Who are the real anti Nationals?
By George Merlo Pallath
Is it the Maoists
Even though the colonial masters went away, for the poor of India, freedom remains elusive. Successive governments failed to implement policies to protect Dalits and tribal groups from discrimination and violence. They bear the entire burden of the caste system of segregation, exploitation and discrimination in India. More than 40% of the land in rural areas are owned by less than 5% of its population. A crime is committed against a dalit in India every 18 minutes. 3 dalit women are raped every day. 13 dalits are murdered every week. 27 cases of atrocities against dalits filed every day. Likewise the adivasis. They are the poorest of the poor. Almost 62.5% of adivasi children drop out of schools before matriculation. A shocking 41.5% of dalits live under the official poverty line, whereas 49% of adivasis are under the poverty line. Thousands of villagers were rendered homeless to make way for creating national parks to protect animals. The adivasi girls were sexually exploited by the Government officials and landlords. Caste discrimination , abject poverty and the official apathy towards the plight of the poor are the main reasons for the rise of naxalism and later Maoism in Bihar, U.P, A.P, Telengana, Bengal & Orissa. Feudalism is another big factor that contributed to the rise of naxalism and now the Maoism. The marginalized, landless poor of rural India and the adivasis fighting for survival are the base for the Maoists who believe in armed rebellion against the establishment. Maoists are leading a class war against the greedy landlords and money lenders who had usurped their lands and the clueless government machinery who support them.
After 7 decades of independence, in the name of development, to make way for commercial forestry, dams, mines, there has been massive destruction of adivasi land, forest and water resources, along with total degradation of their moral fabric of their fragile society. Again, due to the high levels of corruption, greed and nepotism of the ruling class and the upper castes along with the crony capitalists, the adivasis and the tribals have been driven out of their homeland, rendered homeless. More than 20 million tribals have been displaced in the name of development. All this massive exploitation and neglect naturally made fertile ground for the Maoists to grow and they continue to grow unabated. It will continue so long as the exploitation and neglect by the govt. continues.
Is it the critics of the govt. and govt. policies, the likes of Kanhiyia Kumar, Jignesh Mevani, Rohit Vemula, Aundhadhi Roy, Hardik Patels . Are we not living in the world’s largest democracy. Is not the freedom of expression one of our guaranteed constitutional rights as per Article 19 of the Indian constitution. Then why the govt. is so sensitive about criticism? Is this govt. so intolerant and afraid of criticism so as to brand all its critics as anti nationals and slap the outdated sedition charges against them.
The Indian Penal Code has several sections introduced by the British to suppress criticism and freedom of expression. One such is section 124A which has been misused extensively to suppress the so called opponents of the govt. The vaguely worded sedition, criminal defamation, and hate speech laws were used to harass and prosecute those expressing dissenting, unpopular, or minority views. In October, authorities in Tamil Nadu state arrested a folk singer under the sedition law for two songs that criticized the state government. The same month, Gujarat police arrested Hardik Patel, who is spearheading protests to demand quotas in education and government jobs for his community, and charged him with sedition in two separate cases.
Colonial laws are being used to stifle freedom of expression in our post colonial, professedly democratic era.
Paranoid about its desire to crush any sort of dissent, the BJP government in Gujarat is now toying with the idea of bringing in one more law to nip its critics in the bud. If passed, it will allow the police to pick up any citizen merely on ‘suspicion’ – the law proposes to grant immunity from prosecution to the police and the administration for doing so.
By arresting merely on suspicion, the government wants to crush all dissent and take away the minimum human rights to express one’s views.
Is it the exponents of freedom of expression who fight for freedom to speak, write, paint, take pictures and generally to express themselves . In any self respecting democracy, every person has the right to hold any opinion she/he chooses and to give effect to it also, so long as, in doing so, they do not use or advocate physical violence against anybody.
But freedom of expression is a dangerous term these days. Being committed to its cause can get you killed, like the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ cartoonists. Or, you could be hounded so viciously you might even announce your own death as a writer, like Perumal Murugan. And you can be forced to go underground, like the bold woman editor of an Urdu newspaper. The list is growing alarmingly every week. Freedom is a pie, but every slice does not taste the same. Freedom without responsibility would lead us into anarchy. “Still the artistes, film makers, writers, poets must have the freedom to express their creativity even if it is criticizing the govt. or any particular social aspect like religion or caste.
‘An intelligent, culturally aware, aesthetically evolved citizenry must take an uncompromising stance against bigotry and thought control.’
Artistes have long been at the receiving end, often violently so, of the intolerant mob. Balbir Krishan, whose art echoes his homosexuality, faced a violent attack in Delhi; M. F. Hussain had to be in exile in his twilight years after facing death threats; Taslima Nasreen is still unable to find sanctuary in India; Salman Rushdie’s permission to speak at a literary festival in Jaipur was withdrawn at the penultimate moment; the Mumbai University withdrew Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey from its curriculum; a statue of Dadoji Konddev was spirited away overnight from its prominent location in Pune’s Lal Mahal; Joseph Lelyveld’s book Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India was banned in quick succession by the Gujarat and central governments. We have a long, ignominious history of abject prostration before intemperate, anti-intellectual mobs.
Indians are increasingly touchy, thin skinned, intolerant, and humourless nowadays. Especially the extremists. India is presently ranked 133rd out of 180 countries in a global freedom of the press index. According to Ramachandra Guha, the eight threats to freedom of expression in India are outdated laws, imperfections in our judicial system, the rise of identity politics, the complicity of the police, the pusillanimity of the political class, the dependence of the media on Govt. Advt. the dependence of the media on commercial advt’s, and finally the ideologically driven writers, editors, artists and film makers.
Is it the crony capitalists like the Adani’s, Ambanis and Jindals who have benefitted immensely due to their connections and affiliations with those in power. These ‘crony capitalists’ have flourished due to their connections in the government and political class. They have manipulated and exploited their influence and money power to get plum deals in core industries like mining, infrastructure, construction, energy, telecom, defence, etc. In the latest list released by the Economist for 2016, India ranks 9th on the Crony Capitalism Index. As Raghuram Rajan, the former RBI Governor said “ Most of the billionaires in India did not derive their wealth from IT or software, but from land, natural resources, govt. contracts and licences obtained or cornered by manipulating the govt. machinery or by bribes, influence and money power. India is an oligarchy next only to Russia.
The Vedanta group is owned by Anil Agarwal whose net worth is estimated at 5.5 Billion. The Orissa Govt. bent over backwards to allow the Vedantha group to acquire over 6000 acres of land ostensibly to put up a university. But the real ulterior motive is the 1.82 million tonnes of thorium bearing monazite along the Orissa coastline. It is dubbed as the biggest land grab in India. Vedantha group was favoured since they funded the 2004 & 2009 election campaign of the BJD party.
The biggest black money case that has come up before the SIT is that of Gautam Adani, one of Modi’s closest aides. While bragging that he will bring back black money and distyribute it to the people @ Rs.15,000/- per person, he was zipping around the country in Adani’s private jet. Adani allegedly tookout over 5000 crores to tax havens using inflated bills for the import of power equipments. After Modi came to power, the officers were transferred, another officer was raided by CBI, two senior most officers were forced out of office, and the file was closed unceremoniously.
Jindals, celebrated billionaires in London & New York, they are the villains of India’s heartland, accused of plundering natural resources and playing havoc with the lives of the poor. The detailed report by the CAG says that the Jindal group was gifted a windfall of 1,86,000 crores in the allocation of coal blocks. The Supreme Court struck down the allocation in 2014. In the 1980’s the theory of the govt. was that its primary duty was towards the poor and disadvantaged. The new theory of this govt. is that a govt. which facilitates the market will benefit everyone. The effect is there for all to see in Raigarh and other areas like it where crony capitalists like the Jindals have bled the country to waste, made huge profits and destroyed the livelihood of the poor and disadvantaged. Big time business houses are the biggest beneficiaries of this govt. policy.
At the Krishna Godavari Basin, the Ambanis have been quietly cheating the govt. in the profit sharing agreement by inflating expenses and suppressing figures whereby, the public exchequer lost 1000’ s of crores of money.
Sahara Group, Subrata Roy collected more than 24,000 crores from the public. Illegally took the money abroad. Now in jail for fraud. The story of how the Govt. allowed one of the biggest loan defaulters, Vijay Mallya to escape from the country is still fresh in our minds. Likewise the case of the Winsome Diamonds M.D, Mr. Jatin R Mehta who owes more than 6000 crores to the public sector banks has now escaped abroad. More than 4000 Indian Millionaires have already migrated to other countries and Tax havens and taken citizenships there to escape from the Tax net here causing huge loss to the exchequer.
As quoted by former RBI Director Mr. Raghuram Rajan “It seems we have substituted the crony socialism of the past with crony capitalism, where the rich and the influential are alleged to have received land, natural resources and spectrum in return for payoffs to venal politicians.
By killing transparency and competition, crony capitalism is harming free enterprise, opportunity and economic growth of the country. And by substituting special interests for the public interest, it is harming the democracy and making the poor poorer.”
Is it the unscrupulous, divisive and corrupt politicians who indulge in dirty politics and use religion, caste and regional politics to divide and create fear phychosis amongst the people, indulge in promoting violence to gain their narrow political ends. Politicians like Azam Khan, fundamentalist groups like RSS, VHP, Mujahideen, Salafi muslims, wahabi muslims etc. Many political parties still gain electoral gains by using the people’s religious and casteist feelings.It is still a mystery on why the supreme court has not barred all political parties from exploiting religion and caste to gain votes.
Is it the religious fundamentalists who use religion to incite violence and hatred amongst the society. The 2002 Gujarat riots following the stage managed Godhra massacre, the latest cow vigilantism, where the alleged holy cow is being used as an excuse to beat, maim, kill and rape poor dalits and muslims. The fundamentalist muslim clerics who as a tribe refuses to blend in with the Indian social milieu, always sticking out like a sore finger in our society with their purdhas and 9th century personal law which allows the men to exploit women in all possible ways, treat the women as cattle, and also allows the men to divorce by issuing the triple talaq. Ironically even in Pakistan, the triple talaq has been banned as illegal.
Amongst these who does the maximum damage to India as a nation and to the people of India. Who all qualifies to be dubbed as the real anti national? Is it the Maoists turned adivasis and dalits on whom the negative impacts of democracy has been thrust upon and the benefits have been kept away. Is it the critics of the govt. in the biggest democracy in the world, or is it the activists of freedom of expression as guaranteed by the constitution, or is it the crony capitalists , the biggest parasites in our society. They have bled this country blue and in the process become billionaire oligarchs. Is it the fundamentalist religious groups who are blinded by their conditioned beliefs and guided by their misplaced egos or is it the unscrupulous politicians who are like the wolves in sheep’s clothing, always pouncing on the opportunies and playing with their ill gotten power and wealth.