Skip to main content

Culture of silence around Naga killings, as institutions 'behave with toxicity'

By Ashok Danavath, Taniya Laskar* 

Two recent tragic incidents have left Indian people in shock and despair. One is the death of the former Army Chief and the first Chief of Defence of the Indian Armed Forces General Bipin Rawat along with 12 other defense personnel and another is the gunning down of 14 innocent civilians by the Indian Army under the alleged suspicion of them being militants. Both of these incidents are very disturbing and need the attention of Indian people in their own spaces.
But if we examine closely, we see a disturbing silence around the Nagaland incident among all the media platforms, be it mainstream, alternative or social media. Major politicians, film actors, celebrated cricketers, social media influencers etc. have expressed their condolences over the former incident but kept almost a not-to-speak-of on the later one.
Nagaland is a tribal dominated State. It has been under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) since 1958. Widely described as draconian, under this Act any Army personnel, even a non-commissioned officer, can fire upon civilians on the basis of mere suspicion. The enforcement of this Act is very controversial since among the five States in which it is in force, three are tribal and the other two are minority dominated states.
The Act was challenged in the Supreme Court of India by the organization Naga People’s Movement of Human Rights in 1980. But the Supreme Court upheld it as a temporary measure. Yet, after four decades it's still operative over there.
In 2016, it again came into controversy due to unaccountable encounters done by the Indian Army in Manipur. An enquiry was ordered against 1,528 extra-judicial killings done under the impunity granted by AFSPA. Despite this there is a culture of silence maintained by sections of Indian media and other democratic institutions towards the oppressive nature of the law and the irrational impunity granted to the armed forces in those states. This culture of silence can enable any institution to behave with toxicity.
The Indian Army has also been enjoying impunity against several allegations of caste discrimination and gender-specific violences. For example, in December 2014, the Court directed the Indian Army to pay a sum of Rs 10 lac as ex-gratia amount to the family of Thangjam Manorama, who was reportedly raped and killed by the paramilitary unit of Indian Army. Such a case also happened in 1991 in a village named Kunan Poshpora in Kashmir.
In the absence of a counter-narrative the common masses get influenced by the mainstream media narrative
Similar incident of gang-rape happened on gun-point in a place called Vakapalli, Andhra Pradesh in 2007 by the Greyhounds personnel, a police special force against the anti-Naxalites. The victims of the vakapalli are yet to get justice. In January 2018, a video posted by one Indian Army soldier named Kamlesh Yadav went viral on social media as he alleged that he is facing caste discrimination in the army.
He said that he made several complaints but got no redressal. In Central and Southern part of India another law named Unlawful Activities Prevention Act,1967 exists, which is also used mainly against the Dalit and Adivasi people. There are many such incidents of torture and discrimination around India.

Media 'consent'

After the BJP came to power in 2014, amidst allegations of the government politicizing the security forces, sections of media houses started to radically accommodate news favoring the defense institutions over mass issues. They justified the disastrous economic measures like demonetization by comparing common people standing in queue to the army personal patrolling in borders.
This kind of act of the media towards manufacturing consent in favour of government policies, be it economic, political or cultural, can be a threat towards the democratic set up of the Indian state if left unchecked. Even the caste privileged academia of India also shows less interest to be critically engaged with such topics.
In the absence of a counter-narrative the common masses get influenced by the mainstream media narrative and a common consent is developed in favour of the behaviour of the army as well as police. Take for example another recent incident from Assam, an adjacent state of Nagaland, where on November 29 a student leader was lynched by a mob.
In response to that a demand of instant justice was called by people on social media. A State-based journalist said in a viral video why the person who was leading the mob needed to be shot at sight. Later on, when the same person had been apprehended, he was killed in a similar situation where the police claims that he got hit by a police van after trying to run off from another police van.
This death was celebrated by bursting crackers and shouting slogans in favour of the police in Assam. One thing worth mentioning here is that, in most of these extra-judicial killings the victims belong to a marginalized identity be it caste, class or gender.
This sense of impunity may lead to the total collapse of rule of law in a country. Hence, it's the right time to end or at the least address this culture of silence maintained by the mainstream media, political parties and other democratic institutions. Otherwise it may lead us to a police state and our greatest achievement as the largest democracy of the world can also come under threat.
---
*Ashok Danavath is a tribal graduate scholar from TISS, Hyderabad, has worked as a Policy, Development and Welfare professional at Libtech India and is currently at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands, researching on marginalization of SC-ST communities in India. Taniya Laskar is Secretary-General of the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee; a lawyer by profession she is also a rights practitioner and activist working on NRC citizenship issues of marginalised people in northeast India. A version of this article has appeared in Live Wire

Comments

TRENDING

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Corporate-political party nexus? Rise and rise of Gautam Adani under Modi regime

By Sandeep Pandey*  In last five years Rs 10,09,510 crore taken as loans by various companies from banks in India have been declared as Non Performing Assets, an euphemism for writing them off. Out of this State Bank of India alone wrote off Rs 2,04,486 crore. Only about 13% of the total written off amount was recovered. Identity of the defaulting borrowers, most of whom are influential corporates, is not revealed. Compare this to the loans taken by farmers. The names of defaulting farmers is displayed on walls in tehsil offices to shame them and some unlucky ones also land up in lock-ups there. On the contrary, a few corporate defaulters have fled the country and quite curiously the authorities didn’t seize their passports like they do with some dissenting intellectuals or activists booked under mostly false cases. Now consider the donations received by political parties in the form of electoral bonds. The identity of the donor need not be revealed even to the Election Commission or i

Facing tough times, Rajasthan's Raika herders hold first-ever camel cheese festival

By Rosamma Thomas*  During the pandemic, the annual Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan did not occur for fear of contagion; in 2022, it was called off again as lumpy skin disease affected cattle. At Sadri in Pali district, however, festivity continues – a two-day Camel Cheese Festival was held on November 23 and 24, 2022. Visitors spent time with the camel herds and their Raika, drank camel-milk tea with the herders and then returned to lunch at the Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy, from where the Kumbhalgarh Fort is visible, to taste camel cheese. The Raika herders have been facing a tough time – camels are no longer used as much for transport or agriculture in Rajasthan. The animals have limited utility, but their milk is prized. Camel Charisma, the dairy at Kumbhalgarh, sends camel milk across the country to people who use it in therapy – for autistic children, improved blood sugar levels, or even to treat cancer. It is believed that the health benefits of the camel milk is because the animals

'Extremist' US Hindu global group funding hate against Indian Churches: NGO groups

Counterview Desk  As many as 14 civil rights and faith-based organizations in co-signing a letter to the US Senators, Representatives, State Governor, and other elected officials have demanded the FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Justice should investigate into Texas-based organization Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) a fundraiser campaign for demolishing churches in India. Co-signed by Federation of Indian American Christian Organization in North America (FIACONA), North American Church of God, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Human Rights Program, Amnesty International - Dallas, World Without Genocide, Center for Pluralism, Genocide Watch, The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Limitless Church, Justice for All, Hindu for Human Rights, North Texas Peace Advocates, Good Citizens of DFW, and the North Texas Islamic Council, the letter has been sent to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz; Representatives Michael C Burgess, Pat Fallon, Van Taylor, Terr

Carbon abatement to tackle climate change: India's failure has 'outpaced' its success

By Satorupa Karmakar*  On November 01, 2021, India took a pledge of reaching a carbon-zero stage by 2070, at the COP-26 held in Glasgow, UK. As ‘ambitious’ and dubious it may sound to some, with a short-term delay in renewable energy generation (which gained the pace post-September 2020) and drastic fall in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission level as COVID-19 emerged as a ‘necessary evil’ , the path of India’s clean energy mission could be seen being paved throughout this time. Currently ranked as the third largest GHG emitter in the world, India is projected to demand more energy in coming years due to a large population base (1.3 billion as per 2011 Census data) and primarily coal-based fast-growing economy. Rapid industrialisation in post-colonial developing countries like India, stimulated by a larger and cheaper pool of fossil fuels and labour-force depicted a continuous upsurge in temperature, heavy precipitation in some places with an overall declining rainfall and a burgeoning soc

BJP-RSS trap opposition in 'futile row' around Savarkar, freedom movement

By Prem Singh*  Everything in this article is just a repetition. I have been saying all this since 1991-92. It is obvious that the Congress and the RSS/BJP do not like my ideas. But most socialists, advocates of social justice and communists also dislike my thoughts. I watch their measures and efforts to deal with the present crisis with interest. I respect them and also participate. Yet, the fact it, we fall behind again and again, and the crisis goes ahead. Instead of being a solution-providers, we are seen to be a part of the crisis. How long will this last? Perhaps, if the new generation thinks differently, things may turn for better! 1 To say that modern Indian society and politics are passing through the deepest crisis ever will surely be a repetition. The crisis is deeper than the spreading of communal hatred we witness around us. In fact, the business of communal hatred is flourishing by taking its manure and water from the deep crisis. The crisis of neo-colonial slavery is pro

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w

GM mustard not swadeshi, it's a patent of MNC Bayer, GoI 'misleading' SC: Modi told

Counterview Desk  In a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 42 farmers’ organisations though their representatives , backed by senior scientists and experts, have said that the Government of India (GoI) should stop misleading the Supreme Court “with untrue and incorrect” statements on GM mustard. Insisting that India does not need unsafe GM mustard, in their representation, they urged the Supreme Court to order immediate uprooting of GM mustard crop in various locations. The representation comes even as a penal of experts, coming down heavily on the GoI for refusing to see how in less than a week’s time the pollen from GM mustard will “start contaminating” non-GM mustard fields with transgenes, including male sterility and herbicide tolerant traits. Alleging that the GoI is actively misleading the Supreme Court with untrue and incorrect statements on GM mustard, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “We can list at least five areas where Gov

Shedding Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan? New Modi-Shah love for Tamil Nadu 'ignores' Periyar

By Sandeep Pandey*   The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have long argued for ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’, which into recent years has translated into a crisper English expression: ‘One Nation-One Religion-One Language’. Given this backdrop, it is curious that the BJP government has organised the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency. Why did the BJP and RSS feel the need for such an event? All Narendra Modi events are highly publicised and have multiple political objectives. It is never an innocuous religious/cultural event as it may appear from the face of it. Afterall, RSS calls itself a cultural organisation, but has never ceased to surprise us with its political designs. Tamil Nadu has a long history of opposing imposition of Hindi by Union governments. Periyar EV Ramasamy had opposed the idea of compulsory teaching in Hindi as far back as in 1937. The 1960s witnessed violent protests against Hindi in which a number

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w