Skip to main content

Why is PM office silent on recent saffron attacks on dissenting views?, Ask 120 prominent citizens

Ela Bhatt, one of the signatories
By Our Representative
In an open statement, 120-odd prominent intellectuals have taken strong exception to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for remaining “silent on this blatant attack on curbing citizens’ free speech and expression” by the saffron brigade and its supporters. Blaming the state machinery for taking advantage of “the draconian Section 66A of the Information and Technology (IT) Act, 2000,” they have particularly opposes “criminal punishment” of up to three years for merely sending messages which can cause “annoyance” or “inconvenience” or “danger” or “insult”, and gives unfettered discretion to enforcement agencies to enforce it.
What makes the statement significant is, it has been signed by a wide variety of persons who have till now refused to be party to what they would consider “political” overtones. One such noticeable signatory is Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) founder Ela R Bhatt, a Magsaysay Award winning social activist. Others include right to information activist Aruna Roy, journlast Ashish Kothari, academic Jean Dreze, actor Nandita Das, environmentalist Vrinda Grover, historian Romila Thapar, anti-dam activist Shripadh Dharmadhikari, artist Vivan Sundaram, and campaigner against 2002 communal riots Teesta Setalvad.
Giving instances of attack, the statement says, “Last month, a widely respected and well know Kannada writer, U.R. Ananthamurthy was sent a one-way ticket to Karachi as well as threatened with phones calls asking him ‘when he was going to leave’ for saying ‘I would not like to live in a country ruled by Modi’.”
“In another incident, a youth, Syed Vaqas, along with four friends from Bhatkal, Karnataka were arrested for sending a message (when the election results were announced) caricaturing the BJP government’s election slogan “aab ki bar antimsanskar (modi sarkar).” A third incident is about a 31-year-old naval engineer from Goa, Devu Chodankar, for his alleged inflammatory comments against Narendra Modi on social media”, the statement says.
“More recently, in Bihar members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) disrupted a People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) seminar, to discuss the detention of Professor GN Saibaba of Delhi University (arrested for alleged Maoist links) and its implications for human rights. Or take the case of the two girls from Palghar, Maharashtra who were arrested for criticizing the shutdown of Mumbai for Shiv Sena’s chief Bal Thakeray’s funeral in 2012, even though the Constitution of India guarantees plurality of diverse political opinion”, it adds.
Pointing out that all these incidents signify “acts of political expression that were reinterpreted as not conforming to mainstream positions”, and “in the two recent cases in Karnataka and Goa, the representatives of police in in Goa and Bangalore have stated in the newspapers that these cases do not warrant arrests”, the statement regrets, despite all this, the PMO remained “silent.”
“No democracy can claim to be one, unless freedom of speech and expression are guaranteed by statute and where the state machinery works to ensure compliance not only in the behavior of government, but of its citizens. The curbing of expression with threat and through terror, increasingly more menacing, should be condemned and stopped, if our country is to become a mature democracy”, the statement reads.
Saying the trend is worrying, the statement underlines, “In the last fortnight there has been a resurgence of attacks to curb the right to free speech and expression of Indian citizens who did not share the euphoria, hope and enthusiasm associated with recent election results. It is important to note that such attempts to curtail the right to free speech and expression of writers, academics, activists and ordinary citizens have been recurring incidents over the past two decades, irrespective of the political party in power.”
Condemning “the use of social policing, boycott and other means of state coercion to silence citizens, legitimized through regressive legislations such as the IT Act”, the statement demands, section 66A of the IT Act should be deleted, urging the “Prime Minister, and the Government of India and all State Governments to respect the right of citizens' to express their thoughts and views, guaranteed by the Constitution of India, without fear of retribution.”

Comments

Rajendra Barve said…
Dear Madam

I appreciate your knowledge and your contribution for India. Before getting diverted to all those small incidents which you have listed down in your blog, kindly let us get all kashmiri pandits to their home land i e Kashmir. If we all can do so then this minor incident can be answered any time

Rajendra Barve

TRENDING

India reaches 8th of 10 stage genocide: US Muslim advocacy group raises 'alert'

By Hena Zuberi* India has reached the 8th stage of genocide with the persecution of the Muslim community. Stating this, Professor Greg Stanton, who heads Genocide Watch, declared a Genocide Emergency Alert for India today at Justice For All online briefing.

Mayawati's 'success' depends on how BSP taps new crop of young Amdekarite leaders

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Whatever be the election results in Uttar Pradesh on March 10, it is extremely important to understand: that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and its leader Mayawati have the potential to rise like a Phoenix any time.

Anti-poor? 'Cumbersome' to link aadhaar, voter ID for people sans internet access

By Prashant Kumar Chaudhary, Ajit Kumar Jaiswal*  At present, technology plays an increasingly crucial part in modelling human existence by offering a variety of solutions to many of the challenges individuals confront in the real world. As a result, every branch of research works to provides means to solve these difficulties precisely and efficiently. The Central government works along the same lines as well.

India's actual Covid death rate about 2500 per million, third highest in world: Study

By Rajiv Shah  There is now well-researched proof, if it can be called that, indicating that the Government of India may have fudged data to show lower Covid death rate. A new paper, published in “Science”, has said that while officially the Government of India’s Covid-related death estimates as of January 1, 2022 – 345 per million population – are one-seventh of the US death rate, the actual analysis of crude death rate in India suggests, this may be a gross underestimation. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Gender insensitive? Model Gujarat's cyclone relief package ignores 40,000 fisherwomen

CSJ volunteers talking to fisherwomen By Rajiv Shah  A Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) note on the Gujarat government’s compensation package to the victims of the devastating Tauktae cyclone, which hit the coastal belt of Saurashtra's Amerli, Rajula, Una, and Gir-Somnath districts in May 2021, has said, the relief offered was so terribly inadequate that many of the fisherfolk were not able to fish for the rest of the year.

'Dargah site was a temple': Claim in Gujarat following post-Babri verdict demands in UP

By Rajiv Shah  Will Gujarat also see demands to replace mosques and dargahs with Hindu temples? It would seem so, if a new fact-finding team conclusion is any indication. Apprehending the “danger” of communal conflagration, it has cited the claim on a 15th century dargah was originally a Hindu temple – allegedly quite on line with what has been happening in UP following the Supreme Court verdict on Babri Mosque.

Haridwar call for genocide direct result of Modi 'tolerating' Islamophobic policies

By Our Representative  A high-level briefing organised in Washington DC, in which as many as 17 human rights and interfaith organizations -- including Amnesty International USA, Genocide Watch and Hindus for Human Rights, apart from several persons in their individual capacity -- participated, has come down heavily on what they called "Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Islamophobic policies and tolerance of open incitement by Hindu extremists for a genocide of Muslims."

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".