PUCL is shocked at the situation of our democracy which is a “State worse than the Emergency”. It is obvious that the present regime, with its religious majoritarian agenda, is trying to cause disaffection between sections of the people and destroying the social fabric of the society. The people are being pushed to the brink of civil strife with large sections living in fear.
The State is also brazenly conspiring with corporate financial interests and elites to deliberately push people to directly challenge the state thereby giving a pretext to crush all democratic rights. Increasingly the agenda of the state is being pushed from welfare as a human right to a security and surveillance state.
The PUCL National Executive takes note of the recent incidents of state violence against citizens occurring in the targeted killing of unarmed citizens protesting against the Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi (also known as Tuticorin), mass arrests of farmers and local citizens protesting against the 8 lane highway between Salem and Chennai; violence unleashed along with filing of several hundreds of false cases and arrests in thousands of Dalits protesting the Supreme Court judgment, making the Act for Prevention of Atrocities of the SC ST ineffective; making India “lynchistan” through widespread mob attacks and lynching predominantly of Muslims; police killing of farmers in Madhya Pradesh; the action of the security forces in the cold blooded killing of at least 40 tribals in Gadchiroli and throwing of their bodies in the Indravati River; and numerous other such incidents. Two things stand about these incidents - one the brazen sense of impunity and power of the armed state, and on the other the resounding silence and a non-questioning attitude of civil society and majority of the media.
Apart from the Indian state virtually waging a war against its own citizens, (the Govt of India as also) the governments of various states have also systematically divested themselves of their responsibility to bring about social justice and ensure the well-being of their citizens, by either not implementing laws protecting these groups or progressively reducing budgetary allocations towards food and social security, health, education and the welfare of marginalized and vulnerable sections, including Tribals, Dalits, women and people with special needs. This has led to alarming levels of starvation highlighted by 20 deaths in Jharkhand, UP and Karnataka in the last few months. Shamefully India now ranks 100 out of 119 in the hunger index.
The intolerance to democratic dissent is matched by the intolerance towards media professionals exposing true facts underlying tall claims to development and governance in India in the last four years, ranging from slapping of defamation cases and terrifying trolling to outright killings. Increasing corporatisation of the media has ensured that the media fails to play its role as a sentinel of public interest becoming a pliant tool in the hands of the state to create a discourse and a mindset and even creating fake news supporting the anti-democratic actions of the Indian state.
The grim situation of women’s safety in India is starkly highlighted by the use of sexual violence as a tool to silence women and society, both in conflict areas like Bastar and Kashmir, as also in other places like the Kathua and Unnao incidents. The studied and deliberate silence of the Prime Minister to condemn many of the incidents outlined above is akin to selective amnesia from a person who is otherwise quick to respond to personal and insignificant events occurring worldwide.
While the real perpetrators of anti-dalit violence of Bhima Koregaon on 1st January 2018 roam free, the vindictiveness of the state against human rights activists is epitomised by the recent arrests of lawyer Surendra Gadling, Professor Shoma Sen, tribal activist Mahesh Raut, Dalit writer Sudhir Dhawale and political activist Rona Wilson, in the name of the Urban Maoist bogey.
Never before has any state brazenly adopted encounters as a means of addressing issues of crime like the current Uttar Pradesh government led by Yogi Adityanath (Ajay Singh Bisht). A virtual reign of terror has been unleashed wherein constitutional proprieties and Rule of Law Doctrines have been thrown to the winds with the UP Police having committed more than 1000 encounter incidents shooting down 50 persons. Not only has the state police abdicated its constitutional responsibilities to follow the law, they have turned into state predator killing those opposed to their interests. The scary part is that other state governments like Haryana have started following the example of the UP government and indulge in encounters as a pretext to counter growing crime.
Aadhar is at its core a surveillance-enabling programme, which threatens privacy and democratic practice. Shockingly the Government through sustained propaganda accompanied by coercion of making people mandatorily link Aadhar to every service has lulled people into believing that privacy is the price we have to pay for better implementation of welfare programmes. In fact, the Aadhar project is endangering both - welfare as well as privacy.
The attack on Scientific temper, the school curriculum and higher education is complete. With the Prime Minister and his ministers frequently pouting nonscientific facts and promoting superstition, including giving ministerial
status to god man in State after State, along with making seriouschanges in the curriculum and text books according to the majoritarian religious ideology, and almost destroying Institutions like JNU, HCU in order finish the autonomy of these Universities in every sense.And now with the recent hurried proposal of repealing the UGC Act and bringing in the Higher Education Commission of India bill, establishes thepush for ending autonomy and bringing in more government and political patronage and control of Universities and Institutions; and stifle critical thinking on campuses.
Never before has the Parliament been so reduced to irrelevance as is happening under the present dispensation. Parliamentary traditions of holding debates before the passage of important Bills has been given up as has been the marginalization of Parliamentary Standing Committees and their Reports.
The last straw on the camel’s back has been the increasing executive interference with the independence of the judiciary. So much so that four senior judges felt compelled to bring this to the attention of the nation through a media conference. The vexed issues of judicial appointments, allegations of corruption, lack of accountability and erosion of constitutional values are leading to a loss of faith towards justice among the people that is a source of deep concern.
In view of the grim human rights scenario prevailing in the country and the importance of educating and mobilizing ordinary citizens to protect, preserve and promote human right, oppose fascist rule and dictatorial governance the PUCL has decided to organise regional meetings focussing on issues threatening Indian democracy. The gatherings will include members of student unions, trade unions, women’s organisations, Dalit and adivasi groups, disabled people’s groups, sexual minorities and other organisations working for the democratic rights of the people. We would like to reiterate that it is only a vigilant citizenry which can protect human rights and democracy.