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Congress' anti-democratic laws led to Modi govt's 'Constitutional' changes: Scholars

Counterview Desk
A large number of academics* said to be belonging to several Indian and international institutions, even as taking strong exception to the Narendra Modi government's alleged move to amend the Constitution through "illegitimate" means, have taken strong exception to their colleagues in academia who we have become "all too accustomed to adopting a calculated silence in the face of such indignities."
Referring to a series of recent steps leading to the latest decision to take away the special status to Jammu & Kashmir, they say, it represents "the natural culmination of a series of anti-democratic laws passed by previous Congress governments", adding, "It is now abundantly clear that the ultimate goal of this dizzying assault on democratic principles is to perfect an ethnic state where Hindutva ideology will form the pillar of a fascist constitution."
The list of signatories include faculty members, PhD scholars and students -- mostly Indian -- but while it mentions names, the detail as to which institutes do they belong to is mysteriously absent.

Text:

Since their re-election earlier this year, the current government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Union Home Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah have presided over a country in crisis.
This crisis has been aggravated by a wave of assaults, unprecedented in both scope and magnitude, on the ideas embodied in the Indian Constitution, and on the fundamental and democratic rights of Indian citizens. The time has come to call things by their proper names: the Narendra Modi government is functioning as the executive arm of a fascist organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Our enduring belief in the people's democracy had led us to, until this point, hold out hope that the efforts to polarise society along the lines of religion and caste would fail; that the brazen attempts at concentrating wealth and power in the hands of a few would be thwarted by alert and fair-minded citizens; that our society would disavow violence and repression and choose fraternity, equality and democratic rights for the marginalised.
These hopes have been dented, and it is now abundantly clear that the ultimate goal of this dizzying assault on democratic principles is to perfect an ethnic state where Hindutva ideology will form the pillar of a fascist constitution. It is our firm belief that if these projects go unopposed, we will soon have a state that is authoritarian and despotic, and it is virtually a certainty that it will, in the years to come, exhibit extreme economic inequality and stunted human development.
In the current session of Parliament alone, we have witnessed the effective obliteration of the Right to Information Act, that had until now had played an important role in keeping governments accountable. And although until recently it did not seem possible to write legislation more draconian than the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the current government has found a way to amend it, making its new avatar even more incongruent with democratic society.
These developments do not mark a rupture from an erstwhile thriving democracy. Rather, they represent the natural culmination of a series of anti-democratic laws passed by previous Congress governments, tightening the stranglehold of the state on people's movements.
A lethal nail in the coffin of Indian democracy was hammered in on August 5, 2019, when Amit Shah announced in the Rajya Sabha that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution stood abrogated.
This surprise announcement came on the heels of a rapid escalation in military presence, the severing of all channels of communication between Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and the rest of the country, and the arrest and detention of local politicians. Parliament was not taken into confidence, and consultations with opposition leaders — even elected representatives from Jammu & Kashmir! — was thought unnecessary. It is important to appreciate the gravity of this development; even in these demented times, this isn't how a democratic state ought to function.
The Narendra Modi-led government has used illegitimate means to, in effect, amend the constitution, sidestepping all the safeguards put in place to check against the misuse of power. These cynical and malicious connivances are not new, and we have witnessed in the past a reckless disregard for parliamentary procedures, a troubling lack of interest in consulting with minority groups affected by legislation, and a deep-seated xenophobia and racism.
The move to scrap J&K's special status and furthermore "demote" it to a Union Territory is the culmination of a decades-long ambition held by the Hindutva forces to fully annex Kashmir. What we are witnessing is nothing short of an unconscionable, brutal, and illegal military occupation.
Article 35A, which gave the erstwhile state of J&K the right to define a "permanent resident," and thereby restrict who was allowed to purchase land there, has now been done away with, thus effectively legalising the settler-colonial project. Indeed, the parallels between Kashmir and Palestine are striking and a sober reminder of what lies in store for us if we choose to walk down this road.
On the global stage, too, the autocratic move to occupy J&K is dangerously irresponsible: large parts of the erstwhile state make up disputed territory with Pakistan and China, and such unilateral measures betraying no interest in diplomacy, accompanied with aggressive troop build-up may easily be construed as hostile, leading to escalating tensions and bringing our country to the brink of war.
It shouldn't be an act of courage to publicly denounce savagery. Honest academic activity is by virtue of its essence incompatible with totalitarianism
It has become abundantly clear to us that the leadership of this government is filled with pathological liars and hate-mongers who have no interest in history, truth, or justice. They do not believe in the Constitution, and we see no point in constantly appealing to them to abide by it.
At times like these, when the rhetoric of fascism is ubiquitous and the governments actions are consistently anti-democratic and anti-people, it becomes exceedingly important to reaffirm the need and carve out a space for anti-fascist resistance. We emphatically oppose the fascist designs of this government, and will continue to oppose their efforts to create a Hindu Rashtra.
To our colleagues in academia: we have become all too accustomed to adopting a calculated silence in the face of such indignities, hoping perhaps that our country will eventually right itself. This silence is indistinguishable from tacit endorsement, and must stop immediately. It shouldn't be an act of courage to publicly denounce savagery. Honest academic activity is by virtue of its essence incompatible with totalitarianism. We appeal to our fellow academics, and also activists, students, and members of civil society to join us in strongly condemning this tyranny and injustice.
As of the writing of this statement, the citizens of Kashmir still do not have access to means of communication. Overnight, their homes have been turned into prisons. Protests have erupted in various parts of Kashmir, and already there are numerous reports of civilians being wounded severely by pellet gun fire and tear gas.
We, the undersigned, emphatically support the cause of the thousands of protesters, and condemn in the strongest possible terms the violent repression being faced by the Kashmiri people, whose only crime is to demand what is guaranteed to them by our Constitution: a representative and inclusive democratic state. While always standing in opposition to fascist governments and the terror of the Sangh, we stand firmly with the people of Kashmir as they initiate their struggle to reclaim their autonomy.
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*Click HERE for signatories' list

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