Intellectuals Feel a Threat to Democracy from Institutional Decay

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While ‘black laws’ are being used to put down the struggles of the labouring masses rapists, murderers and hate mongers are being showered with state patronage.

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI — In the wake of the disconcerting situation prevailing in the country owing to systematic and systemic reign of terror being unleashed on the people, speakers at a seminar expressed grave concern over the draconian ‘black laws’ used to put down the struggles of the labouring masses and the manner in which the ‘law enforcement’ taking in their sweep students, academicians, political and human rights activists, artists, Dalits, Muslims and tribal people while rapists, murderers and hate mongers are being showered with state patronage. Meek subservience to power by the people is the enduring demand by the rulers in this ecosystem of terror.

The seminar titled “Undermining Institutions – a Threat to Democracy” was organised by Jan Hastakshep, a forum dedicated to campaign against fascist designs, on November 8, 2022 in the Conference Hall at the Press Club of India. Among the speakers at the well-attended seminar were Justice Anjana Prakash, retired judge of Patna High Court, senior journalist Saba Naqvi, N D Pancholi of Delhi PUCL and noted human rights lawyer and activist Teesta Setalvad who addressed the meeting through a video message due to her last day inability to come to Delhi in person due to ill-health. National President of the Indian Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), Com Aparna also made an invited intervention in the discussion.

Addressing the gathering, Justice Anjana Prakash emphasised that despite draconian provisions in the laws earlier there remained a scope for the judiciary to intervene in the enforcement of these laws to provide relief to the people. However, the kind of amendments to different laws that have been brought about by the present government severely infringe upon the integrity of the judicial process itself and run contrary to the fundamental constitutional provisions that uphold the rights of the citizens.

This has severely curtailed the ability of the courts to provide relief to the victims of these laws, chiefly the UAPA. She also said there was a need for the courts to question the legal and constitutional premise of the amendments that have been brought in laws like the UAPA which have made it near impossible for the courts to grant bail to those booked under UAPA.

Speaking on the occasion, Saba Naqvi reminded the audience of the fact that 8 November marked the 6th anniversary of Modi government’s disastrous decision of ‘demonitisation’ which led to ruining of a vast unorganised sector of the economy and the loss of many a livelihoods that reduced the people to a situation of utter helplessness.

With the insidious corporatisation of the media and control over it by corporate houses that are the chief patrons of the present regime the mainstream media today has become a powerful medium of spreading hate and targeting of the oppressed sections of the society.

She cited examples of how the Parliament had been rendered meaningless by the Modi Government to force legislative measures in furtherance of its divisive agenda. On top of that the Opposition also has been effectively marginalised. Its ineptness owes to its own politics as also the overbearing advantage in terms of resources that the RSS-BJP government has ensured for itself through measures like electoral bonds.

All this has paved the way for systematically inflicting even greater assault on the constitutional scheme of things. The latest Supreme Court judgment upholding 10 percent reservation for the upper caste economically weaker sections is a case in point.

Teesta Setalvad, in her address titled as – ‘Hate speech is rampant while free speech is criminalized’, brought out the multifarious ways in which hate speech is being spread and condoned in the society, imperiling the interests of the people and the country at large. She emphasised that “subversive attempts are being made to perpetrate hate speech and legitimize hate letting as a means of dehumanizing and invisiblising large sections of Indian population, specifically the Muslims.”

She further emphasised that “the widespread and pretty portent and brazen use of hate speech against politically targeted sections not only makes the human conditions prone to discrimination and outright violence, but it also renders the constitutional rights and guarantees enshrined in Articles 14, 15, 16, 19 and 21 of the Constitution hollowed out and shallow.” She asserted that “The radio silence from the top political leadership occupying Constitutional positions in fact gives the stamp of complicity to this hate speech.”

In his address, N D Pancholi stressed upon the importance of mobilising wide sections of the people in defence of ‘Democratic Rights’. It is only in raising the voices of protest that there shall remain the hope of being able to defeat the onslaught on Peoples’ rights and Democracy in the country. He gave the example of TADA which, even though made into a law by the Parliament, had to be withdrawn in face of massive opposition by the people.

In her intervention Com Aparna also drew attention to the attack on the federal structure of the Constitution and the rights of the States by the RSS-BJP government which has led to increasing difficulty at the end of the States to be able to take measures for fulfilling the interests of their people.

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Cover photo: Among the speakers at the well-attended seminar titled “Undermining Institutions – a Threat to Democracy” were Justice Anjana Prakash, retired judge of Patna High Court, senior journalist Saba Naqvi, N D Pancholi of Delhi PUCL and noted human rights lawyer and activist Teesta Setalvad who addressed the meeting through a video message.

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