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Dissent and Democracy

 

The quick arrest last week of academicians, human rights activists journalists and thinkers namely Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and P Varavara Rao by the Maharashtra police in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence has brought out an interesting remark from the Supreme Court of India. The apex court said, Dissent is a safety valve for democracy. If this safety valve is not allowed to function then the pressure cooker will burst. The arrested who are labeled as Urban Naxals and have been accused of providing ideological support to Maoists operating in different parts of the country are under ‘house arrest’ till September 6.   Indeed dissent is the quintessential part of democracy and allows people to have their opinions and to voice those without fear of intimidation. Now the apex court has sought a response from the  Maharashtra Government in the writ petition filed challenging the arrest of five activists for their alleged Maoists links from Delhi, Faridabad, Mumbai, Thane and Hyderabad.

 

To justify their action the Pune police claim that the activists are linked to Maoist groups and have shown inclination to revolt against the present political system. The Pune police also claim they have conclusive proof that those arrested have a deep nexus with other unlawful groups and are actively involved in a larger conspiracy to destabilise India. Police go as far as stating that the activists are planning to eliminate Prime Minister Modi. The basis for that claim is an email sent by one of the arrested to other colleagues detailing the plan for destabilising the country and listing out the people to be eliminated, of which one is Modi. Police also said that the arrested activists were planning to recruit members from 35 colleges and launch simultaneous attacks. The very narrative that the prime minister of the country is under threat has given police extra teeth to take action against suspects. The Emergency is remembered for its midnight knocks. Now similar knocks reminiscent of the Emergency have resurfaced.

 

The entire blame for the Bhima-Koregaon clashes between Dalits and upper caste Marathas at an annual event which also led to loss of one life and damage to a huge quantum of property has gone to the arrested activists. India is entering a very dark phase of its history where anyone who disseminates information over any medium is kept under watch. At the same time apps like Facebook and Twitters are also used to spread falsehood against those who choose to dissent and take a stand.

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