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Modi government intimidates critics amid coronavirus: Indian-American professor

NEW YORK, 20 Sep — An Indian-American academic has denounced the “systematic” abuse of police and judicial powers in India – with the apparent blessing of the Modi government – that threatens Indian democracy . “(T) here is a growing body of evidence that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is using state power to intimidate its political opposition as well as critics,” Sumit Ganguly, a professor of political science, told the Indiana University, said. , Bloomington, writes in an opinion piece in ‘Foreign Policy’, a prestigious American magazine.

“And amid a coronavirus pandemic and other concerns for the international media, there is a danger that New Delhi’s erosion of democratic values ​​may pass unnoticed before it is too late.” Ganguly cites a number of instances of the Modi government’s attempts to silence critics of its policies, including the arrest and detention of Palaniappan Chidambaram, a former finance minister of the Indian National Opposition Party, in August 2019. charges of bribery and corruption.

Chidambaram, a lawyer, was able to obtain appropriate legal advice and was eventually released on bail. “Without taking a stand on the truth of the charges, the move makes a leading politician of the opposition who has long been voiced in his criticism of the Modi government,” he writes. “There is, of course, corruption in India, but the BJP has yet to explain why Chidambaram was specifically singled out.”

Ganguly said the Modi government also uses anti-terrorist laws, especially the Draconian Law on Illegal Activities (Prevention) (UAPA), which allows the state to designate individuals as extremely vulnerable areas. The cited professor, one of the most prominent such cases, stems from a riot that took place in January 2018 during an annual gathering of Dalits members of the so-called lowest caste in India – in the town of Bhima Koregaon for a military victory against high castle leaders more than 200 years ago.

Several left-wing intellectuals and activists were detained under the UAPA last February on charges of “promoting hostility between groups” and being involved in fighting terrorism, it was pointed out. They included, among others, Varavara Rao, a 79-year-old left-wing poet and writer; Arun Ferreira, a criminal defense attorney; Sudha Bharadwaj, a trade union leader; and Gautam Navlakha, a human rights activist and longtime critic of state coercion in India.

‘It was hardly a group of people who would probably be involved in terrorism. “Worse still, the local police claimed to have discovered a conspiracy to kill Modi,” Ganguly wrote.
“Despite the joint efforts of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which brought the lawsuit against the activists in the first place, the authorities could not gather evidence linking them to any of the alleged charges,” he said. “Nevertheless, the high court in Bombay refused to grant bail to several of the most important prisoners, emphasizing the reluctance of the court to stand against the current government.

“Worse, the NIA’s persistence in lawfully harassing these activists underscores how a leading investigative body has been transformed into a toy of government in its office.”
Ganguly wrote: ‘As their legal fate continues to unfold, the government has now chosen to pursue another group of politicians, university professors and activists who they say were responsible for inciting riots in New Delhi last February. Among them is Jayati Ghosh, a well-known economics professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University; Sitaram Yechury, the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist); Yogendra Yadav, a well-known opinion pollster and co-founder of a civic organization; and Rahul Roy, a prominent documentary filmmaker. Each of them is accused of taking part in a wide-ranging conspiracy to provoke the interfaith riots that swept through the capital.

In fact, the professor wrote that the riots largely stemmed from protest actions against Modi’s anti-Muslim civil amendment law. ‘Most of the protesters were university students and civil society activists – and most of the demonstrations were peaceful. But there is ample evidence that Hindu crowds, many of them affiliated with the BJP, attacked the protesters and attacked them. They also used the cover of the unrest to attack defenseless Muslim communities in New Delhi. The most disturbing, perhaps the New Delhi police, which is directly under the control of the federal Interior Ministry – and not the local state government – supported or stood by the rioters as the riots continued rapidly.

‘The central government no longer uses those who were actually involved in organized mob violence against unhappy communities, but now uses its powers to intimidate those it sees as critics of government policies. This blatant, biased use of police forces threatens to further undermine the already troubled rule of law in India. Political bias is not new. The most serious historical examples are the anti-Sikh riots in New Delhi in 1984 after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, for which the blame lies at the door of Gandhi’s Congress party, and anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 during the term of Modi as the prime minister of the state. ”

Finally, Ganguly wrote: ‘Both sets of incidents are a stain on the country’s judicial record – but they are largely seen as decay in the broader history of democratic India. The systematic abuse of police and judicial powers now under way – with the apparent blessing of the Modi government – amounts to a new and great challenge to India’s commitment to impartial justice. This is a dangerous trend that, if left unchecked, could dampen Indian democracy. ‘

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