Targeting Intellectuals
Association For Democratic Rights (AFDR), District unit Bathinda, has strongly condemned the arrest of the eminent intellectuals Prof Haragopal, Venugopal, Prof Katyayani and many others in Hyderabad while holding an indoor meeting to participate in programme of democratic teachers federation demanding the release of Varvara Rao and other intellectuals. In a press statement released by District President Principal Bagga Singh, General Secratery Prirpal Singh and Press Secretary Dr Ajit Pal Singh said that this meeting was obstructed by Telangana Police. Telengana NGO Bhavan was locked and hundreds of teachers attending the meeting along with the speakers were arrested. Police even blocked the road leading to the meeting hall to stop the public.

They strongly condemned this undemocratic and inhuman act of Telangana government that it's shameful to disrupt an indoor meeting of teachers who want to speak about the incarceration of fellow teachers like Varavararao, Saibaba, Shoma Sen and other intellectuals. They also said that it's shameful to boost about the percentage of polling as a mark of democracy while suppressing the democratic voices simultaneously. They urged all democrats to condemn and protest against this fascist attitude of Telengana government. They also demanded their immediate release and demanded the Telengana government to allow this meeting to be held peacefully.
Dr Ajit Pat Singh, Press Secretary, AFDR unit Bathinda

More Arrests
Prof Haragopal, Venugopal, Prof Katyayanl and many others were arrested in Hyderabad on April 13, while holding an Indoor meeting.

Meeting demanding the release of Varvara Rao and and other intellectuals to be held by Democratic Teachers Federation on April 12 at 10 am was obstructed by Telengana police. Telengana NGO Bhavan was locked and hundreds of teachers attending the meeting along with the speakers were arrested.

We strongly condemn this undemocratic and inhuman act of Telengana government. It's a shameful act to disrupt an indoor meeting of teachers who want to speak about the incarceration of fellow teachers like Varavara Rao, Saibaba, Shoma Sen and other intellectuals.
Revolutionary Writers' Association (Virasam)

A 'State of Exception'
In the last three decades, Kashmir has emerged as a 'State of Exception' and witnessed gross human/civil rights violations after the enactment of the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990. The human rights organisations have documented multiple instances of extrajudicial killings, custodial torture and deaths, rapes and enforced disappearances in the Kashmir Valley.

Very recently, the Jammu and Kashmir government headed by the Governor passed an unusual order banning the movement of civilian vehicles twice a week from dawn to dusk until May 31, 2019, on the 270 km Jammu-Srinagar-Baramulla national highway. The stated purpose is to facilitate the movement of security personnel on the highway during the parliamentary elections. The very first day of the closure on the highway (April 7) disrupted distribution of essentials and halted all passenger services. The ban is likely to have disastrous effects on the economy of the Kashmir valley and everyday life of the people.

The power of armed forces being exercised by the Indian state in the Kashmir valley reminds people of the mode of exercise of colonial power noted by Frantz Fanon in his classic book, The Wretched of the Earth :"In the colonies it is the policeman and the soldier who are the officially instituted go-betweens, the spokesmen of the settler and his rule of oppression... It is obvious here that the agents of government speak the language of pure force".
Arup Kumar Sen, Kolkata

An Appeal to non-BJP Opposition Parties
The ensuing 2019 polls may prove to be a watershed in India's political history, as were the 1977 elections forty-two years ago. In 1977, elections were held after a declared Emergency, during which the Constitution was suspended, political activity disallowed and opposition leaders and activists imprisoned. The success of non-Congress parties in those elections strengthened the electoral system in Indian democracy. Since then all ruling parties losing elections have demitted office gracefully, rather than attempting to subvert the popular mandate.

However, since 2014, the Modi government has attacked democracy in more insidious, thorough-going and indirect ways. This attack is aimed at weakening the institutional and popular foundations of democracy in India. It should be stressed that the regime has functioned in close proximity with its controlling body, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Its policies are designed in pursuance of the RSS goal of militarising the political culture and creating an atmosphere of perpetual communal conflict. These are some of the elements of this strategy.

The Modi regime has devalued constitutional institutions, subverted the separation of powers, and used executive power for sectarian and corrupt purposes. It has diminished the legislative authority of the parliament, hidden information from parliamentary committees, and used it as a platform for political abuse. The use of CRI against political opponents, meddling in its functioning—including subverting its internal structure with the help of hand-picked officials is one of its infamous deeds. It has lied to the judiciary, and interfered in judicial appointments with mala-tide intentions. Governors appointed by it in states ruled by opposition parties have acted shamelessly as its agents.

The Cabinet system is in a shambles, the principle of collective responsibility thrown to the winds. The PMO and a clutch of favoured officials and non-constitutional authorities such as the NSA have usurped the power to make major decisions. This has been exposed most clearly in the Rafale deal.

The Modi regime has tried to subvert the federal structure of the Union to concentrate central power. Agencies such as the CBI, NIA, ED have been used opportunistically for this purpose.

The Modi regime has shamelessly subverted India's criminal justice system. The use of sedition law and the NSA against students, journalists and activists who question it has become pervasive. Prosecution trials of Hindutva activists accused of terrorist acts have been wrecked from within. Upright officials have been victimised, and even judges threatened discreetly. The file containing evidence on Aseemanand's involvement in the (Malegaon blast case) disappeared. Crucial evidence on the death of Judge Loya and two of his friends was apparently ignored and the case was subject to an indecent burial—the manner in which this was done has brought disrepute to the Indian judiciary.

In states like UP, police have unleashed a reign of fake encounters to eliminate and threaten opposition party workers. In scores of incidents involving public lynching of poor people transporting cows, the so-called cow-vigilantes filmed themselves carrying out these brutal acts, indicating their confidence that they would be protected. In sum, the BJP/RSS regime has openly enabled hooliganism and violence. With what face can it confront Maoist and jehadi violence?

The Modi regime has tried to destroy the autonomy of important institutions of governance, which are necessary to maintain impartiality, professionalism and transparency. This became obvious in the case of the RBI, NSSO and CBI. The autonomy of institutions such as the Election Commission, Central Information Commission, etc has been sought to be compromised. Even more sinister is the attempt to drag the military and security organs into their political campaign.

The Modi regime has used state power to advance the totalitarian programme of the RSS and its affiliates. Marginalised communities have suffered the most from this policy. Religious minorities have been threatened and attempts made to erode their political representation and constitutionally protected lights. There have been a series of attacks on Dalits who question the caste system; and Adivasis trying to assert their autonomy. It tried to pass a communalised Citizenship Amendment bill which makes a mockery of the secular Constitution, and would have destroyed the delicate fabric of community relationships in North-East India.

The Modi regime has tried to criminalise India's political culture and reduce it to gutter politics. The Prime Minister and BJP President have lied in public rallies and used offensive language against their political opponents. Its armies on social media have systematically circulated rumours and fake claims, and trolled critics of the government with hate messages in foul language including threats of rape and molestation. Organised groups have attacked and threatened ordinary citizens in the name of patriotism.

In the aftermath of the Pulwama suicide bombing, RSS fronts (ABVP, VHP, Bajrang Dal) have attacked innocent Kashmiri students and traders in places like Dehra Dun, thus further undermining social integrity, which depends on the impartial rule of law. This propaganda campaign was so poisonous that the CRP command had to run a programme to counter the communal poison being spread on social media by the so-called patriots. Senior retired Armed Forces officers have denounced these attempts at politicising the Services. It is now clear that anyone who differs from the RSS/BJP runs the risk of being attacked as 'anti-national'.

All these are taking India towards a totalitarian and violent mass culture, which will be a threat to all who do not come out to support the regime. Any successes of BJP in the on going elections will deepen the hollowing out of Indian democray. All non-BJP political parties, irrespective of their programmes and regardless of the social groups they represent, will be victims of the implosion of democracy under BJP/RSS rule.

People's Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) appeals to all opposition political parties to realise and confront the gravity of the threat to democracy. It is a time to rise above political competition. Political parties can function only in a democratic institutional structure and popular culture. If Modi, the BJP and the RSS succeed in their plans, India's time-tested democratic institutions will be destroyed, and political parties will become irrelevant.

Besides an operational and effective electoral understanding, it is essential that parties project a minimum programme to undo the most insidious actions of the Modi regime. This should include the following :
1.  The law for electoral bonds passed by the Modi government, allowing anonymous corporate contributions should be scrapped. All contributions to political parties should be transparent.
2.  The colonial law on sedition should be scrapped.
3.  A public commitment to strengthen citizens' rights by not allowing misuse of draconian laws like the NSA, and further strengthen the right to information (RTI). A charter of citizen's rights should be brought out.
4.  Strengthening of right-based social welfare programmes like the MNREGA.
5.  Laws are needed against social media abuse, particularly ones directed at women, in the light of threats of sexual violence received by many women activists, writers and journalists.
Battini Rao, Convener, PADS, Dilip Simeon, Author and Historian, Former teacher at Ramjas College, DU, Dipak Dholakia, TU & Social Activist, Delhi, Harsh Kapoor, Editor, SACW, Kiran Shaheen, Social Activist, Delhi, Sanjay Kumar, DU, Delhi, Asit Das, Writer and Social Activist

Democracy–French Style
...a "73-year-old gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protester" who sustained a fractured skull after riot police charged demonstrators in an off-limits area of Nice.

Genevieve Legay was taken to hospital with serious head injuries on Saturday. Jean-Michel Pretre, the Nice public prosecutor, said an investigation had been opened but it appeared Legay had hit her head on a concrete bollard as police tried to clear protesters.

Macron, who was in Nice on Monday along with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, who is visiting France, told the Nice-Matin newspaper he wished Legay a "speedy recovery", but simultaneously criticised her.

"When one is fragile and risks being shoved, one does not go to places that are declared off-limits and one does not put oneself in that kind of situation," he said.

Macron added: "This lady was not in contact with the forces of law and order. She put herself in a situation where she went, quite deliberately, to an area that was off-limits and was caught up in a movement of panic.

I regret this deeply, but we must respect public order everywhere."

He concluded: "I wish her a speedy recovery ... and perhaps a kind of wisdom."

The remarks brought a swift riposte from the Legay family lawyer, Arie Alimi, who said: "I don't find it very reasonable to criticise a person who is in a hospital bed, in a serious condition, or to consider that the elderly cannot express their convictions on the streets.

The Legay family plans to file an official complaint against police for "wilful violence in a group with arms by those in a position of public authority over vulnerable persons"...

Last week many citizens of France were outraged knowing that the government has given up order to the Sentinel soldiers to mobilize for Giles Jaunes protest and was given power to shoot on yellow vests protest as and when they think it necessary.
Sandeep Banerjee, Kolkata

Vol. 51, No. 43, Apr 28 - May 4, 2019