‘KILLING DISSENT’: HOW THE GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN SILENCING OPPOSING IDEAS AND VOICES

08 March 2020

More than 10,000 odd women who took to the streets to demand their wages (Rs. 3,500) that they had not been paid in more than a year, were threatened by the government saying that if they didn’t return to work, their incentives would be cut. The Bihar government issued a notification to all ASHA workers asking them to return to work and present reports of their duties to the district deputy commissioner every day, failing which their incentives would be cut back on. It also said that the officials and doctors of primary healthcare centers must hold the ASHA workers responsible and ask them to work regularly; saying that the state government would fulfill their demands ‘soon’. This threat is just another example of the government’s tactics that it uses to stifle protests throughout the country. In the biggest wave of dissent that India has ever seen, people from different fields, organizations and professions have come to call out the government on its fascist anti-people policies. Here are some examples.

1)         Use of brute police force against those protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and an all-India National Register of Citizens (NRC) – The ruling government never imagined that the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) as an Act would evoke feelings of such displeasure against the government in the people. Protests first broke out in Assam, with thousands coming out to raise their voices against the Act that could impact the language, culture and identity of the state. With protests refusing to die down, the government not only curbed the right to protest by slapping Section 144 throughout the state, but also used indiscriminate police force against violent protestors, charging them with lathis, lobbing tear gas, throwing stun grenades and leaving them socially stranded by cutting off the internet. The fight against the CAA-NRC then spread through the country when people saw it for its religiously discriminative nature and its potentially harmful effect on the marginalized. Students, who came forth to foster the movement, were brutally beaten up by the police, especially in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh at the Jamia Millia Islamia University and the Aligarh Muslim University. In Uttar Pradesh, the protests took a nightmarish turn with the police singling out minorities and resulting in the death of over 18 people, all Muslims. Section 144 was arbitrarily imposed in different states of the country and people, including activists, senior citizens and minors were detained and beaten up in police custody.  

2)         Attack on the students of JNU for protesting against the fee hike – In November 2019, the students of JNU vehemently protested against the almost 300% fee hike that was proposed to be implemented. Demanding a complete roll back of the same as it would adversely impact students from the economically backward communities, the students sought to have a word with the Vice Chancellor to voice their concern. However, this did not happen and the Vice Chancellor never spoke to the students. As students engaged in peaceful protests, once again, the worst treatment was meted out to them. The Delhi Police was called in to quash their agitation and many students, including the differently abled, were injured in the baton charge and use of water cannons. The students had then decided to boycott their semester exam registrations to be held in January 2020. However, once again, a brutal attack was launched, this time by alleged right wing masked goons who beat up students and teachers alike for protesting the fee hike and boycotting examinations. Many allege that the attack by the right-wingers, the inaction of the police and the complicity of the University administration was state-sponsored.

3)         Silencing Kashmir – Before Kashmir could even wake up on August 5, 2019 and gain a semblance of how their future was going to be changed forever and try to have a say in it, the government put the state under a military lockdown. The BJP had decided to abrogate Article 370, revoking the state’s special status and it not only issued a clampdown and detained political leaders, activists and children, but cut off all communication, left families stranded, people without medical aid, businesses kaput and attacked journalists who were trying to expose the ground reality of the situation. Today, Kashmir is only crawling back to normalcy, with no end of its issues in sight.  

4)         Using social media to quash dissent and spread hate – With a troll army as its arsenal, the right-wing has been seen trying to quell dissent whether through elaborate campaigns against protests rocking the country, or by registering cases against those who say anything opposing either the ruling government or its leaders. Not only this, it has been seen on more than one occasion that leaders of the ruling government have indulged in hate speech and made communally insensitive statements against minorities and the marginalized.

The above instances demonstrate the rising intolerance of the ruling government and the various ways it employs to muzzle and stifle voices, ideas and thoughts that are against its ideology.

Sabrangindia

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Kabeer Katlat

The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history.