Post Mortem

“Totalitarian state” needs an “imagined enemy”

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 2/25/2021 1:09:22 PM IST

 Questions that surface quite often in recent times that irks many are: Is India supposed to be a democratic country, is it still democratic? Are we, as Indians living in democracy? Is India, from democracy moving towards some other form of government? If that is so, what are the characteristics and semblances of totalitarian state? The reasons for the emergence of these questions reflects the ways with which those who raise questions against the ruling dispensation vis-à-vis the government of the day at the Centre are taken for interrogation followed by police custody and then languishing in jails for their alleged involvement such as “anti-government propaganda/activities”; “working against the Government of India in association with overseas “militant groups with an object of toppling the government”; and “for having opposed the government’s policies and programs”. The pretext the Government of India to arrest those who dissent have been numerous.

Ours is a Constitutional democracy. Indian democracy is premised on the Constitution that regulates the Government at the Centre as well as the state governments based on the enlightened principles prescribing defined provisions to be followed. Constitution has enshrined a series of rights to all the citizens of India such as the right to freedom, liberty and equality. Freedom of expression and thought are emphasized as fundamental rights and no one including the State has no right to take away these from the citizens. Likewise, right to protest and oppose the Government within the framework of the Constitution are the basic characteristic of our Constitution. However, the State via the Government of India can usurp the Constitutional provisions and privileges extended to the citizens. However, democracy is a fragile word and susceptible and so could be used by any to trample upon or taken over.

Though the current Government of India (GOI) is elected democratically, since 2019, the Indian State via the Government of India is becoming aggressive and intolerant. For instance, we have been witnessing the Young India and other concerned citizens about the implications of those acts and polices enunciated have been picked up for defying the Government at the Centre including those who extend their support and showing solidarity for those affected by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 and Indian Agriculture Acts of 2020. The classic case is Disha Ravi, a student, climate activist from Bengaluru in her early twenties was picked up by the Delhi police, filed FIR, produced before the court and remanded to custody and spent more than a week in the Tihar Jail, Delhi.

The reasons that the Delhi police cited were: a call for violence in the tool kit for the farmer’s agitation. Then the police framed as kinds of charges by implicating her as she collaborated with the militant organization, overseas climate activist and acted against the Indian State. So, the police in toto framed her under ‘sedition’. However, while granting bail to Disha Ravi, the court in its significant observation forthrightly said that “citizens were conscience keepers of the government in any democratic nation and cannot be put behind bars simply because they choose to disagree with the state’s policies.” In an 18-page bail order, additional sessions judge, Dharmender Rana said: “The offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of governments. Difference of opinion, disagreement, divergence, dissent, or for that matter, even disapprobation, are recognized legitimate tools to infuse objectivity in state policies. An aware and assertive citizenry, in contradistinction with an indifferent or docile citizenry, is indisputably a sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy.”

The judge further added that in view of the “scanty and sketchy evidence available on record” he found no palpable reason to breach the general rule of bail in the case of a 22-year-old young woman, who had “blemish-free” antecedents and “firm roots in the society” and send her to jail. The judgement has been categorical as it said that “can’t jail citizens for disagreeing’. The reason being, “Citizens are conscience keepers of government in any democratic nation. They cannot be put behind bars simply because they choose to disagree with state policies … Sedition cannot be invoked to minister to wounded vanity of governments.” Substantiating further, Additional sessions judge Dharmender Rana said that “The right to dissent is firmly enshrined under Article 19 of Constitution … the freedom of expression includes the right to seek a global audience. A citizen has the fundamental rights to use the best means of imparting and receiving communication.”

The reasons put forth by prosecutors were layer by layer demolished such as “links” between Disha and a “pro-Khalistani secessionist group”, Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF) which was associated with the creation of the toolkit document. The court, however, didn’t find any direct “direct link”. Disha bail was also opposed on the ground that she allegedly created a WhatsApp group called “Intl farmers strike” but later deleted which was to destroy crucial evidence by linking her with the toolkit and PJF. The prosecution came out heavily on Disha that she gave a global audience to secessionist elements by manipulating the support of international youth icon and environmental activist Greta Thunberg, the court found nothing on record that could suggest that she had subscribed to any secessionist idea.

The court in its judgement ripped open each and every allegation by responding that “There is not even an iota of evidence (that has been) brought to my interconnecting the perpetrators of the violence on January 26, 2021 with the said PJF or the applicant/accused said the court.” There are several cases that show the vengeful character of the State via the Government of India that wants to suppress freedom of expression of those who express their views against its policies and programs. The Indian State nowadays cannot stand against the Young India comprising of more than half of the population forthrightly show their solidarity and express their views should be appreciated and encouraged, rather exerting control through different ways and means are counter-productive. 

Viewing the recent developments, it seems that India is moving toward “totalitarianism” wherein the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life thereby subordinating the individuals to the state. Whoever opposes political and cultural expressions are suppressed in varied ways. In the process, a totalitarian regime crushes all autonomous institutions in its drive to seize the human soul. Therefore, Indian democracy is in a fluid state and so the citizens of India should all the time be awake so that democracy shall never be derailed or usurped. 

As pointed out clearly by Justice Dharmender Rana “Even our founding fathers accorded due respect to divergence of opinion by recognising freedom of speech and expression as an inviolable fundamental right. The right to dissent is firmly enshrined under Article 19 of the constitution of India. In my considered opinion, the freedom of speech and expression includes the right to seek a global audience. There are no geographical barriers on communication. A citizen has the fundamental right to use the best means for imparting and receiving communication, as long as the same is permissible under the four corners of law and as such have access to audience abroad.” Certainly it is historic and momentous as judgements like these will pave way for spirited participation of Young India in the coming days without any fear and favour. 

Dr. John Mohan Razu

 

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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