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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 44, New Delhi, October 17, 2020

Letter to the Readers - Mainstream, October 17, 2020 | Lockdown Edition no. 30

Saturday 17 October 2020

Letter to the Readers – Mainstream, October 17

Mehbooba Mufti, the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, has been released from detention after a period of 14 months. She was released just ahead of the October 15 hearing in the Supreme Court of her daughter’s petition which alleged illegal detention. It remains to be seen when all who had opposed abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, dissolution and reorganisation of J&K will be released. We hope that Mehbooba Mufti and all other senior political leaders of the former State of Jammu and Kashmir will be allowed to function freely by the administration. How can the government continue to make claims of ‘normalcy’ and with no political activity being allowed? The Supreme Court is yet to hear the legal challenge to the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A which took away the special status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir without any consultation with the people or their representatives.

In this context, it is important to mention that the over two decade long parleys that started after the 1997 ceasefire with leaders of the Naga insurgency seem to have been derailed. A Framework Agreement of August 2015 had been signed between the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah). The Naga leaders of the NSCN (IM) claim that they have felt let down by previous undertakings made by R.N. Ravi the former interlocutor of the Central Government for talks with the Nagas and now the Governor of the State of Nagaland. Among supposedly agreed understandings were the right to keep a separate flag and to have a separate Constitution. The State of Jammu and Kashmir too had separate Constitution and a separate State Assembly till a little over a year ago till it’s unilateral doing away with. It is difficult to imagine how the Government of India would convince the Naga leaders to fully trust any constitutional guarantees now that they have seen what has been undone in Kashmir.

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On October 12, 2020 the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court gave a real dressing down to topmost UP State officials over the course of events and misconduct by Police and Top administration over the rape-cum-attempt-to-murder case in Hathras District. We don’t know what the impact of any of this will have. To complicate matters, the State of Uttar Pradesh has now involved the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the investigation. We hope the Supreme Court will administer and follow up on what the CBI is up to.

We have seen the misuse of top central agencies with political intent. So we don’t know where we are headed. The victim’s family needs protection from upper-caste militiamen but also from any intimidation by the investigating officers involved.

Crimes against the Dalits and lower castes will continue unabated till there is a cross-regional long term social and political mobilisation under a new leadership with outside support from Left and democratic groups. The old Dalit political parties in UP and Bihar seem to have reached a political dead-end. There is need for a nationwide civil rights movement that doesn’t get trapped in identity politics and organises on the question of equal citizenship.

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A Delhi Police officer assaulted Journalist Ahan Joshua Penkar, associated with the Caravan magazine while he was reporting in north Delhi on October 16. An ACP ranked policeman apparently kicked and slapped Penkar inside the Model Town Police Station. This has been considered routine behaviour by policemen when faced with the poor and the working classes and they seem to get away with it. But in a growing and noticeable trend media personnel, students from well-known institutions and articulate citizens are getting a taste of police violence. This isn’t just about the lack of training, and growing pressures on work, there is a new and deliberate brazenness.

A certain odour of impunity seems to be spreading fast in the National Capital since the new Home Minister took charge. We hear more and more of the police trying to fix and intimidate people who raise questions, participate in protests and investigate and report on protests or police misconduct. There have been numerous incidents involving other journalists or concerned citizens being manhandled by the police.

Tributes:

Dr Ramesh Dadhich the former member secretary of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) passed away on October 14, 2020. A socialist at heart, his passing will be widely remembered by those of the first decade of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

Bhanu Athaiya, the famous costume designer who shaped the look of Hindi cinema between the 1950s and the 2000s, died on October 15, 2020, at the age of 91 in Mumbai.

Kishore Bhimani, the highly respected cricket commentator and sports journalist passed away on October 15, 2020, in Calcutta and will be sorely missed.

Mahakavi Akkitham Achuthan Namboodiri, the renowned Malayalam poet and Jnanpith winner passed away on October 15, 2020. He was 94.

October 17, 2020 – The Editor

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