Raids, arrest of India's top activists, writers: Will political parties, international rights bodies speak up?

Sudha Bharadwaj
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
The morning news on August 28, of raids and arrest of five activists from different parts of the country by the Pune police, was a chilling reminder that talks of political dissent and human rights are a crime, and those who are lynching people in the public, threatening people that they would be sent to Pakistan, or openly threatening writers and journalists, are roaming about free and are being awarded by the political leadership of the ruling party, even following them on social media.
In a democracy, people have the 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 Varavara 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 Tamil Nadu 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 Teltumbde's home too was raided. He is a vocal critic of current economic policies, and has been articulating his views on the class-caste issues, merging them with the fight for a bigger battle. He is a prolific writer, and his detailed analyses are available in the columns of the “Economic and Political Weekly”. Gautam Navlakha belongs to the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and has been fighting for the human rights of the marginalised for long.
Anand Teltumbde
All of them are ideologues and believe in countering an argument through an argument. All believe in the rule of law and the Constitution of India. It is, therefore, surprising what kind of 'clinching' evidence the Pune police has got to arrest them. Good, the Delhi High Court stayed the arrest of Gautam Navlakha till it hears the petition on an urgency basis on August 29.
Sudha Bharadwaj is a well-known activist, who has dedicated her life for the rights of trade unions and fights their cases free of cost. She has also been active for the rights of the adivasis. That a lawyer, who is fighting cases of the marginalised and the poor can be arrested by the police, sends the message that they can reach to anyone and criminalise them. It is a direct assault on our democracy.
There are serious issues emerging from these arrests, which is why 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 Bhima-Koregaon, it arrested the Ambedkarite activists on a very large scale in the entire Maharastra state, while completely leaving the goons of the Elgar Parishad to roam around and threaten. On the other hand, so many cases were filed against Dalit activists, that they are busy fighting them.
Unfortunately, it did not stop with that. Several activists who might have participated in the event at Bhima-Koregaon were arrested earlier, and perhaps based on extraction of statement from them, there were raids on these five people. This is a 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. Many more 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 what are described as North Korean channels and newspapers, one will get 'breaking news' through 'selective' leakages of stories about the people who are arrested. These dalals or agents will shout loud and bring out stories, while the police will intimidate, assault and silently leak stories to obliging journalists.
Varavara Rao
The modus operandi of the power-that-be is clear: To get activists physically assaulted, like what they did to Umar Khalid or Swami Agnivesh, then file cases against victims even as allowing goons and accused to go scot free, lynch victims in TV trials through their 'spokespersons', plant stories in media, drag cases as long as possible, and build up the narrative of threat to the supreme leader.
And this is not alone. One side is the Maoist narrative, on the other is the Muslim, Pakistan, terrorism narrative. With a helping hand coming from the corporate media, completely exposing itself now, one can only fight the battle through legal means by joining hands together. The most unfortunate part in this narrative is the silence of political people and parties, who are unable to speak and condemn such assaults on our freedom.
This is a dark hour. During the Emergency, the work of political parties, activists, media and judiciary was complimentary. When Jai Prakash Narain gave a call, Ramnath Goenka and others joined hand, though a majority of papers surrendered. But what is most threatening and intimidating today is, the state apparatus is providing ammunition to spokespersons in the North Korean channels, who are cooking up new stories. One often blames social media, but it is the electronic media and print media whose integrity and credibility are now under threat, those who are openly criminals are supporting them.
Democracy is under stress. 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. Don’t speak of people's right over resources. Don’t talk about land rights. Seal your lips and stay silent, because the greedy corporates want to make an entry into your region to suck your resources.
Will the political leadership of different parties stand up 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 the 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 of the matter and restore 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 on August 29.
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Well-known human rights defender. Source: Facebook timeline of the author

Comments

Niranjan Dave said…
This is for the benefit of this generation which has not seen.and suffered emergency clamped by Smt Gandhi.