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Activists' arrest: Will political leaders ever speak up, Supreme Court intervene?

Stan Swamy
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
It is good to see Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren speaking so powerfully against the arrest of Father Stan Swamy. Many other voices are also speaking up against his arrest. The 83 year old Stan has been working in Jharkhand for years and runs a centre at Bagaicha, a place for the Adivasis in Jharkhand, particularly those who have been victim of police violence and whose rights have been violated.
Over the last few months, we have witnessed increasing use of central agencies to fix political opponents and activists. The Sushant Singh Rajput case was used to smear not only the Maharashtra government but also the film industry in Mumbai. Attempts were made to divide the Bollywood on communal lines.
TV channels were pressed into the service to create an environment as if India did not have any other issue except Sushant Singh Rajput. Channels like Republic TV took the lead under the pretext that their freedom of expression being throttled. It created an environment of hatred in the country. This is not possible unless somebody thinks he is the "lord in the ring”.
Many of the important cases don’t find their way in the top listing for hearing in courts. Meanwhile, those spreading hatred are allowed to use 'media freedom' to protect themselves from being questioned. Look at the hearing at the Bombay High Court, how Republic TV is defending its 'freedom'. One should ask Arnab Goswami, who owns the channel, whether he and his supporters believe that others who do not agree with them too have the same right to free expression.
It is time for former judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts to speak up. There are one or two who are speaking out but they are the 'usual suspects' in the eyes of establishment. Former bureaucrats are speaking up, but they need to continuously make their presence felt. Former police officers should also speak up.
The Press Council and the Editors’ Guild could do nothing except speaking on issues which are not 'politically not sensitive'. Can the Editors’ Guild with new editors take a stand on the vicious propaganda channels and their hate campaign? Will they take some step so that media houses show some responsibility and do not surrender or crawl?
One wonders if LK Advani has forgotten his famous 'media was asked to bend but it started crawling' quote during the Emergency
One wonders if LK Advani has forgotten his famous 'media was asked to bend but it started crawling' quote during the Emergency. He must be remembering what he had said, and should have the courage to speak up and say whether the current phase of media is any better than what it was during the Emergency.
So many people are behind bars, yet there is no trial. Many of them have been languishing in jail for years. Isn’t it time to call for a special commission to deal with such cases? Political leaders should speak up, seek meeting with the government on this issue.
One may not like the political thoughts of many of the political activists who are languishing in jail, but isn’t it their right that a trial should start on time or should be expedited? Shouldn't there be a consideration for one’s work, age and physical disability?
There issues with federalism, too. While all the central agencies can do things independently, shouldn't there be a coordination with state police and state government to arrest a person or question him or her? It is time these issues are debated.
Political leaders should put aside their differences to ensure that if central agencies are used to fix political opponents, there will be tension between the Centre and states. It is time Centre-state boundaries are respected in the greater interest of India.
One way to come out of the crisis is, the Supreme Court steps in and frames guidelines by using its powers to appoint a commission, transferring all the cases of political nature to it, giving it a time frame to come out with recommendations and guidelines for the future.
---
*Human rights defender

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