The State That Does Not Love Questions

– TO BE LYNCHED IS A CRIME. TO BE POOR IS A CRIME. TO DEFEND THE POOR IS TO PLOT TO OVERTHROW THE GOVERNMENT.

A recent hash-tag trend in twitter explains the viciousness of the undeclared emergency, which is prevailing in the country at present. The hash-tag is – #MeTooUrbanNaxal, and the definition of ‘Urban Naxal’ is rightly explained as – “I have a brain, I am not blind, I have questions, I care for my country, I hold my government accountable, I have guts to stand by the truth, I am an – Urban Naxal”. The term ‘anti-national’, due to its overuse, especially in the last four years has lost all its essence and reduced to a joke. The ruling class now has come up with a new terminology – ‘Urban Naxal’ or ‘Urban Maoist’ to crush the dissenters throughout the country, by associating all of them to a banned outfit and then misusing laws like UAPA, and this has become clearly evident in recent nation-wide arrests of rights activists and indiscriminate raids in several others’ houses, one on 6th July and the other on 28th August.

On 31st December 2017, peoples from marginalized sections gathered to the Elgaar Parishad program and expressed their dissent against the present Modi-led government, which they termed as the rule of “neo-Peshwai”. On the next day the rally was attacked at Bhima-Koregaon by Hindutva fanatics, and this led to violence. After this incident, instead of taking actions against the actual perpetrators – Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, the two right wing Hindutva activists, who are very close pals of BJP-RSS, the state-machinery started to target rights activists in relation to the violence. There is no doubt that the government wants to create an atmosphere of fear, and at the same time, is shielding the actual perpetrators of this violence. In this process, the state is framing fake charges under UAPA against the rights activists, people’s lawyers, academicians, or whoever causing interruption to the state’s own nefarious activities throughout the country.

First such onslaught came on 6th June 2018, when the Pune police arrested the general secretary of IAPL advocate Surendra Gadling, along with four others – Prof. Shoma Sen (writer), Sudhir Dhawale (dalit activist), Rona Wilson (human right activist), and Mahesh Raut (political activist). Obviously, these arrests were strongly condemned by various rights organizations. Sudha Bharadwaj, the vice-president of IAPL, raised her voice in condemning these arrests, and the desperate state wasted no time in raising its hand to curb her voice. First, in a TV news channel, she was branded as a ‘Urban Naxal’ on 4th July 2018, and then on 28th August 2018, in a similar nation-wide swoop, the Pune police arrested her along with four others – Vernon Gonsalves (writer and activist), Varavara Rao (renowned poet and Marxist intellectual), Goutam Naolakha (writer and activist), and Arun Fereira (lawyer and activist). Houses of few others – Susan Abraham (lawyer), Kranthi Tekula (journalist), Stan Swami (activist), Prof. Satyanarayan (writer and activist), and Prof. Anand Teltumbde (writer and activist) were raided. None of the five people who were arrested were present at the Elgar Parishad rally. However, if we look into the profiles of these people, we will again find that all of them have always fought for justice and true democracy. According to the warrants, these arrests are supposed to be a part of an ongoing investigation of the Bhima-Koregaon violence case. However, in court, no reference was made to this case. Rather, baseless allegations were made against the arrested activists, such as these ‘Urban Naxals/Maoists’ have connection with top Maoist leaders, they are member of banned CPI (Maoist), they are recruiting youths from colleges across India for this banned outfit, they are planning to assassinate PM Modi etc.

According to the past orders of the Supreme Court, the police cannot arrest a person just because of his/her mere membership in some banned outfit, until and unless the person is actively involved in some violent activities. However, the present situation is so worse that on 29th August the public prosecutor said – arrested activists are responsible for building an “anti-fascist” front that aims to overthrow the present government, and thus, it was clearly admitted that the present regime is a ‘fascist’ one and these arrests under UAPA are nothing but ‘fascist’ onslaughts on those who dare to dissent. The allegations were so baseless that even the Supreme Court, in response to a plea against these arrests, was forced to say: “Dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If you don’t allow the safety valve, pressure cooker will burst”. The apex court ordered to put all activists under house arrest after staying their transit remand, and issued notice to Maharashtra government and its police to respond by September 4 on the plea. Even, the Delhi High Court has rebuked Maharashtra police for not providing translated copies of documents carrying grounds of the arrest, and the NHRC has also pointed out that a standard operating procedure was not properly followed in these arrests, which is nothing but a gross violation of human rights. Arundhati Roy rightly writes: “The arrest of these 10 people, three lawyers and seven well known activists also serves to cut whole populations of vulnerable people off from any hope of justice or representation. Because these were their representatives…..The vulnerable are being cordoned off and silenced. The vociferous are being incarcerated.”

(Figure: Actor and playwright Girish Karnad at the event commemorating Gauri Lankesh’s first death anniversary)

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