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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 43, New Delhi, October 9, 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Oct 9, 2021

Friday 8 October 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, October 9, 2021

When the old Left used to speak the language of the capture of state power there was unease among democrats over fears of state capture where the ideological political goals of the ruling party could come to dictate state institutions. That fear has now come true in India over the past seven years, but it is the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that has taken control over much of the state machinery to further its agenda. The Criminal Justice System in India which was already corrupted in the past has now nearly capitulated under the Modi regime which is taking it to new heights of misuse every day. Many of our previous comments here have raised concerns about how the state agencies have been used to go after the opposition leaders and critics in civil society while the people associated with the ruling party or people in their good books face no action from the authorities despite alleged wrongdoing.

News broke on October 4 of the brutal deaths of four and several injured peasant protesters in Lakhimpur Kheri, in Uttar Pradesh (UP) state when an SUV car belonging to India’s Minister of State for Home Affairs mowed down the protesters walking on the country road. This incident is no different from the so-called lone-wolf terrorist attack that happened a few years ago in Nice in France, where a vehicle plowed through a crowd killing many. The deliberate mowing down of citizens is an act of terrorism and should be treated like that and not simply an act of murder.

UP police claimed that they booked Ashish Mishra the son of Minister of State for Interior Ajay Kumar Mishra Teni for murder and other charges based on the complaint lodged by farmers in connection with the violence on October 3 in Lakhimpur district. But no action was taken setting off opposition allegations that the police are shielding the high-profile accused. This triggered huge protest from the farmer’s movement coordination body the Samyukt Kisan Morcha ….; Priyanka Gandhi an official of the Congress Party traveling to Lakhimpur Kheri was stopped en route in Sitapur town by the police and was illegally detained for 3 days and not allowed to proceed. The Chief Minister of the state of Chattisgarh and the Deputy Chief Minister of the state of Punjab were not allowed to travel to UP. A communications blackout was apparently ordered in Lakhimpur during this time.

The UP Police put the former Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav under house arrest in Lucknow to prevent him from proceeding to Lakhimpur Kheri. All this reminded us of what happened one year ago in the Hathras in UP where there was a rape and murder of a Dalit young woman who was then hurriedly cremated by the police without the family completing the last rites and how the UP state laid siege and prevented opposition parties and civil society groups from traveling to Hathras to express sympathies with the victims family. Many thought a replay of Hathras was happening. But grit and resistance shown by the Congress party leaders perhaps this time worked and the administration them go to Lakhimpur Kheri finally.

Five days after the incident the prime accused has not been arrested and the Minister of State for Home Affairs continues to be in his post in total impunity. The minister should have stepped down on his own or should have been sacked from his post without delay since his family member is mentioned as the main accused and the Minister is in charge of the Police, but there is no sign of that. The Minister addressed a high-profile public event in the capital on October 7 where the press was denied entry. In an unusual development on October 7 the Supreme Court of India took suo moto notice of the Lakhimpur incident called for a status report to be submitted to the court. Only, following the Supreme court move the UP police felt compelled to issue summons to the accused Ashish Mishra the son of Minister of State for Interior for questioning. But the accused failed to turn up for the summons, and there have been unconfirmed reports that he may have fled to Nepal; the police have issued a second summon notice to him, they seem to be acting with kid gloves since the police come under the jurisdiction of the Minister who is the father of the accused. The same police when it wants to act moves fast, readers would recall how Delhi police flew down to Bangalore to arrest a young climate activist over support to farmers’ protest. The writing is on the wall: if you have high political connections, the law will be bent to suit your needs.

Tributes:

Tajdar Babar a former chief of Congress Party in Delhi died on 2 October 2021.

Siran Upendra Deraniyagala the archaeologist and historian, who served as the Director-General of Archaeology in Sri Lanka from 1992 to 2001 passed away on October 5, 2021

We pay our tributes to the above figures

October 9, 2021 – HK

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