Thursday, October 28, 2010
खून के बलिदान को भुलवा सके-
जो ये इतिहास मिटाएगा
वो खुद इतिहास बन जायेगा.
The Right to Dissent, to voice disagreement, is central not only to the notion of modern Democracy but, as pointed out by the Nobel laureate, Dr. Amartya Sen, to India’s glorious if somewhat overlooked tradition of Heterodoxy. It is a fact those in government often tend to ignore: when all else fails, dissent is met with deterrence in the form of punishments; in many cases, these punishments do not have the sanction of Law.
Dr. Raman Singh’s government in Chhattisgarh is increasingly enforcing such unlawful punishments as a deterrent against lawful dissent: the object is to frighten would-be dissenters from taking up causes against it.
Very recently, the Chhattisgarh State Textbook Corporation was instructed by the state government to stop issuing framed pictures of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shashtri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi- all former Prime Ministers- and Sardar Vallabhai Patel to state-run schools and colleges, and instead to replace them with those of Pandits Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and Deen Dayal Upadhyay. The reason for this decision is of course political; it has nothing to do with the merits of their contribution to the nation-building process. Nehru ji, Sardar Patel, Shashtri ji, Indira ji and Rajiv ji were all Congresspersons; Mr. Mukherjee and Mr. Upadhyay belonged to the erstwhile Jan Sangh (the precursor of BJP). What Dr. Raman Singh is trying to do, therefore, is nothing short of what VS Naipaul, another Nobel laureate, has termed as “the erasure of history” (albeit in an entirely different context).
This issue has been jointly taken up by the two youth frontal organizations of the party, NSUI and the Youth Congress. This afternoon, they staged a peaceful protest outside the Textbook Corporation’s head office at Raipur. They did not- nor did they have the intention to- hurt anyone. Even so, the district administration mercilessly lathi-charged the protestors, including the state presidents of both these organizations, Uttam Vasudeo and Sanjeev Shukla, and shut them behind bars. They were booked under section 151 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which is a bailable offense. But the SDM was specifically instructed by the DM (Collector) and SP to make himself scarce so that the protestors would not have an opportunity to furnish their bail bonds. The purpose of this is clear: to send them to jail, where they would be kept in barracks like common criminals. “If I had my way,” the SP told someone, “I would keep them locked up till after Deepawali.”
They did the same thing two days ago, when NSUI President Sanjeev Shukla and his associates staged a fast-unto-death outside Pandit Ravi Shankar Shukla University at Raipur to urge the Vice Chancellor to issue degrees to more than 53000 students: they have been waiting for more than 3 years to get them. It is, to say the least, a most reasonable demand: without their degrees, they cannot even apply for jobs. The modus operandi of their protest was also not unreasonable: if anybody was being hurt, it was the students themselves. And yet, the police once again beat them up, and put them behind bars. Once again, the SDM made himself scarce, and once again, the students were forced to spend more than 2 days and 2 nights locked up in barracks like common criminals. For most if not all of them, this was their first time in jail. Naturally, they were terrified to be living alongside convicted criminals and the like, but it also gave them an insight into the inhuman conditions inmates are kept in inside our extremely corrupt jails. When they came out finally, they told the Press exactly what they saw and lived through.
For some reason- I can’t tell what- the state leadership of the Congress party organization has decided not to react to all this, let alone express support for the two youth organizations. It is most disappointing. After all, the removal of our Leaders’ pictures from schools and colleges is not simply a student- or even a youth- issue; it strikes at the very soul of our democratic culture. If we do not speak up now, there is no telling what they will do: at stake, is our Right to Think and Speak Freely. It is clear to me, now more than ever before, that when Dr. Raman Singh fails to buy our Silence (something I’m told he has become rather good at), he will stop at nothing to punish- and terrify- us into Silence.
The Gentleman Doctor’s Mask is slipping away; behold, a Tyrant emerges!
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