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Archives for : September2018

Green Tribunal steps in to conserve Ghats

Panel says the extent of the Eco-Sensitive Zones should not be reduced in view of the Kerala floods.K. Murali KumarPanel says the extent of the Eco-Sensitive Zones should not be reduced in view of the Kerala floods.K. Murali Kumar

Curbs States from activities that may have adverse impact

The six Western Ghats States, including Kerala, have been restrained by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) from giving environmental clearance to activities that may adversely impact the eco-sensitive areas of the mountain ranges.

The panel directed that the extent of Eco-Sensitive Zones of Western Ghats, which was notified by the Central government earlier, should not be reduced in view of the recent floods in Kerala.

The Madhav Gadgil-led Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report had created a political furore in the State with most of the political parties and a section of the church opposing it.

The Tribunal Bench, in its order, noted that any alteration in the draft notification of zones may seriously affect the environment, especially in view of recent incidents in Kerala. It was on a petition filed by the Goa Foundation that the Bench issued the order. The Principal Bench of the panel, which permitted the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEF and CC) to re-publish the draft notification on Eco-Sensitive Zones, which expired on August 26, ordered that the matter may be finalised within six months. It also ordered that the draft of the republished notification be placed on the record of the tribunal.

Pulled up for delay

The Bench was headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and had Justice S.P. Wangdi, and Nagin Nanda, expert member, as its members.

Pulling up the ghats States for the delay in filing objections regarding the notification, the tribunal observed that the “delay on account of objections of States may not be conducive to the protection of the eco-sensitive areas” and the matter must be finalised at the earliest.

The WGEEP had earlier proposed “much larger areas for being included in the eco-sensitive zone” though the Kasturirangan-led High Level Working Group, also appointed by the MoEF and CC to look into the WGEEP report, had reduced it. The Ministry had accepted the Kasthurirangan report and issued the draft notifications on ecologically sensitive zones.

The Principal Bench of the tribunal, which noted that the ecology of the Western Ghats region was under serious stress, also highlighted the fact that Western Ghats region was one of the richest biodiversity areas which needed to be conserved.

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Chhattisgarh- Students of Law School ,HNLU, protest against sexual harassment by faculty

Students from a Chhattisgarh law school are fighting against patriarchy & sexual harassment


As the silent protest of Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU), Naya Raipur entered the seventh day on Sunday, they warned the Vice Chancellor of observing hunger strike if their demands are not met by September 5.

“We have set 5 pm on 5th as deadline for the university administration to resolve our issues or else we will observe hunger strike,” students told this newspaper on Sunday.
Meanwhile, HNLU students body has received support from various national law universities apart from the students union of JNU Delhi and Jadhavpur University, said the students. The JNU president has written a letter to the HNLU student body extending the support, said a student of the HNLU.




The students of Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur have been protesting since August 28 against the faculty of the university. On the night of August 27, students of the ) in Raipur, Chhattisgarh gathered together to protest against their college administration. Earlier that day, the Chattisgarh High Court had ruled against the former Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Sukhpal Singh, quashing the extension of his tenure. Following the high court ruling, students assembled outside their college in protest, demanding the VC’s immediate removal.

The protest began with a mere stand-off between the women hostellers and their hostel wardens. The girls refused to move back to their individual rooms until and unless the wardens agreed to not use ‘show-cause’ as a threat. Prior to this, the students had claimed that they were harassed by wardens who threatened girls with show cause notices. The wardens also made calls to their parents, making false cases to curb the freedom of the girls on campus.

Without any concrete solution, the girls marched out of the hostel buildings and refused to come inside, thus defying the curfew imposed on them. They were joined by the male students and it grew into an all-campus protest to demand action against the corrupt university administration.

The demands of the student body that have been put forward in front of the administration are:

  1. Removal of hostel in-timings and restricting curfew timing to the campus, implemented equitably for both halls of residence
  2. Appointment of an independent warden who is not an academic representation, teacher or in any manner associated either directly, indirectly or incidentally with academic activities or programmes or any such similar tasks or in charge of any responsibilities or duties of similar nature
  3. Removal of restrictions inside the hostel including, but not limited to, gym, mess space, common rooms etc

The students have formed their own committee, collecting evidence on sexual harassment by faculty, many of whom are on the administration. They will submit their own report to the Chief Justice of the Chhattisgarh High Court.

The Student Body has set up a complaints committee where each victim has been asked to speak out about their stories of harassment. The committee urges not just women, but men to email instances of harassment whether sexual or otherwise. Those willing to come forward have been asked to email their stories with proof to

Despite the nearly week-long protest, no action has been taken by the authorities.

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The Plight of Women & Young People in the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Young Rohingya girls are given life skills education in the camps of Cox's Bazar through modules adapted by UNFPA for the refugee camps. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

Young Rohingya girls are given life skills education in the camps of Cox’s Bazar through modules adapted by UNFPA for the refugee camps. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

DHAKA, Aug 31 2018 (IPS) – August 25, 2018 marked one year since violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, triggering the massive Rohingya exodus to neighbouring Bangladesh. As the crisis continues with no immediate end in sight, it is crucial to expand and sustain health and life skills services for Rohingya women, girls and youth to locate opportunities amid challenges.

As humanitarian actors strategise a long-term response to this protracted crisis, there must be a strong emphasis on the interactions between the obvious pillars of aid – food, water, health, sanitation, shelter and protection – and the special needs of women, girls and young persons, including safer pregnancy and childbirth; the prevention of, and response to, gender-based violence; and education and life skills for children and youth who will, in all probability, become adults in the camps of Cox’s Bazar.

A year ago, renewed violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State ripped 14-year-old *Fathema’s family apart. Her father and brothers were killed, her widowed mother became the head of a household on the run, escaping with Fathema and her other daughters to the crowded Rohingya refugee camps in neighbouring Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Given the atrocities experienced by so many thousands of Rohingya women and girls, the immediate humanitarian response focused on providing urgent medical attention and health supplies, along with psychosocial counselling for traumatized survivors, including those who became pregnant through rape.

Much of this help came through Women Friendly Spaces in Cox’s Bazar – the “shanti khana” or “homes of peace” – which have long provided a safe space for women and girls to avail of essential services, or simply to bond with others, as they seek to heal. The help and information provided there have also inspired many Rohingya women to become community volunteers themselves.

40-year-old Zarina* recalls, “In Myanmar, I didn’t know child marriage was bad.  Here, through the caseworkers at the Women Friendly Space, I’ve learnt about it and other issues like domestic violence.  My eyes are now open, my brain is working. I realise that child marriage is bad for health, it robs a girl of her youth and her life.  I want to end child marriage.”

Zarina and other community volunteers are also seeking to improve a key health indicator.  Currently, only about one in five pregnant women in the refugee camps will give birth in a proper health facility, despite the availability of dozens of trained midwives and other personnel.

Sometimes they are prevented by their husbands – or, in the case of women who have been raped, they fear stigma and discrimination from the wider community.

“Giving birth is like a war, it can be so challenging,” said 35-year-old Nasreen*, another community volunteer. “Every month I help four to five women to the facility here for deliveries. If girls or women don’t willingly want to go to the delivery services, I convince them to access health points and ensure safer pregnancy and childbirth.”

Back in Myanmar, Fathema would probably have been married by now, and, at 14, may already have become a mother. But, just as Zarina and other women were provided with key information about life and love, a new youth-focused initiative at these Women Friendly Spaces is transforming them into learning centres for Fathema, her sisters and other young persons, teaching them about the spectrum of gender equality and rights through the prism of sexual and reproductive health and well-being.

The module – adapted from the global Gender Equity Movement in Schools (GEMS) prototype – underscores how crucial it is to impart life skills education as early as possible, to better equip young persons to navigate the often difficult choices faced during the transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, including issues such as gender equality, pubertal changes and hygiene, relationships and conflict management.

For young girls in particular, long constrained by the complexities of patriarchy and sexism, the sessions can be liberating, showing them how they should be in charge of making decisions about their own lives – including if and when to marry and to whom, whether to have children and how many, and how to better address and protect themselves from gender-based violence and child marriage.


UNFPA Bangladesh Representative Asa Torkelsson surveys monsoon preparedness in the Rohingya refugee camps of Cox's Bazar. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

UNFPA Bangladesh Representative Asa Torkelsson surveys monsoon preparedness in the Rohingya refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)


These concepts can be overwhelming for any young person, and all the more so for those raised in particularly conservative environments. But by bringing such issues to the forefront in a gentle, non-threatening way, multiple points of view can be discussed and debated openly and safely.

Fathema learnt so much from the sessions at the Women Friendly Space, she’s become a volunteer herself. “The first people I talk to are my parents,” she said. “And then I talk to other young people in my area. I knew nothing about the changes that happen to girls. Now I know how to cope, and I can help other girls as well.”

Putting all these lessons into practice will not be easy for Fathema and her peers, just as it hasn’t been for Zarina and older refugee women, but introducing them to these ideas is an important first step towards moving from disempowerment to empowerment, even in this challenging context.

As humanitarian actors strategise a long-term response to this protracted crisis, there must be a strong emphasis on the interactions between the obvious pillars of aid – food, water, health, sanitation, shelter and protection – and the special needs of women, girls and young persons, including safer pregnancy and childbirth; the prevention of, and response to, gender-based violence; and education and life skills for children and youth who will, in all probability, become adults in the camps of Cox’s Bazar.

“Initially I faced violence from my husband because I had four daughters which he wasn’t happy about,” Zarina said. “But I now teach my husband and others about gender equality.”

*Not their real names


Asa Torkelsson is the representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Bangladesh

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Bombay High Court Slams Maharashtra Police For Holding Presser Alleging Activists Had Maoist Connection

The matter is sub-judice, the HC said.

In an embarrassment to the Maharashtra government, the Bombay High Court on Monday demanded to know why the police addressed the media on the arrest of five rights activists when the matter was sub-judice.

“How can the police do this? The matter is sub-judice,” a division bench comprising Justice S.S. Shinde and Justice Mridula Bhatkar observed while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL).

Petitioner Satish Surgiv Gaikwad, who calls himself a victim of the January 1 Koregaon-Bhima caste riots, filed a PIL seeking a National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe into the incidents and to restrain the Pune Police from investigating it further.

When the Supreme Court was seized of the matter, how can the police read out documents which could be produced as evidence in the case, the court asked, terming the police action as “wrong”.

As Public Prosecutor Deepak Thakare assured the court that he would discuss the issue with the concerned police officials and seek their response, the judges posted the matter for further hearing on September 7.

The petitioner Gaikwad also urged the NIA to take over the investigations into the Pune Police’s action against well-known rights activists in June and August in different parts of India.

In June, the police had arrested Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut. The August swoop led to the arrests of P. Varavar Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Fereira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha.

While a PIL on the second round of arrests of August 28 was heard by the Supreme Court on August 29, two days later on August 31, Maharashtra’s Additional Director-General of Police Param Bir Singh addressed a media conference in Mumbai.

In that briefing, he showed documents and reiterated that a conspiracy was allegedly hatched by the five arrested activists in connivance with the banned CPI (Maoist) “to overthrow the central government” and carry out “a Rajiv Gandhi-style assassination” to end the rule of (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi.

Earlier, on August 29, Pune Deputy Commissioner of Police Shirish Sardeshpande addressed the media, first revealing the alleged conspiracies, along with a statement. On August 30, Pune Police Commissioner K. Venkatesham also spoke to the media on the same matter.

Singh on August 31 spoke of weapons allegedly being procured from Russia and China.

The police media briefings had evoked widespread criticism from lawyers, activists and eminent personalities and even the Shiv Sena.

The police action followed a probe into the Elgar Parishad of December 31, 2017, organized by the Kabir Kala Manch, where allegedly inflammatory speeches were made, culminating in the Koregaon-Bhima violence in Pune district on January 1.

Presently, the five arrested activists are under house arrest till September 6, as per the apex court orders.

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Open letter to Maneka Gandhi regarding oxytocin and related scientific information

Maneka Gandhi,
14, Ashoka road,
New Delhi 110001,
Telephone;- 011-23359241, 23357088, 23359241,

Respected Maneka Gandhi Ji,

Subject ;- Regarding oxytocin and related scientific information.

Drug Action Forum – Karnataka is an independent civil society campaigning for rational drug use and policies and would like to bring to your notice certain unscientific and misplaced statements by you that will cause harm to our mothers.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in its circular dated 1st August 2018, “has restricted the manufacture of oxytocin formulations for domestic use to public sector only from 1st September, 2018, due to complaints of misuse”1.

As per media report, this particular restriction is based on a complaint filed by you as quoted below:- .

“Reacting to Maneka’s concerns, the Health Ministry, through the director general (health services), has asked state drug controllers for details of the manufacturers of oxytocin along with detailed information about the seizures conducted for the illegally produced hormone, the number of persons arrested in connection with these seizures, prosecutions filed and reports, if any, of sub standard quality seized”2.

Such restricted manufacturing will create a shortage of the availability of a life saving drug because oxytocin is administered to prevent bleeding which may occur after the baby is delivered. Oxytocin is an Essential Medicine as per World Health Organization and also the National List. Post Partum Haemorrhage (PPH) or bleeding following delivery is a major cause of maternal deaths in India. Nigeria and India, account for more than one-third of all global maternal deaths in 20153, though these deaths have declined as per the Ministry of Health Ministry, but it is well known that the single major medical cause of maternal death is PPH, because “more than 72.6 percent of deaths from hemorrhage were classified as postpartum hemorrhage”3.

So the availability of affordable and good quality oxytocin is extremely important. Oxytocin is also used to induce unobstructed labour, which needs monitoring by health experts.

In your article which we quote below there are some serious unscientific statements that we request you to relook. For example you mention that

“In order to get the milk, dairy owners inject them with an illegal drug called oxytocin twice a day. Oxytocin sends the animal into labour, so for two hours a day the animal is writhing in labour pains till the milk is squeezed out of her inflamed diseased teats. Oxytocin comes into the milk and results in hormonal imbalances in humans, who get diseases like tuberculosis, cancer, blindness in children etc”3.

Firstly oxytocin as mentioned by you is not illegal but is used both by medical and veterinarians to stop and or prevent PPH. Of course if the drug is substandard or spurious or illegally manufactured then proper legal action needs to be taken against the manufacturing companies and this will hold good for any drug in the Indian market. Secondly oxytocin acts on the uterus only when there is a pregnancy and not otherwise. So the labour pain is induced when the uterus has a foetus not otherwise and so the animal does not writhe in pain for two hours every time oxytocin is injected, as stated by you. Rather oxytocin acts on the muscle (called myoepithelial cells) of the breast tissue and squeezes the milk out. It does not increase milk secretion. Thirdly oxytocin is administered either intramuscularly or intravenously and never orally. The drug does not act or does not get absorbed when administered orally. So even if consumed orally by humans as mentioned by you, it has absolutely no action at all, as it gets inactivated. Fourthly oxytocin as mentioned by you does not in any way cause hormonal imbalances. Further it is not clear as to what exactly you mean by ‘hormonal imbalances’. And fifthly there is no scientific evidence that oxytocin will cause tuberculosis, cancer or blindness in children and all these are unnecessary apprehensions without any scientific facts. All this information can be accessed from any standard medical text book of Pharmacology4.

In the light of these scientific facts and also the essential nature of oxytocin, we request and urge you to write to the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India and withdraw your letter urgently and this will need to be done in the sole interest of saving our mothers. If you need more information on this issue we would be happy to provide the same. We hope you will examine this action seriously.

We greatly appreciate your concerns for animals and support your work but unfortunately any unscientific stand and remark can dilute all your good work and hence this letter. This is only our concern.

We also greatly appreciate your concerns with regard to the miss-use of antibiotics in animals, as rightly mentioned in your article3. This is an area that needs urgent attention and you may be aware that the USA has already restricted the use of antibiotics in animals. The same needs to be done in India and would be happy to provide you with all the information for the same and also work with you.

We look forward to hearing from you

Dr Gopal Dabade

Dr S L Pawar


1)       Ministry of Health and Family Welfare,

2)       Health Ministry wants oxytocin details after Maneka letter, 27th October 2014, Indian Express,

3)       The Maneka Gandhi column: Cows are injected with illegal drugs for milk, condition of Indian dairies appalling, 18th June 2016, Firstpost,

4)        Goodman & Gilman’s The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 12th edition. Page numbers 1124 and 1850.

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Anand Teltumbde: On India’s rising authoritarian tide

Photo: dgSolidarity / Youtube

Photo: dgSolidarity / Youtube

On 28 August 2018, homes of several civil-rights activists, lawyers and writers across India were raided by the Maharashtra police for having ‘links’ with Maoists. Of these, five were arrested, in what is seen as a highly controversial, and authoritarian, attempt to silence dissenters. The Supreme Court has halted the five activists’ immediate arrest and put them under house arrest, saying that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy” and “if you don’t allow the safety valve pressure cooker will burst.”

Anand Teltumbde, a public intellectual and a civil-rights activist based in Goa, was among the nine whose home was raided. He has authored many books and written numerous articles. Some of his books are: Dalits: Past, Present and FutureMahad: The Making of the First Dalit RevoltThe Persistence of Caste: The Khairlanji Murders and India’s Hidden Apartheid and most recently, Republic of Caste. In this interview, Teltumbde describes the impact of his harassment by the police, what lies behind Indian government’s increasingly authoritarian moves, and why the term ‘urban Naxals’ has gained political currency.

Himal Southasian: Your home was raided as part of the simultaneous raids across cities in India. What in your opinion led to this action on the part of the government?

Anand Teltumbde: Frankly speaking, I cannot even imagine that such a thing could happen to me. I did know about the earlier raids and arrests of five persons, one of them, Professor Shoma Sen, being an executive member of the organisation, the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), of which I am the general secretary. It is one of the civil-rights organisations that were born after the Emergency and, in its heyday, had illustrious people in Maharashtra, like the celebrated Vijay Tendulkar, associated with it. Other notable organisation that I am part of is the All India Forum for Rights to Education (AIFRTE), of which I am one of the presidium members. This nine-year-old federated organisation is struggling for the educational rights for all children through neighborhood schools. None of these organisations have any connection with violence; rather, any violence, both by the state or any organized group, is taken by us as violation of civil rights of people and is acted against.

Besides this activism, which has been integral part of my life since my school days, I have consistently been a brilliant student. I did my Mechanical Engineering from the Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (VNIT, one of the national institutes of technology), did my MBA from the country’s prestigious institute, IIM, Ahmadabad, and my PhD in Cybernetics Modeling from University of Mumbai. By virtue of my education, I landed up in the corporate sector where I rose up to the rank of executive director of Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) and ended my corporate stint as managing director and CEO of Petronet India Limited, a holding company in petroleum infrastructure formed by all oil companies in the private sector. After my corporate career, I was invited by the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology as professor in its B-school, where I taught over five years. I came two years ago to Goa as senior professor in one of the premier B-schools in the country, opening for them a center of Big Data Analytics and launched this year a very novel course in the country.

Can anyone in their wildest dreams associate such a profile with Maoism? My role as a defender of peoples’ democratic rights and public intellectual has been in contrast to my formal association with capitalism, both during and after my corporate career.

The only possible reason is that I have been writing critically about the anti-people policies of the government through my column in the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), pamphlets and books. I have been doing this as a public intellectual for over the last three decades. I suppose it to be my role and also my fundamental right. But the present government that has been victimising people who have spoken against it would not take it as such and try to incriminate with fabricated evidence.

But to link me with Maoist activities is bizarre by any standard. I personally keep myself very busy with my intellectual activities. Managing an academic course in the frontier technology itself is a challenge requiring full-time engagement. Besides, I have my committed writing schedule for books and columns. Moreover, everything of me, including all my writings, my cell phone number and emails are in the public domain. With such a background, to link me with Maoist-like groups could only be a product of either of poor mind or highhanded recklessness.

HSA: The raids were carried out by the Maharashtra state police. The state government in Maharashtra is led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as is the national government. Do you think this action is at the behest of the ruling party?

AT: The entire construction of this weird identity of ‘urban Maoists’ is a carefully carved out strategy of the present government to curb the resistance to its anti-people policies. On the one hand, the government takes credit for decimation of the Maoist movement. Indeed, for over a decade, the governments have been fighting an open war with all its might, against this ill-clad, ill-fed army of tribal people called Maoists. They are increasingly holed up in a small forested part of central India. On the other hand, the state raises a bogey of Maoism, which comes handy for it to keep its armour of draconian legislature and suppress voices of democratic rights. With this invention, they began painting the intellectuals and activists as more dangerous than the gun-wielding Maoists in the forests. It can be applied summarily to anyone who is critical of the government. The only task is to produce some documents, as they have been doing, supposedly recovered from the hard disks of the computers confiscated in the raids of marked up activists. Therefore, raids on the houses of such people become a prerequisite and an integral part of the strategy.

The current episode is so ill-constructed that even a child would fault it, but with the media under its control, the government is going berserk as its lies get exposed, entangling more respected activists who have sacrificed their otherwise brilliant careers and comfortable lives to serve the oppressed people. It all started with an Elgar conference which was organized by two retired judges, one from the supreme court – Justice P B Sawant – and the other from the high court –Justice B G Kolse Patil. More than 300 organisations, belonging to Dalits, OBCs, Marathas and Muslims became part of it. The potential Dalit-Maratha unity portended a threat to the BJP and therefore it commissioned its agents provocateurs –Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide – to break this budding unity by creating a controversy over the tomb of Sambhaji Maharaj, son of Shivaji, who was said to have been cut into pieces by Aurangzeb. However, the entire planning fizzled out as at the local level, and the Dalits and Marathas patched up and ended the controversy.

However, the next day, as planned by Bhide and Ekbote, their goons mounted an attack on the Dalits congregated at Bhima Koregaon. The violence was clearly unleashed on Dalits, and, to that extent, they could not be accused of committing it. But the salvage operation began with accusations that the inflammatory speeches in the conference were responsible for the violence. An FIR was lodged against Jignesh Mevani, the newly elected MLA from Gujarat and a promising young leader, and Umar Khalid, the PhD student in JNU [Jawaharlal Nehru University]. It irked Dalits, and as their demand for the arrests of Ekbote and Bhide picked up momentum, the police began insinuating Maoist infiltration into the conference. This was a repeat of what happened in the protest movement sparked off after Khairlanji in 2006, when, at the instance of the police, the then home minister had insinuated the infiltration of Naxalites.

Initially, they began the canard that the Elgar Parishad was funded by the Maoists. Justice Kolse Patil has since then been vehemently refuting this police charge but to no avail. It just served as an excuse to conduct raids on the houses of many activists, many of them having nothing to do with Bhima-Koregaon. These raids provided the police an opportunity to produce letters purportedly written by the Maoist leaders that established not only the conspiracy of Bhima-Koregaon but also larger plots like killing Modi. They would, however, not touch the named culprits in Ekbote and Bhide. Ekbote was arrested at the instance of the Supreme Court to be bailed out after a few days and Bhide would get a clean chit from the chief minister. The politics in it was clear, as there were insinuation to Congress and Prakash Ambedkar, who has been trying to forge unity of all opposition parties in Maharashtra. Bhide’s protection gets directly linked with Modi as he adored him publicly.

Meanwhile, the Karnataka police would unearth the network behind the murders of Gauri Lankesh, the last in series of the murders of four rationalists, including Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Com Govind Pansare and Prof M M Kalburgi. Following that, the Maharashtra ATS [Anti-Terrorism Squad] exposed the horrific murder infrastructure linked with Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. The government, with mere suspicion of plotting the murder of Modi, would slap UAPA [Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act] on the tens of intellectuals and activists, but would be reluctant to arrest the culprits who killed not one but four important people, and who were caught with huge stocks of explosives and arms! As such, these plots of murdering Modi were played out at least four times in Gujarat when he was the chief minister, where many innocent people were encountered to complete the drama, as the SITs [Special Investigation Teams] under supervision of the Supreme Court exposed.

As the demand for action against the Sanatan Sanstha and the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti resonated, the government vindictively escalated its actions against the activists, this time the incredible kinds, who had impeccable public reputation of being intellectuals and activists in their own right.

Another dimension to this construction is the electoral strategy of the BJP. In the year of elections, which assumes a ‘do or die’ battle in the scheme of the BJP, in so far as it expects to consummate its long-cherished goal of establishing a Hindu Rashtra in India, it is vital to consolidate its constituency with nationalistic credo and weaken the potential unity of those who were not likely to vote for it. Busting the imaginary Maoist network would do this trick: it would steel its own constituency, convert some sections of the Marathas to its side, and Dalits, knowing their allergic attitude to the communist left, would be detached from its radical elements, with the possibility of being wooed to support the BJP.

It is thus clear that the entire operation is going according to the strategy of BJP governments, both at the centre as well as in Maharashtra.

HSA: Harassment of activists and writers through the police and courts appear to be on the rise in India. What other forms of attack on dissent by the government do you foresee?

AT: It is difficult to imagine to what extent the BJP governments will go in decimating dissent. Because, already ‘Maoist’ and ‘terrorist’ tags are being used with impunity to incarcerate people. Up till now, not-so-well-known people were targeted, but this time they have attacked the ones who may be called the topmost pro-people activists and intellectuals in the country. The message is loud and clear to all others: to not speak against the government. There has been an alarming rate of encounter killings in BJP-ruled states, particularly in the Yogi government in Uttar Pradesh. Then there are killer gangs and lynching squads who kill people with impunity. Nothing remains as such undone. What might happen is that the pace of these things may go up still further.

HSA: How will this impact other dissenting voices? How do you cope with the challenge yourself?

AT: Personally, my world is suddenly shattered. The manner in which three police vans entered the campus of my institutes with some two dozen policemen, terrorised people around, and opened my house in our absence despite the advice of senior professors that they should wait for the director to come before opening the house. My students would look at me with bewilderment. Fortunately, the action is so bizarre that none of them believe the government story that I had links with the Maoists. My wide network of friends and professionals may not understand it. All my investment in building a network of Industry Associates for my ambitious Programme on Big Data would go down the drain, endangering the careers of my students who are admitted in the course. There are several repercussions in the professional sphere. But the suffering and mental agony my family is made to undergo is more painful. My wife, the granddaughter of Babasaheb Ambedkar, whom Modi never tires in feigning devotion to, would not have bargained for this fate, without the slightest wrong doing on our parts. I can bet the entire police plot will be exposed as a big fabrication, but it will take years. When the process itself is a punishment, there does not remain a hope of justice. If one goes by record, over 99 percent Maoist-accused are acquitted for the lack of any evidence against them but there is no scope to ask the counter question as to why they were arrested in the first place, who was responsible for their arrest, and holding them accountable, at least compensating the loss the innocent person suffered. It is a bizarre state that the Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to individuals, which are brutally trampled upon by the simple policemen with draconian laws to protect them. Effectively, there is no defence for an individual against the mighty state. Basically, there is no accountability for the powers that be in India. It tears apart all pretensions of this country to be a democracy!

It is a scary prospect that I shudder to imagine.

HSA: You have compared what is happening today in India with what happened during the Emergency. What are the similarities and are there significant differences?

AT: The Emergency was certainly a nightmare for the Indian people and needs to be condemned. But all said and done, it was according to the Constitution. It was a declared emergency, which would come to an end. But the current repression is worse because it ordinarily crushes people without any need to declare extraordinary circumstances. It only reminds one of the fascist formations in Italy in the 1930s and Nazi ones in Germany in the 1940s. It creates new normals that are antitheses of democracy.

HSA: You have described Indian democracy as a ‘fascistic democracy’. Can you explain your use of the term?

AT: India flaunts itself as the biggest democracy in the world, but if you take a close look, you will find that it has been the rule of moneybags and traditional high-caste elites from the beginning. The label of democracy is only justified by the periodic elections that happen in the country. But the entire design of these elections (first past the post) has been such that they could be won only with money and muscle power. The poor people and minority communities remain effectively disenfranchised. The entire colonial infrastructure that the post-colonial state adopted for governance became, in the hands of the native ruling classes, a monopoly of power of the upper castes backed by the money power of the businesses. Implanted on the feudal culture, it takes the fascist form right from the village level to the level of capital.

HSA: While the term ‘anti-national’ has been applied to a wide range of dissenting people and opinions, why do you think labels like ‘Naxals’ or ‘urban Naxals’ have been applied in particular to the individuals arrested or raided this week?

AT: The anti-national is a propaganda label; it does not have punitive provision in law. But Maoist becomes a dreaded label particularly because the Maoist Party is a banned party. Antinational could be used in a jingoistic manner to denigrate targetted people in the society, and, of course, to instigate the so called ‘nationalist’ gangs to teach them a lesson. But ‘Naxals’ and ‘urban Naxals’ are used to punish people who are anti-government. Both are dissents, but it differs in kind as well as in degree. Both can be arbitrarily pasted on people; the former just to denigrate a person in public but the latter to materially devastate him.

HSA: What kind of response do you think is necessary to resist the tide of authoritarianism in the country?

AT: Authoritarianism is ingrained in the Indian system, but it has intensified since the 1990s with the Social Darwinist ethos of neoliberalism. The previous authoritarianism was accommodative in the sense that it operated on a cultural substratum of caste. It did not have to be ruthless. But post-1990, the ruling classes are extra vigilant to suppress any resistance in the bud. This is manifested everywhere in the galloping increase in budget allocations on the police and military during the first decade of globalisation.

It requires a broad mass movement to demand repeal of all draconian laws. Basically they serve as the instruments to terrorise people into silence. I expect, with the extreme point having been reached, the people would wake up to the reality and come together to dismantle the infrastructure of state terrorism. An independent commission should be set up to examine constitutionality of this infrastructure from the standpoint of fundamental rights of an individual. If an individual does not have a defence against the mighty state, the entire constitutional superstructure is useless.

HSA: Do you see the emergence of a political force that would provide that resistance?

AT: Unfortunately, I do not think it is happening at the moment. But there is a huge accumulated unease in people which is bound to create the requisite political force not in the very distant future. The BJP under the tutelage of the Modi-Shah duo has played a risky game to fortify its electoral position, but, in the process, has alienated even its supporters. The demonetisation bereft of any economic rationale, the implementation of the GST without proper planning, the Hindutva hoodlums enjoying the confidence of the state machinery, and the galloping of atrocities on Dalits, Adivasis, women, Muslims and those who speak against the government has sufficiently annoyed people who supported it until recent elections. What is needed is the leadership to translate this massive disgruntlement of the masses into a coherent resistance force. I am hopeful this will be done soonest.


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