'No' to interim Bail

The Modi government is hell bent on crushing any voice of dissent that challenges its authoritarianism. During the Bangladesh Liberation War the Pakistan army decided to physically liquidate Bengali intellectuals so that the Bengalis as a nation could never raise the demand of self determination. The way they butchered writers, academics, political and social activists-and children and women, scores of women were raped and murdered, had only one parallel in history-extermination of Jews by Nazi Germany. In India today, the Modi dispensation is yet to launch physical annihilation of intellectuals but they have already immobilisied rnost the vocal section of them by throwing them behind bars under false cases. The Supreme Court's rejection of the plea by Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde seeking anticipatory bail in the cases registered against them in relation to the violence at Bhima-Koregaon on 1st January 2018 is anything but shocking. With fife Supreme Court refusing to grant bail the arrest of Navlakha and Teltumbde is imminent, may be in next three weeks or so. Nine other activists and intellectuals who have been accused in this case and charged with unbailable sections of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have been imprisoned since 2018. They languish in jails for years, if not decades. Nobody knows how many undertrials are breaking their heads against the walls with no hope release in their life time.

The apex court's order to deny interim bail is bone-chilling given that the case against the activists is based on very thin evidence. Moreover, the cyber forensic analysis by credible investigative journalists and technical experts discredit the evidence used by Pune police to incriminate the activists. The analysis reveals that the letters which were allegedly recovered from the hard disk of Rona Wilson, one of the nine activists accused in the case, and used by the police to link the intellectuals to a banned political party, namely the CPI-Maoist are most likely to have Iran planted in me disk through use of malware which allowed remote access to Wilson's computer.

The government is soaring few chances for truth to emerge in this case. In January 2020, more than a year after the charge sheets were filed by the Pune police, the Union Home ministry got the case suddenly transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and thus brought the case under its control at a time when the Home department in the newly formed Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra had announced a review of the case, setting up of a Special Investigating Team (SIT) and dropping of the false cases against the activists.

While full-blown attempts are being made by the government to incriminate the eleven intellectuals in a fabricated case, the investigation into the role of Hindutva brigade reportedly led by Milind Ekbote and Manohar Bhide in carrying out planned organised attacks on Dalits at Bhima Koregaon has come to a standstill. The state government's failure to set up a SIT shows that the real perpetrators of violence are being shielded from prosecution.

These developments in the case and now the rejection of pre-arrest bail to two of the renowned stalwarts of the democratic rights movement in the country on the grounds of what is not just flimsy but manipulated evidence shows the desperation of the government to repress democratic voices and spread a sense of fear amongst those who oppose the anti-people policies and actions of the Modi Fascist regime. May be it is the most notorious conspiracy against the Rights activists of the country. Communists in this country have been facing conspiracy case since the days and in Independent India their numbers are multiplying while sedition charges are used with impunity to terrorise ordinary people. The citizens in India have developed a habit of viewing the judiciary as last resort for redress of their grievances. No. that phase is gone. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rulers are increasingly utilising judiciary, supposed to be independent, in partisan way, destroying the very spirit of the Constitution, to further their political interests.

The Modi government's latest move to nominate former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in Rajya Sabha, just four months after he retired, has literally dealt body blow to judicial independence. The founding fathers of Indian Constitution may turn in grave But the persons in power at the moment are killing even the semblance of judicial neutrality.

Ironically, the former CJI himself had said in 2018 that post-retirement jobs are a scar on judicial independence which is essential for a functional democracy like India. But this gentle man is now saying something else--'the legislative and judiciary must at some point of time work together for nation-building and that his presence in Parliament would be an opportunity to project the views of the judiciary before the legislature. No doubt a spacious argument! May be grapes are no longer sour, they are sweet now. Courtesy: BJP government. The judiciary, the last bastion of a helpless citizen is itself now a prisoner of the ruling party and how could prisoners suffering in inhuman conditions in India;s over-crowded jails expect justice from former judges who are "busy to share post-retirement placements which are anything but rewards from the political establishment of the day.

If they-retired judges-are ready to help the executive, cushy postings are very much in after they demit office. 'No' to anticipatory Ball to the Elgar Parishad accused should be viewed against the backdrop of a broader perspective, larger all India perspective to defeat the mischievous design of the ruling BJP.

Meanwhile, Mumbai Rises to Save Democracy (MBSP), comprising more than a dozen civil and human rights bodies, has issued strong statement criticising the top court's rejection of interim bail which is inhuman and makes democratic rights more farcical than ever before. Strangely, political parties even on the left, are silent on the gross violation of justice.

For one thing, something sinister is cooking, looking at the urgency with which the Bhima Koregaon case has been shifted from the Pune Police to the Centre, under the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The arrests that have happened under the current regime are neither random nor to do only with resisting the current regime. The Supreme Court's rejection of bail pleas bv Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde has serious consequences not just for human rights but also signalling the changing landscape of political discourse. These moves need to be seen as part of a larger narrative that is changing the terms of the way people think of politics and democracy.

Disorder is the order of the day. In the 19305 Stalin and Hitler had a deal until they didn't. Trump-Kirn in 2020 are ever on the verge of a deal. Trump-Putin are ever flirting! Capital markets across the world rise and fall on whispers of a Trump-Xi deal that might put the US-China economy in order globally. What scares all the rulers is when workers confront them as a class as in Chile today, or Iraq and Lebanon or Iran where heretofore ruling elites had been able to entrench themselves through ethnic and racial divisions. Modi is lucky in the sense that in India workers are not combating his anti-people policies as a class. As long as toilers in this hapless country remain divided on caste and religious lines the Modis have nothing to lose and Rights Activists have no respite from being haunted by storm troopers of the saffron establishment and their ever obedient Police and judiciary as well.

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Vol. 52, No. 42, April 19 - 25, 2020