Skip to main content

April 14, which brought into sharp focus grim realities, difficulties We the People face

Anand Teltumbde surrendering on April 14
By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
In the midst of the lockdown, Tuesday April 14, 2020, was indeed a very special day for India! It was a day that certainly brought into focus the grim realities and difficulties which “we the people of India” are currently facing due to the pandemic, but it was day on which we also had the opportunity to realise how serious things are in the country, on other equally important and critical fronts. The day also threw up positive possibilities for emulation, for celebration and for change! Let’s have a glimpse into that day:
April 14, 2020: Birth anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. This great visionary, who was born in 1891, contributed immensely to the country. He was an economist, jurist, social reformer, politician and scholar par excellence. Ambedkar was against every form of discrimination and fought relentlessly for the rights of Dalits and other underprivileged sections of society.
As the main architect of the Constitution of India, he left no stone unturned to ensure that we have a Constitution based on justice, liberty, equality and fraternity of all. In his last speech to the Constituent Assembly on 25 November 1949, he emphatically said, “We must make our political democracy a social democracy as well. Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it, social democracy.” More than at any time else, India desperately yearns today for an Ambedkar in her midst.
April 14, 2020: New Year Day. It is a day on which we once again celebrated India’s cultural diversity and rich pluralistic traditions. It was ‘New Year’s Day’ for so many different people of our country; it was ‘Puthandu’ for the Tamils; ‘Pohela Boishakh’ for the Bengalis; ‘Bohag Bihu’ for the Assamese; ‘Pana Sankranti for the Odias; ‘Vishu’ for the Malayalees. It is the first harvest festival for several in Northern, Eastern and Southern India. This year however, the pandemic was a great dampener; nevertheless the prayers of all, were for a brighter year ahead.
April 14, 2020: Baisakhi. Though it began on the previous day, it continued on to the next. A true festival of spring celebrated both by the Hindus and Sikhs in Punjab. It also marks the solar New Year. For the Sikhs, it is the day on which the Khalsa way of living was born. The festival commemorates the formation of the Khalsa panth of warriors under Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh guru, in 1699. Significantly, be it to the protestors in Shaheen bagh earlier or now to the migrants affected by the pandemic, the Sikhs have been reaching out with love and generosity to those who are most in need, through their ‘langars’ and other acts of charity.
April 14, 2020: The Prime Minister spoke. Once again and for the fourth time since March 19. PM Modi told the nation that the lockdown would continue till 3 May! He congratulated all for their efforts and said that all should observe a seven-point programme. The address was high on rhetoric and emotion (Modi is a master speaker in Hindi and knows how to garner empathetic support). However, his words woefully lacked substance and a direction for a nation in crisis.
There was no plan to deal with the millions of migrant workers who are stranded all over the country because of the sudden lockdown from the night of 24/25 March; there were no plans for the small farmers or for that matter the SMEs; not a word of increasing the Testing Centres or for the procurement of testing kits or ensuring that the Doctors, nurses and caregivers would be protected and kept safe with the necessary Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) and other medical safeguards.
Again no mention of other vulnerable groups, be it the police personnel on duty or for that matter the old and sick, women and children. (Ha! the people of India were told that they had to respond to those in need!). No direction to the Banks or other financial institutions. Above all in the interest of transparency, the PM should have told the nation how much money has already been collected in the special fund he has created and for the purposes it is being utilized for at the moment. In short, it’s the people’s responsibility only!
April 14, 2020: The surrender of human rights defenders. Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde surrendered to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on blatantly fabricated charges in the context of the Bhima-Koregaon violence of January 2018. Some others are already in jail on similar charges. Both wrote open letters before their arrest. Teltumbde said, “at the fag end of my life, I am being charged for the heinous crime under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. An individual like me obviously cannot counter the spirited propaganda of the government and its subservient media. The details of the case are strewn across the internet and are enough for any person to see that it is a clumsy and criminal fabrication”.
In his letter Navlakha wrote: “I can now begin to face the actual legal process, which accompanies cases where provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act are invoked. Such Acts turn the normal jurisprudence upside down. No longer is it the axiom that “a person is innocent unless proven guilty". In fact, under such Acts, “an accused is guilty unless proven innocent”, Draconian provisions of UAPA are not accompanied by stricter procedures regarding evidence, especially electronic, considering the stringent punishment provided for under the Act; the procedures, which otherwise provide tighter rules regarding evidence, are instead made elastic, Under this double whammy, jail becomes the norm, and bail an exception. In this Kafkaesque domain, process itself becomes punishment.”
Modi gave no plan to deal with the millions of migrant workers who are stranded all over the country because of the sudden lockdown
Navlakha and Teltumbde together with the others languishing in jail, are symbols of resistance in India; of people who are determined to preserve all that is sacred and good in the country. At the same time, it shows the abysmal levels those in power can stoop to and how pliant the judiciary has become today.
April 14, 2020: Freedom of speech throttled. Well-known journalist and the founding editor of the web portal ‘The Wire’, Siddharth Varadarajan was expected to appear in Ayodhya after an FIR was filed against him. The Uttar Pradesh police had booked Varadarajan earlier this month over comments on twitter, claiming that the day the Tablighi Jamaat event was held in Delhi, Yogi Adityanath had insisted that a Ram Navami fair will take place as usual.
The FIR also mentioned his remark questioning Yogi Adityanath's participation in a religious ceremony at the Ramjanmabhoomi site in Ayodhya during the nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus. More than 3,500 leading media personalities and others from civil society released a powerfully-worded joint statement condemning the action of the UP police, stating that ‘The Wire’ could not be charged as it had done an "entirely factual story on COVID-19 and religious events”.
Migrants walking down to heir home
The statement went on to add, "This attack on media freedom, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, endangers not just free speech, but the public's right to information." Because of the lockdown, Siddharth expressed his inability to be present in Ayodhya, so in a last moment ‘saving-their-face’ act the UP authorities agreed to accept his side of the story by email. The case is not yet closed!
April 14, 2020: The plight of migrants. Thousands of migrant labourers congregated at the Bandra Railway Terminus in Mumbai hoping that some trains would be made operational to take them back to their towns and villages in northern and eastern India. It was indeed a pitiable sight to see the footage on the electronic and social media: despair and starvation written on their faces.
Ever since Modi first announced the national lockdown with just about a four-hour’s notice on 24 March, the plight of the migrants issue has been a ticking time bomb. Rail and public transportation is suspended. They are far away from their homes with no work, no food and without any daily wages. Some of them began a long, long walk of hundreds of miles with their meagre possessions, a few days ago. That they gathered at the railway station in such large numbers, desperate to go home, is indicative of how difficult the road ahead is going to be for those, who are literally the ‘life-line’ of our nation.
April 14, 2020: Easter Tuesday for the Christians. The Gospel of of the day reminded us of the encounter which Jesus has with Mary Magdalene outside the tomb from which he has risen. He commissions her to be the one to give the “good news” to the others. Good news of hope and newness. 
 In the Gospel we are told Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ “Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord, “and then reported what he had told her.”A clear call to each one of us to witness to good and to do good!
April 14: Another time, another century. On 14 April 1865, Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States, was shot at in a theatre, whilst watching a play. On 14 April 1912, the famed unsinkable ship ‘The Titanic’ hit an iceberg in Newfoundland. The rest is history! Important lessons for all of us today!
But are we listening and learning to what 14 April 2020 has to teach us, as a people and a nation? Gautam Navlakha, ends his letter (mentioned above) with the words of Bob Marley, the Jamaican singer, songwriter and musician...
“Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom
‘Cause all I ever have
Redemption songs
Redemption songs.
These songs of Freedom...” 
14 April 2020: What a day indeed!
---
*Human rights and peace activist/writer

Comments

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.

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.

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. 

Barbaric, inhuman attack on Odisha villagers to implement JSW project: NGO networks

Counterview Desk  A “solidarity statement" issued by three top civil society networks, Friends of the Earth India (FoE India), Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG) and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), has asked the Odisha chief minister to ensure that the “inhumane barbaric attack on the villagers of Dhinkia, Odisha” in order to implement a corporate project.

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.

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".

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."