arrest of dissenters is a way for government to shift focus from the discontent

Written by P B Sawant | Updated: September 6, 2018 12:20:52 am
Repression As Distraction Pune police arrested (Clockwise) Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad, Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, Gautam Navlakha in New Delhi, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai.

The Emergency of 1975, howsoever repugnant, was at least declared under the provisions of the Constitution. The present Emergency, evidenced by various acts of lawlessness and repression by the government, does not make even that pretence. What is worse, it has been permitting any and every offence by the Hindutva forces, giving an impression they have the blessings of the state.

On the other hand, the legitimate exercise of their fundamental rights by the opponents and critics of the present regime is sought to be punished and suppressed, to silence the lawful criticism and protests against the government. A kind of fascism is at work. The present and the past raids on the residences and the arrests of the activists — out of whom only two were associated with the Elgaar Conference held on December 31, 2017, in Pune — clearly evidences the arbitrary conduct of the government.

The Elgaar Parishad was the second conference organised by this author along with others, the first being on October 4, 2015, at the same venue, to condemn and protest the unconstitutional conduct of the present regime and to demand the enforcement of the Constitution. This time, however, an organisation called the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) joined us. There were many speakers at the conference and all of them emphasised the patent lawlessness and demanded that the government abide by the Constitution. At the end of the conference, all those gathered took a pledge that they will not rest till the present regime was changed.

About five months after the conference, on June 6, the police raided the residences of the KKM activists under the pretext that they were Naxalites or Naxalite sympathisers. The present round of arrests has been made from various places in the country on August 28, also on the plea that those arrested were Naxalites and they wanted to “overthrow” the government. They are also alleging that the arrestees were associated with the organising of the conference and through the medium of the conference, they wanted to propagate Naxalite ideology.

In fact, except for Sudhir Dhawle and Shoma Sen, no one else was either associated with or attended the conference, nor do we know them. This shows that the arrests are clearly politically motivated. It appears that panicked by the present wave of discontent against it, the government is trying to divert the attention of the people. Another reason for these arrests appears to be the recent unearthing of the plot of the Sanatan Sanstha (a Hindutva organisation) to manufacture bombs, explode them at different places and to create fear among the people.

Being a patron of the Hindutva organisations, the government is also interested in diverting the attention of the people from the said plot of the Hindutvaites who are at present running amock and indulging in violent activities. This clearly amounts to encouraging communal forces. The police are at present busy making out a case that the arrestees were planning to overthrow the government by “violence”. They forget that we have a democratic Constitution, which permits people to overthrow a government through the ballot. But that will be decided by the court when the so-called evidence collected by the police is presented before it. For the present, it is not necessary to say anything more on the subject.

The fact, however, remains that the present arbitrary and illegal actions let loose by the government have made the life of citizens insecure. Although the present regime does not appear to believe in democracy, it must abide by the Constitution. It cannot change the identity of the nation from the democratic to a fascist nation to suit its ideology, without changing the Constitution.

The writer is a former Supreme Court judge

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