All posts by Chinmoy Banerjee

Fascism in progress

Across the aisle: That sinking feeling – 2

Secularism is derided. Liberalism is challenged. Dissent is sedition. Questioning the government (or the Army Chief or the RBI governor) is anti-national.

Written by P Chidambaram | Updated: May 14, 2017 5:18 am

 That Sinking Feeling, dissent, freedom of speech, sedition, anti-national, maoism, terrorism, intolerance, aadhaar debate, vigilates, indian express

Representational Image. (Express Photo: Oinam Anand)

 

Everyone has likes and dislikes. They concern food, clothes, books, friends, neighbours, politics and practically everything else. That is why it is said ‘one man’s food is another man’s poison’.

Family, culture and religion have a profound influence on one’s likes and dislikes. One may argue for what one likes (“vegetarian food is sufficient for a strong body”), or one may argue against what one dislikes (“English must be replaced in the conduct of official business”), but one cannot kill or cause injury.

Violence Everywhere

India has become a killing field, not only because of militants and Maoists, but because of likes and dislikes. There is actual killing, taking a life, an act that the law describes as murder. Akhlaq, a poor farmer, was killed by a mob because the mob believed that he had kept the flesh of a cow — beef — at his home. Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer, and his sons had bought two cows and were transporting them to their farm. They were stopped by a group of self-appointed gau rakshaks (protectors of the cow), beaten and Pehlu Khan was killed. In both cases, the mob or the group did not like the idea that someone may be eating beef.

There is violence short of murder as well. A crowd led by an elected representative defied the law, took out a ‘religious’ procession, was stopped by the police, went on a rampage, vandalised the home of the superintendent of police and terrorised his wife and small children. In this case, the crowd and the elected representative did not like the fact that another religious group had a long custom of taking out a procession.

There is vigilantism. A young couple (not married) rode a rickshaw to a cinema. The police apprehended them, took them to a police station, questioned them for hours, and finally let them off with a severe ‘warning’. The police personnel belonged to a group officially designated as ‘anti-Romeo squad’ and they were tasked to prevent young couples from using public streets or spaces. Non-police groups did the same thing in Kochi and elsewhere. An outfit called the Hindu Yuva Vahini became the enforcer of morals in Uttar Pradesh.

Also read: That sinking feeling – 1

Wither Secularism?

There are communal clashes. There are caste clashes. Leaders jumped into the fray, not to condemn the clashes or to make peace, but to find ‘reasons’ why the clashes were justified.

There is fear. Places of worship are desecrated. Religious minorities live in fear. Dalits live in fear. A Dalit is damned if he does (skins a carcass) and damned if he doesn’t (refuses to skin a carcass). Rohith Vemula wrote “My birth is my fatal accident”. Girls live in fear of harassment if they are seen with boys or wear jeans or have a drink at a bar. Tribals live in fear that they will be deprived of their land and forest rights.

There is polarisation. Without a shred of evidence to support the implied charge of discrimination, it was declared “if land is given for a kabristan, equal land must be given for a shamsan” and “if there is electricity for Eid, there must be equal amount of electricity for Diwali”.

Rise of Intolerance

There is intolerance of dissent.

Mr Sitaram Yechury was dis-invited to a scheduled lecture in Nagpur. My talk at IIT Delhi was cancelled a day before it was scheduled. Ms Priya Pillai was stopped from boarding a flight to London where she was due to address British Parliamentarians on human rights. Lest they become too vocal, non-government organisations are threatened with investigations or cancellation of registration under the FCRA or the Income-tax Act.

There is ideological profiling. RSS swayamsevaks were appointed as governors. Heads of educational and cultural institutions were selected from a small group of right-wing, conservative intellectuals. Text books in Haryana were screened by a committee headed by a self-confessed Hindutva ideologue.

There is insult. Some religions and their followers were ridiculed. Agents were paid to troll journalists and columnists. There is little or no counter-argument, only abuse in the filthiest language.

There is the spectre of an Orwellian state. Aadhaar has transformed from voluntary to mandatory. It was conceived as an aid to Direct Benefit Transfer schemes, it has become a precondition to exercise legal rights such as travel or buying property or paying taxes. Citizens’ data is collected by numerous agencies without a law on data security or data privacy. Data-leak is commonplace.

The government brazenly told the Supreme Court that no person has an absolute right over his or her body!

In the ranking of 198 countries on religious intolerance, India stands at fourth from the bottom. In the World Press Freedom Index of 180 countries, India’s rank has dropped from 131 to 140.

It would be foolish to attribute all of the above to the period after the NDA government assumed office in May 2014. These ills were indeed present before. A hierarchical society is inherently authoritarian and intolerant. The difference is this: then, when these ills manifested themselves, persons holding positions of high authority condemned them and the nation bowed its head in shame; now, there is scant condemnation and absolutely no shame.

Secularism is derided. Liberalism is challenged. Dissent is sedition. Questioning the government (or the Army Chief or the RBI governor) is anti-national. The path to sabka saath, sabka vikas is paved with authoritarianism, uniformity and implicit obedience to the will of the rulers.

As that sinking feeling deepens, there is more.

Website: pchidambaram.in, @Pchidambaram_IN

SANSAD deplores violence against Dalits In UP

SANSAD News-release, May 15. 2017

SANSAD deplores on-going violence against Dalits

Brutal, systemic violence against Dalits is woven into the fabric of Hindu society in India and persists despite constitutional guarantees of the rights of citizenship. Every day brings news of some atrocity against these historical victims of caste oppression. South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), an organization of the South Asian diaspora in Canada utterly deplores the latest of these in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) recently won the state elections and appointed a HIndu priest and ultra-nationalist, Yogi Adityanath, as Chief Minister.

On May 5 a procession celebrating the Rajput king Maharana Pratap, playing loud music, was taken out by the Rajputs, the dominant caste in the area, through a Dalit neighborhood in a village in Saharanpur. As this was in violation of a government ban on such processions in this area with volatile caste relations and Dalits had earlier been denied permission to celebrate the birth anniversary of their icon, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Dalits protested against the procession.  In the ensuing clashes a Rajput died of unknown causes and several Dalits were injured. While the police remained inactive but arrested several Dalits, the Rajputs retaliated by burning down 60 homes in Shabbirpur village and unleashing an attack in which several Dalits were injured and sent to hospital. More than half the Dalit homes in the village were locked up and abandoned as people fled in fear of further violence from the upper caste or the police.

On May 9 the Bheem Army, a Dalit organization created by the local young lawyer, Chandrashekhar, called a peaceful rally in Saharanpur to protest the violence against Dalits in Shabbirpur village, seek compensation for the victims, and demand that the police release the arrested Dalits and take action against the upper-caste culprits. However, this was met with a baton-charge by the police with the allegation that the rally had been illegally organized by the use of social media, leading to dispersed violence through two cities, in which a police station was attacked and several vehicles  set on fire.

While no one from the government has visited Shabbirpur village and no compensation has been offered to the Dalits who lost their homes, though the dead Rajput’s family has been compensated, the police are conducting a witch hunt for members of the Bheem Army and its leader, Chandrashekhar. It is understood that the state government wants to charge Chandrashekhar under the National Security Act (NSA), though the Bheem Army’s protest against caste violence has no bearing on national security. We condemn this violence of caste society and its state against Dalits.  We demand that the witch hunt against Bheem Army and Chandrashekhar be withdrawn and the victims of caste violence be duly compensated.

Violence against dalits condemned

NSA Against Chandrashekhar Unwarranted: Justice Sawant & Others

Published on: May 13, 2017
On 9th May, 2017 mob violence broke out in Saharanpur city and Rampur in Saharanpur district. This was triggered off when the police lathi-charged a peaceful gathering  at Gandhi Maidan organised by Bhim Army. The crowd had gathered there to protest the anti-Dalit violence at Shabbirpur village that took place on the 5th of May, 2017, in which 60 Dalit houses were burnt and attacked by a mob of Rajputs. Several Dalits were also grievously injured in this attack and have been hospitalised. Many have also fled the village out of fear of further violence.
 
It was in this context that Bhim Army had called for a gathering at Gandhi Maidan where they were demanding compensation for the victims and strict action against the guilty. The police instead started an unprovoked lathi-charge at the gathering, which in turn led to retaliatory violence in parts of Saharanpur city and Rampur town. While the violence that followed the lathi charge was of course condemnable, it is important to note that no one was killed or even seriously injured in this violence. This violence has led to a severe witch-hunt of Bhim Army activists across Saharanpur district and it is has come to our notice that the state government plans to charge the founder of Bhim Army, Chandrashekar, under National Security Act (NSA). There is absolutely nothing in the nature of these protests that warrant such charges against Chandrashekhar or any other activist of Bhim Army. It is evident that Bhim Army is being made a scapegoat in order to deflect attention from the Shabbirpur violence inflicted by the Rajputs.
Justice PB Sawant (SC retired)
Justice Hosbet Suresh (Bombay HC retired)
Justice Kolse Patil (former Bombay HC)
Ram Punyani , Author and Activist
Teesta Setalvad, Journalist, Author and Activist
Javed Anand,  Journalist and Activist
Muniza Khan, Academic and Activist
Khalid Anis Ansari, Academic and leader of Pasmanda Democratic Forum

And others

 

Bilkis Yakub Rasool’s Statement to the Press

All Accused in Bilkis Bano Case, Including Police Officers Finally Convicted

BOMBAY HIGH COURT REJECTS APPEALS OF THE 11 CONVICTED ACCUSED, UPHOLDS LIFE IMPRISONMENT

Sets Aside Acquittals of 7 Gujarat Cops & Doctors Convicts them of Evidence Tampering & Cover Up

 Mumbai, May 4, 2017

 Through all of you, friends in the media, I wish to say to all my fellow Indian citizens, my fellow Gujaratis, my fellow Muslims, and to women everywhere – I am grateful that this verdict delivered by the Honorable Judges, has, yet again, vindicated my truth, and upheld my faith in the judiciary.

 My rights, as a human being, as a citizen, woman, and mother were violated in the most brutal manner,  but I have trusted in the democratic institutions of our country. Now, my family and I feel we can begin to lead our lives again, free of fear.

 I am happy that the State and its officials who emboldened, encouraged, and protected the criminals who destroyed the life of an entire community, are no longer unblemished, but today stand convicted of tampering with evidence and cover up. For officers of the state, whose sworn duty it is to protect citizens and enable justice, this should be their great moral shame, to bear forever.

 To fellow Indians, I appeal to all of you, at a time when we hear news everyday of people being attacked and killed because of their religion or community – please help affirm their faith in the secular values of our country and support their struggles for justice, equality, and dignity. For this verdict does not mean the end of hatred but it does mean that somewhere, somehow justice can prevail. This has been an long, seemingly never ending struggle for me, but when you are on the side of truth, you will be heard, and justice will be yours in the end. 

The close friends, who have stood with me through it all, know how much me, my husband Yakub and my family owe to them for their instinting support and love throughout this battle. For journeys like mine cannot be made alone. I am deeply grateful both to the CBI and to my lawyer who represented me during this appeal process in the Honorable Bombay High Court.