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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 33, August 12, 2023

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Aug 12, 2023

Saturday 12 August 2023


Letter to the readers Aug 12, 2023

The Indian parliament’s monsoon session that began on 20 July, was marked by repeated protests from the opposition parties demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi make a statement in Parliament on the continuing violence in the state of Manipur. For months they had called out the unacceptable silence of the Prime Minister The opposition parties stood up together and supported a no-confidence motion in Parliament to compel the Prime Minister as head of Government to make a statement. [1] For three days members of Parliament spoke on Manipur and waited for the Prime Minister to come and speak. Finally, on August 10, 2023, Prime Minister Modi did come to the Parliament and addressed the Parliament. His over 2-hour-long speech in the Lok Sabha was like an election campaign speech directed at principally attacking the Congress party and I N D I A —the joint platform of opposition parties, mocking them and boasting about the achievements of his government. The opposition parliamentarians waited for 90 minutes for the Prime Minister to speak about Manipur and then they staged a walkout [2]. Within 30 seconds of INDIA alliance staging a walkout, Mr Modi found four minutes to talk on Manipur, he had words of empathy but hardly addressed the gravity of the crisis; not enough to assure the people of Manipur for peace and justice. Even the current crisis in Manipur was blamed on the Congress Party’s long years in power. The ruling BJP has the numbers and the no-confidence motion was defeated by a voice vote. The violence in Manipur continues and is now in its fourth month, there is a need for urgent intervention since this is a matter of national security. Urgent measures are needed to halt the violence in Manipur. Prime Minister’s words on Manipur just do not suffice, he must make go to Manipur and assure the people of the state in every which way.

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On August 9, the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023, was passed by Parliament [3] The Editors Guild of India has expressed serious concerns over its implications for media and for journalists. [4], [5] On the second last day of the Monsoon session Modi Govt also introduced the Election Commissioners Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Aug 10 [6] which seeks to give powers to PM Modi & 1 Minister to appoint the entire Election Commission by majority & by bypassing the Leader of Opposition and removing the Chief Justice contrary to what had been ruled by a 5 Judge Bench of Supreme Court in March 2023 on the independence of the EC [7]. This is bound to create controversy and the opposition must challenge this. The Modi Government also introduced three new bills meant to replace the nucleus of Indian criminal law codes Indian Penal Code (IPC), Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), and The Indian Evidence Act to be replaced by Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill, 2023; Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) Bill, 2023; and Bharatiya Sakshya (BS) Bill, 2023. It appears that there has been no national-level consultation, no public discussion [8], [9]. You can’t modify the criminal justice codes with a flick of a button. All the charges filed by police in criminal cases that had numbers from IPC for example 302 was for murder, 420 for cheating are all to be replaced by the new Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill 2023. Why are these bills are named in Sanskrit is the first question that citizens and officials from the Southern or other states are bound to ask. Rushing through key legislation with no debate inside and outside the parliament are methods of an authoritarian government. There has to be a concerted public campaign to debate & question the dramatic changes that will affect the entire criminal justice system. Some of these legislative changes will have to be challenged in court. The constituents of the I N D I A Opposition platform must develop a common strategy to challenge the Modi government from making far-reaching changes that tilt the balance of governance going beyond India’s constitutional framework.

August 12, 2023 —HK

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