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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 30, New Delhi, July 10, 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, July 10, 2021

Friday 9 July 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, July 10, 2021

The week gone by saw a sudden news that a court in France had accepted a law suit filed by an NGO regarding possible corruption in the Rafale warplane sale deal between a French firm and the Indian government. This is good news for India’s opposition parties that have long demanded a parliamentary probe into this affair, it confirms some of their doubts. Given the current balance of forces in India’s Parliament it seems difficult to imagine that there will be such a probe into possible wrong doing.

Then came the news of cabinet rejig of the Modi Government announced on 8th July 2021. A whole bunch of new people accommodated in the expanded council of ministers not all due to their great skills but to keep region and caste calculus in shape with the coming elections in mind. Two appointments need a mention to give you a flavours on offer. – (i) A junior minister who made a name for himself in January 2020 by leading a chant at a political rally inciting participants to shoot “traitors to the country”, has been promoted big time as the new Minister for Information and Broadcasting; (ii) A BJP member from Cooch Bihar in West Bengal a newly appointed Minister of state for Home affairs has 13 criminal cases against him. Such personalities have star appeal seemingly.

Sad news in the mid-week cast its shadow over all other events. Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest, who for the past decades worked in Ranchi, Jharkhand State for the rights of ‘Adivasis’ and poor in the forests, died as an under-trial prisoner in Mumbai. 84 year old Fr. Stan was arrested last year and charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and jailed near Bombay. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) came up with a cock and bull story that claimed that Fr. Stan Swamy is a Maoist and a conspirator in the Bhima Koregaon Case. Fr. Stan Swamy was a Parkinson’s patient in jail, who had to move court to get a sipper straw without which he could not drink water, but that was denied to him as if it was a dangerous weapon. Interim bail was refused to a firm beliver in non-violence. Stan Swamy had been supportive of the Pathalgadi movement a practice of honouring ancestors in rural Jharkhand by placing stone slabs in burial places. In the 1990s, the retired bureaucrat turned activist BD Sharma and his colleague Bandi Oraon, used stone slabs inscribed with constitutional provisions under Panchayat Raj (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act and the Fifth Schedule. This came to be known as the new Pathalgadi movement. In 2019 the BJP government in Jharkhand state filed a police case against Stan Swamy for supporting Pathalgadi movement as if it was a crime. The real crime of this priest was that he stood by the poor, the adivasis and for their constitutional rights, he was a believer in liberation theology and that was seen as a threat by the authorities.

Any honest observers of the way the criminal justice system works will tell you that India is standing knee-deep in troubled waters. Truth remains in short supply. That policing at the level of States has already been suceptible to political misuse is widely known, but the problem is compounded many times over with top most investigative agencies at the federal level responsible for anti terror cases showing a level of incompetence and wrong doing difficult to describe. Anti terror laws are used as standard fare to harass critics of the government. Just the past weeks three young students who had been charged under the UAPA were released on bail by the High Court in Delhi. Very recently, the peasant rights activists and Assam MLA Akhil Gogoi who had been in prision since december 2019 thanks to our National Investigation Agency (NIA) with serious charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was cleared by the court of all charges.

Will the dirty harry’s stop their run? Will anyone in the NIA or such prominent agencies be made to pay a symbolic fine or denied permission to go to the loo for any wrong doing? Sounds doubtful.

Tributes:

Father Stan Swamy, the Jesuit from Ranchi passed away on July 5, 2021 at the Holy Family Hospital in Bandra in Bombay.

Delia ‘Didi’ Contractor an artist, designer and a self-taught architect. For over three decades, she worked in Kangra valley, Himachal Pradesh. She died on July 5 at her home in Sidhbari. She was 91.

Angelo Del Boca, a historian of Italian colonialism, who documented Fascist Italy’s expansion in Africa died on July 6, 2021.

Dilip Kumar the great mega star of Indian Cinema of the 1950s and 1960s padded away on July 7, 2021. The great actor made the cinema audiences of newly independent India dream in new ways. He was a socially committed man who in his later years lent his social weight in support of the Dalit and Pasmanda Muslims. He will greatly missed both in India and Pakistan.

Virbhadra Singh, the veteran Congress politician from Himachal Pradesh passed away on July 8, 2021

We pay our tributes to the above figures

July 10, 2021 – The Editors

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