Narendra Modi and his ilk in the BJP/RSS combine, together with their crony capitalist friends are obviously on “desperation” mode! They seem to be reading the writing on the wall and have thus taken recourse to some despicable deeds.
The sacking of the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Alok Verma takes the cake. In January 2017, the Government appointed Verma as director of the CBI. His name was cleared by a three-member selection panel headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and comprising then Chief Justice of India, Jagdish Singh Khehar and Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge as members. However, all through the year on several issues, Verma clearly refused to toe the Government line. A power tussle emerged when the Government appointed Rakesh Asthana as a “special” director - an appointment which was obviously dubious, and which was also challenged in the Supreme Court. Bribery charges were traded against each other; ultimately both Verma and Asthana were sent on leave. Verma challenged this in the Supreme Court which reinstated him as the CBI Director on 9 January. However, two days later, a selection committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a 2 by 1 verdict (Kharge was the dissenting voice) sacked Verma as the Director.
On 14 January, in an unbelievable charge-sheet, the former JNUSU President, Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Shela Rashid and 23 others were named for apparently shouting anti-India slogans during an event held three years earlier in February 2016. That event was to commemorate the hanging of the Parliament-attack mastermind, Afzal Guru. All have been charged with the archaic law 124 A of sedition, besides others. Legal opinion is unanimous that charge-sheeting these youth leaders is tantamount to curbing dissent in democracy.
In another surprise move, the Government announced a 10% reservation for the economically weaker sections in the general category. In doing so the Government clearly violates the vision of the founding fathers in defining the nature and the reasons for reservations. Once again, legal and impartial opinion clearly asserts that such a move by the Government will not stand the test in courts.
In the middle of January, every attempt was made to hijack the democratically elected Government of Karnataka by the apparent offer of several crores of rupees to members of the JD(S)-Congress combine to leave their party and join the BJP. The whole drama fizzled out in less than a week, but the message that has been unequivocally conveyed to all, is that the BJP has enough of money to buy up duly elected candidates from another party and that they will stoop to any tactic to achieve their ends.
Human rights defenders continue to be intimidated and harassed. Those arrested for alleged involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence of January 2018, have not yet succeeded in getting their fabricated charges quashed. Those who are charge-sheeted include civil rights activists Anand Teltumbde, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Stan Swamy, Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao. Those in power today, get into a panic mode whenever human rights defenders speak on behalf of the Constitution, take up the cudgels on behalf of the poor and marginalized and do all they can to safeguard the rights guaranteed to every citizen.
In the last few months, multi-pronged efforts have been made to denigrate the minorities, particularly the Muslims and the Christians of the country. There are reports from all over of how those who subscribe to the Sangh ideology take law and order into their own hands, attack and even kill those who belong to another religion and are quite sure that nothing will happen to them. Just a few days ago the Home Minister of the country, spoke at length about conversions, once again raising a bogey which tactically divides people and denigrates a minority community.
The Ram Mandir is once again centre stage, now that elections are fast approaching. The ruling party has no qualms of conscience in raking up this emotive issue, when they are many other serious problems which plague the country today. The utterances and the posturing of some of their leaders at this crucial juncture could very easily lead to mob violence in sensitive areas. The hate speeches dished out by some of them, would make the ordinary citizen wonder why nothing happens to those who are so divisive.
The Sabrimala issue has also polarized several sections of society. The BJP and even the Prime Minister, have very strongly negated the ruling of the Supreme Court. The use of the word ‘tradition’ will certainly discredit the works of some of the great social reformers of our country like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Savitribai Phule who had the courage to fight against ‘tradition’ which did not respect equal rights of all.
The highly patriarchal and fundamentalist leaders of our country have simply not bothered that on the first of January, more than five million women had gathered in a massive protest for equal rights. The unique protest had women lining up in a 625 km long human chain spanning from the north to the south of Kerala.
In the meantime, as part of their desperate efforts to intimidate and harass, the powerful of the country and their cronies have been resorting to both direct and subtle means. Mainstream media continue to be compromised and even bought up, NGOs have been denied their FCRA provisions, false cases continue to be foisted on those who are visible and vocal in any way. Above all, even those who use social media are either snooped upon or trolled. Fake news is a strength of the ‘bhakts’ and they stop at nothing to propagate their brand of myths, half-truths and lies. Even some individual citizens who have had the courage to take on the Government have cases filed against them.
What grabbed the headlines recently, was when the Prime Minister was awarded the “first ever’’ Philip Kotler Presidential Award by the World Marketing Summit India. The main sponsors of this program were Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali group and Republic TV. All efforts by investigative journalists and by several objective online portals show that the award is yet another hoax on the people of India to legitimize the almost five years of misrule by the Prime Minister and his cohorts.
The Vibrant Gujarat Summit is currently on. Apparently more than 33,000 MoUs are expected to be signed with plenty of fanfare, but analysis of past years have shown that not even 10% of these MoUs are realized and a good percentage of all that is flaunted has already been in place in the past. A highlight certainly will be the way the Government continues to abdicate its responsibility and that the corporate sector lead by the Ambanis and Adanis are all out to maximize their interests and profits at the expense of the common man of India.
The government is expected to unveil handouts mostly aimed at farmers in an interim budget to be presented on 1 February. While no final decisions have been taken, the measures could include direct transfers of funds into farmers' bank accounts and interest-free loans for them. The Government is expected to unleash once again a slew of promises, on the unsuspecting citizen.
In a few days from now, the Election Commission will announce the General Elections of 2019. There have been several acts of desperation by the ruling dispensation. In the next few weeks, these deeds, some of them most despicable, are bound to escalate. The people of India must rise as one; realize what is happening and do all they can in every sphere to preserve the sanctity and the greatness of our nation.
(Fr Cedric Prakash is a human rights activist. Contact: email@example.com)(Published on 21st January 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 04)