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

North Gujarat gram panchayat bars villagers from dealing with Muslim hawkers, traders

By Our Representative  A gram panchayat in North Gujarat has barred its residents not to buy anything from Muslim traders and hawkers. An order of the Waghasan group gram panchayat of Tharad taluka of Banaskantha district dated June 30 states that the decision has been taken in the wake of beheading of a Hindu tailor after he posted a derogatory writeup on Prophet Mohammad in Udaipur. The gram panchayat resolution says, anyone seen buying or selling any commodity from a Muslim hawker or trader would be fined Rs 5,100. Bringing this to light, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee, in a letter to Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel, says, the state government should take legal action against the panchayat chief who has signed the “unjust” order. The letter says, the act of the sarpanch and other signatories is a violation of rule of law of the state and threat to peace, pointing out, the move is in violation of Article 15 of the Constitution, which says that none

Unlike Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India: Ukrainian scholar tells 'Indian friends'

Counterview Desk In an open letter to "dear Indian friends", Anastasia Piliavsky, born in Odessa, Ukraine, studied at Boston and Oxford Universities (on a Rhodes Scholarship), and now teaches at King’s College, London, has said that she faces "deep moral dilemma", personally and professionally, over the "astonishingly unified Indian response to the war in Ukraine." Based on her interaction with a "number of thoughtful and caring Indian friends", in this letter, she says, she is "reeling at the ubiquitous silence at, justifications of or outright support for Putin’s terror, which now prevails in India, at the ubiquitous #IStandWithPutin and #istandwithrussia hashtags." She insists, India must understand, "Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India. Soviet leaders, beginning with (the Ukrainian) Nikita Khrushchev – who declared hindi rusi bhai bhai – built up deep political and cultural exchange with India." Text : I

Technocratic globalism, tyranny? Health Ministry warned: bill to 'enslave' Indians

Sandeep Pandey, Tushar Gandhi By Rosamma Thomas*  Union of Concerned Citizens, a group comprising Magsaysay Award winner Prof Sandeep Pandey, human rights activist Tushar Gandhi, former judge of the Bombay High Court BG Kolse Patil, pediatrician Dr Jacob Puliyel and several renowned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister cautioning him against tabling the draft Public Health Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. “The Public Health (Prevention, Control And Management Of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism And Disasters) Bill, 2017 and a Prospective Bill of 2022 as discussed in news articles, is straightforwardly violative of Fundamental Rights of the citizens of India and therefore, Ultra Vires of the Indian Constitution. It contravenes several International Treaties and Conventions including the Nuremberg Treaty of 1947 which was enacted to ensure that no country would repeat such inhuman medical atrocities on fellow human beings”, the 12-page letter reads. “Strangely, t

Protesters demand release of Teesta Setalvad, Sreekumar, seek review of SC order

By Our Representative  Protests broke out across India on June 27 following Teesta Setalvad’s arrest demanding her immediate release. Sabrang India , a site run by Setalvad, claimed she was “arrested on trumped-up charges after the Supreme Court dismissed the petition moved by Zakia Jafri demanding an investigation into the larger conspiracy behind the 2002 Gujarat violence.” The protesters also demanded release of former DGP Gujarat police RB Sreekumar, also arrested simultaneously. The protests were preceded by over 2,200 people from across the globe signing a statement demanding their immediate release. Leading signatories such as People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) general secretary V Suresh, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) convenor Medha Patkar, former Naval chief Admiral Ramdas. “The state has used the observations made in the judgment to falsely and vindictively prosecute those who had struggled for justice even in the face of state callousness and complicit

Electoral bonds scheme 'compromises' voluntary nature PM relief fund donations

By Rosamma Thomas*  The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) is meant to collect voluntary donations from the general public, either individuals or organizations, to enable assistance to people in times of natural disaster, or for expensive medical treatment. That fundamental voluntary character of the fund, however, has changed in recent years.  The gazette notification of January 2018 announcing the Electoral Bond scheme states, in Clause 12 (2): “The amount of bonds not encashed within the validity period of fifteen days shall be deposited by the authorized bank to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund”. The Union government has, thus, through notification, directed funds to be deposited into what was meant to be purely voluntary. Commodore Lokesh Batra, who has been campaigning for transparency in government functioning, holds that once a gazette notification has been issued directing that funds be deposited into the PMNRF, the character of the whole fund has changed,

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".

'Highly abnormal': AltNews journo's arrest suggests 'deterioration in media freedom'

By Bharat Dogra*  Leading media organizations have come out in strong support of recently arrested journalist Mohammed Zubair. These organizations include, among others, the Editors Guild of India, the Press Club of India, the Delhi Union of Journalists and DIGIPUB, a platform for several important digital media organizations. All these organizations have condemned the recent arrest of the noted journalist and demanded his immediate release. While leading human rights organizations and political parties have also made somewhat similar statements, the strong support of media organizations is particularly important as the effort of the authorities has been to try to present the arrested journalist as someone who has been indulging in irresponsible journalism.  In such a situation the support of those media organizations who are familiar with his work and who are most capable of judging the quality of his work is very important. In this context it is important that some media organization

Majoritarian silence helping Hindutva forces 'handover' national resources to corporates

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The majority of Indian citizens are witnessing the persecution and everyday violence against their fellow citizens who are Muslims and religious minorities. The growing assaults on reason, science, secularism, Indian democracy and constitution are going to be landmarks in Indian history of diminishing democracy and citizenship rights. It is clear that Hindutva ideology is directly promoting sectarian politics of hate which is dangerous for the unity and integrity of India, peace and prosperity of Indians. The majoritarian silence helps in empowering Hindutva and their electoral dividends. From witnessing the persecution in the sidelines to the active participation and cheering loud or silence accelerates violence against our neighbours and our fellow citizens. How and why do majority of Indians stay silent and contribute to the persecution of their fellow citizens who are Muslims and religious minorities? The question baffles me as an Indian because I have gr

Electricity Bill: Centre's reform measures contain 'carrot and stick package' for states

Counterview Desk  The Peoples’ Commission on Public Sector and Public Services (PCPSPS), claiming to be a network of eminent academics, jurists, erstwhile administrators, trade unionists and social activists, seeking consultations with stakeholders with those who are against the government’s decision to monetise, disinvest and privatise public assets/enterprises, has said that the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill-2022 will have far-reaching impacts on the finances of states. Insisting that the proposed Bill would lead to “assault on India’s federal structure”, in a statement, it says, it would weaken the finances of states’ power distribution companies, have adverse impact on utility employees, cripple the states' finances, impose a heavy cost burden on the smaller subsidized consumers (especially farmers), and benefit only corporate business houses. “States cannot afford to ignore the far-reaching implications of the Bill on their economy, finances, agricultural and industria

Cops 'refuse to register' complaint after BSF shot landless worker off Bangla border

By Our Representative  Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and national convener, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), in a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), referring to the incident of “firing and execution” of a poor Muslim youth, has alleged that the 26 year old was was shot at “without giving any warning” one and half kilometers inside the Indian territory from Bangladesh border by an on- duty Border Security Force (BSF) personnel. Stating that the person, Ruhul Mondal, belonged to an Other Backward Class (OBC), and hailed from Ramnarayan Para village under Sagarpara police station in Murshidabad district, West Bengal, Roy in his representation said, the BSF person who shot at him is “attached with Singpara Border Outpost, 141 Battalion”, underlining, the BSF has now floated “self defense theory” to cover up its operation. According to the BSF officials, the incident took place in the jute fields in