Democracy is applauded as one of the best types of government primarily because it allows freedom to rebel, freedom to speak out, raise voices against the government. But today it seems to have lost one of its founding pillars. Today, practising this right to speak out is neither encouraged nor accepted. India, which claims itself to be the biggest democracy in the world perhaps is one of the leading countries where dissenting voices are curbed, suppressed or silenced. It is in this big democracy; where draconian laws like Arm forces special powers act are still justified in the name of restoring law and order; indigenous people are treated like animals and are forcefully evicted to make way for MNCs.
In India, as days pass by, the government is becoming more and more dictatorial and also spaces for dissenting are shrinking in a rapid pace. For instance, in earlier times, they could hold rallies in Vijay chowk or near the India gate. But today, a small space (read Zantar Mantar) has been designated as a space for rallies and Dharnas. And everyday hundreds of groups come there, shout slogans and hold meetings with no effect, as most of them go unheard. Such huge is the amount of the ‘slogan shouters’ that it even fails to raise any interest of the “Headlines hungry” media.
I was recently a part of such a dharna demanding action against the move of the Delhi government deciding to pay money to the BPL category people rather than giving them monthly rations. There are people who have been sitting on protest since years in dingy small tents (or rather have made it their homes). Contractors keep coming to you asking ‘Sahab tent chahiye kya, ekdum saste mein’ (Do you need a tent, I will offer you in a very cheap rate). It just makes you wonder where the hell they came from??? So this is what we are proud of where you have to pay contractors to sit for protests? Recently there also was news that all the tents and protests will be disallowed during the commonwealth games, as it shall not show a nice picture of India to the outer world. Heights of hypocrisy…!!!!
So, if you dare speak, speak soft or speak for the government not against, for if you do that you shall be accused of being anti-national or will just be ridiculously silenced. And there are ways to do that. You will be suppressed with power of the muscle or might just be framed as a Maoist and thrown into dingy corners of the Jail. Jails today seem to house more of ‘activists and good people’ rather than ‘criminals’. Recently in Assam, three of such activists were framed as Maoist in Assam in a desperate attempt by the state government. Mr. Bhuban Pegu, MLA of the Jonai Constituency in Dhemaji district, Mr. Akhil Gogoi, the leader of the Krishant Mukti Sangram Samiti and Mr. Ravindranath of Rural Volunteers Centre, Akajan were charged to have links with Maoists, HuJi and ULFA. They have been involved in advocating the cause of the farmers and especially the landless labourers. They also have been accused of mobilising the people against the construction of the Mega-dam project of NHPC in Dhemaji district.
Going by the accusations against the three, it seems like a desperate attempt by the government to stop the dissenting voices. How can these people be linked with terrorists just because they are supporting for the cause of the landless poor farmers and are concerned by the huge number of displacement done by NHPC funded Dam project. It raises a pertinent question that India being a democracy and freedom of speech being granted in the constitution of India, how can speaking for or advocating for the cause of the landless farmers can be a charge enough to be framed or accused? (I guess, in times like today it is the best charge for a person to be framed). Or for that matter how can expressing dissent on a certain faulty development process (read-construction of NHPC dam) means having link with insurgent groups?
It also raised a very evident contradiction to me. Huji’s are an Islamist terrorist group functioning across the border and ULFA believes in Assamese Nationalism and are fighting for a separate nation and the Maoists’ are a radical group advocating for the rights of the Peasants and the oppressed. The three of them would have really lacked any ideology, if they would have links with all the three accused groups. Why would they support three fundamentally different groups?
Thus, it becomes evident that it was just an attempt to stop them from raising voices against the government. But they have not stopped and will not stop. A couple of days ago, Mr Gogoi has urged the Mass to join in the movement against the Dam and the anomalies that have surfaced in the Public distribution system and against issues like flood and erosion that have been plaguing the state for years now.