by Bhanwar Meghwanshi
translated from Hindi by Meraj Rizvi
It seems that the government at the center is at war against its own people. Should we call it an undeclared emergency, or fascism, or something even bigger? In fact, this situation is worse than fascism. Freedom of speech is guaranteed in the constitution, but the government is consistently weakening it. The right-wing hegemony has converted the entire country into a prison cell.
Cowardice is a defining symptom of dictatorship. A scared government is like a disaster for the democracy. Such a government gets scared of everyone. Jokes of a stand-up comedian scare it, a cartoon can shake its roots, an article, a poem, a play or a book, even a tweet by a celebrity kid can send shivers down it’s spine.
Ever since Narendra Modi has come to power, all opposing voices are being muzzled one by one. Anyone who disagrees, who can speak or has been speaking in opposition, is being smeared, implicated and sent to jail in a systematic manner. This vengeful government has reserved the prisons for political and ideological adversaries.
BJP’s ideological guide RSS has declared Muslims, Christians and Communists as internal enemies of the country. Now Sikhs, Neo Buddhists, Dalits and Adivasis are also included in this list. Detentions made in the cases of violence after the organization of Elgar Parishad of Bhima Koregaon is instructive in how much hatred the current regime of BJP and RSS has against those who struggle for human rights—especially the rights of the Dalit and tribal communities.
Now that the US Arsenal Lab has made it clear in its report that the evidence in the Bhima Koregaon case has been planted through hackers, the conspiracy is exposed. People now understand that this fascist power is engaged in deliberately trapping opponents in false cases and detentions.
Kashmir is anyway a prison cell where the violation of civil rights is flaunted as a symbol of patriotism in India. Note ban and detention has become a mundane reality there. Uncountable people disappeared, how many were killed and how many were put in jail? In our “great democracy” getting official data about this is not possible and raising voice for the basic human rights of the Kashmiris can be considered treason in the rest of the country.
A sign of turning the country into a torture camp can also be seen in the jails built for alleged “intruders” after the NRC in Assam. Eyewitnesses have described the horrific and inhuman conditions there. In these camps (rather jails) a large number of children and elderlies have been reported as being kept in cramped spaces. The harassment there is unimaginable, and all this is happening in the name of Bangladeshi immigrants.
Fearing the NRC’s experiences in Assam, the rest of India’s civil society and minority staged a non-violent and democratic movement like Shaheen Bagh, an undoubtedly glorious movement in the history of free India. But using CoVID-19 pandemic as a weapon, this movement was crushed. People who took part in the citizenship movement, joined or organized protests, like Umar Khalid and Natasha Narwal, were implicated in cases of conspiracy and rioting, and were imprisoned.
Treason, National Security Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act are being misused under Section 124A of the IPC to terrorize, arrest and refuse bails to keep them in jails for a long time, which is a dangerous trend.
Under the guise of patriotism, these people have carried out conspiracies against students, and have attacked independent and autonomous and educational institutions that were dissenting openly. Youths like Kanhaiya Kumar were sent to jail. After that the narrative of “Urban Naxals” was coined. This narrative was heavily publicized by the media. Human rights activists were then targeted and arrested in the name of Urban Naxals. An eighty percent disabled G. N. Saibaba, elderly poet Varavara Rao, internationally renowned scholar and writer Anand Teltumbde, editor Gautam Navlakha, lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj, Rona Wilson, and dozens of people were trapped and sent to jail for a long term.
23-year-old labor rights activist Nodeep Kaur was arrested by the Haryana Police on 12 January 2021 while she was demonstrating in front of a factory near Kundali. She was also involved in the peasant movement on the Singhu border. Several serious allegations like attempt to murder and extortion were slapped on her. According to Navdeep’s lawyer, the police have committed physical assault; medical reports have shown that Navdeep’s body and private parts were wounded. There is evidence of custodial abuse and sexual harassment. Although Navdeep has been granted bail in one case, she has not been released due to other cases. It is evident that as the courts approach a release order, the police invoke NSA or UAPA to extend detention.
Journalist Mandeep Punia was also arrested by the Delhi Police for reporting in favor of the farmers and a case was filed against him. He got bail, but the anti-people character of the regime is now completely revealed. This government is clearly against critical journalists and activists and wants to crush freedom of expression.
The most recent example is the arrest of 21-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi, who is accused of editing a toolkit supportive of the farmers’ protests. The pro-Indian media, also called the “godi media,” is presenting this toolkit as if it is a nuclear bomb. Every movement makes strategic preparations—what slogans will be there? How will the songs be sung? What will be the posters and placards? How will the police barricades be crossed? How to avoid tear gas and laathi charges? What to trend on Twitter? What bites are to be given to the press? Preparing such guidelines is common in any movement, this is the nature of a toolkit. What is treasonous in this? But the Modi government sees every criticism as a revolt, they feel that whatever movement is happening, it is an attempt to destabilize their government. It is worth pondering how such a fearful government will make the citizens feel secure.
In India, an environment for a one-party dictatorship like in China is being created. Any opposition to the Modi government and its anti-people policies is being treated as treason, and those speaking in opposition are arrested by making false cases based on fabricated evidence. Today, a large number of political prisoners are kept in India’s jails and tortured, their age, declining health, and their intellect is not at all considered. The situation is so bad that people in the country are not allowed to raise a voice, and even tweets in their support from outside the country trigger backlash from the government and its troll army. This is apparent in the examples of Rihanna and Greta Thunberg. When we say that India is under an undeclared emergency and the country is moving toward fascism, it is considered an exaggerated interpretation, but the way civil rights activists, political opponents, and agitators are being put in jails, it has become clear that the country that claims to be the world’s largest democracy is now turning into a concentration camp.