• Jeffrey Ram

Democracy, Secularism, and Freedoms are under attack in India

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

Tuesday, August 04, 2020


  On August 15th India will celebrate the 73rd anniversary of its independence. Unfortunately, today the freedom fighters’ dream of a free and just society remains unfulfilled and people’s freedoms are being ruthlessly suppressed.

    Welcoming freedom on August 15th, 1947, the first prime minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru, said, ”The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.”

   

The hope of 1947 has turned into despair today. The Bhartiya Janata Party in the Federal and State Governments, is abusing power to crush their political opponents and their critics, promote religious hatred and violence against Muslims, and silence the media. Government agencies, like the police, the Enforcement Directorate, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Income Tax Department, and the judiciary are being misused. According to the Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, “The court surrendered while tyranny and majoritarianism gained a deep foothold in the country. All these egregious assaults on civil rights and on institutions have been allowed to go through, without any accountability, under the benign gaze of the Supreme Court.”

  

The BJP uses money to buy legislators to form governments and misuses power to persecute and jail those who resist and oppose. Some of the opposition leaders harassed are P. Chidambaram, (a former home and finance minister), 90 year old Motilal Vora, Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, D.K. Shivakumar and his 23 year old daughter, Virbhadra Singh, (whose home was raided on his daughter’s wedding day), Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar. Many social activists, including the S.C. lawyer Prashant Bhushan, are also being victimized.

    

Activists like Narendra Dabholkar and Gauri Lankesh were killed under this regime. The jailing of civil rights activists Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, and 80-year old writer-activist Varavara Rao during the lockdown has been criticized even by Human rights Watch. Prof. Sai Baba, a wheel-chair-bound teacher with 90 percent physical disability, is serving a life sentence. On July 28, Delhi University professor Hany Babu was the 12th person to be falsely implicated in a case of terrorism. Several prominent human rights activists, lawyers and academics, who criticized the BJP governments, are also in jail on trumped-up charges.

 

  In Delhi riots, most of the victims were Muslims and most of the people arrested were also Muslims. The Covid-19 lockdown has been used by BJP to jail its critics and opponents. Many Muslim women and youths are in jail for criticizing the Citizenship Amendment Act.

 

To control the media coverage, media owners are either “persuaded” or hounded by the BJP governments. The victims of persecution include the news portal The Quint, NDTV, The Wire and others. Government advertisements to The Hindu, The Telegraph, The Times of India and Anandabazar Patrika were stopped for being critical of the government.   

 

The Wire printed news about Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister (Premier) Yogi Adityanath’s violation of the total national lockdown. So, the UP police summoned Siddharth Varadarajan, the founding editor of The Wire to Ayodhya during the nationwide lockdown. In recognition of his services, on May 2, 2020, World Press Freedom Day, Varadarajan was awarded the Deutsche Welle’s Freedom of Speech Award.

  

In March, during the national lockdown with no transportation, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from the big cities walked hundreds of kilometres to their home towns, with their families and belongings. 55 Indian journalists were arrested, booked, and threatened for reporting on the plight of these migrant workers.  On June 3, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet  warned that laws were being used to curb legitimate speech and criticism of government policy, and suppress freedom of expression during the COVID-19 crisis by 12 countries, including India. On July 31st, the chairman of the US Congress’s House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel expressed concern that the Indian government was victimizing journalists for critical coverage of the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  

According to Erasmus, “He who allows oppression shares the crime.” In Jean-Paul Sartre’s opinion, ”Oppression leaves no choice other than resignation or revolution.” President John F. Kennedy rightly said, “Those who make peaceful change impossible will make violent revolutions inevitable.”  The world leaders, who profess democratic values, should not support a fascist regime in India. Under the current state of affairs, the Indian people see no hope for a peaceful democratic change. The well-wishers of democracy and India are urged to pray for the restoration of democracy, secularism and freedoms in India.

Blessing: May God Bless You, Your Family and Friends and Make You A Blessing to Others.

Reform Advocate’s World blog appears on first and third Tuesdays of the month

Links/Tags:

 The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)   https://www.ohchr.org/EN

Human rights Watch, India  https://www.hrw.org/india

US International Religious Freedom Annual reports   www.state.gov/international-religious-freedom-reports/

https://www.thehindu.com

https://indianexpress.com/

https://theprint.in/

https://thewire.in/

https://www.ndtv.com

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