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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 9, March 2, 2024

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, March 2, 2024

Friday 1 March 2024


Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, March 2, 2024

The week began with the denial of entry into India of a Britain based University Professor who had been invited by a state government to deliver a lecture at a conference [1], it is very surprising that the immigration officials at the Bengaluru airport who detained and then deported the British National with a valid OCI card “informally” referred to her criticism of the RSS, the far-right Hindu nationalist organisation. Since when has it become the job of immigration officials to keep the interests of the RSS in mind. [2]. In mid-February, French journalist Vanessa Dougnac announced her departure from India since the Central Government had put her on notice for her writings on India that had been critical of state policy, she faced withdrawal of her Overseas Citizen of India card [3], [4] These are bad times for freedom of expression in India. The Government’s targeting of dissent is growing — Social Media firm X (earlier known as Twitter) has been given blocking orders targeting specific accounts posting about the farmers’ protests at the Delhi border. The right-wing BJP government of Mr. Modi is increasingly intolerant of criticism despite its ’Mother of Democracy’ fancy dress. A former JNU student and a young political activist Omar Khalid who has been critical of the Modi Government has been in prison since September 2020 and has waited a long time for his appeal for bail to be taken up by the Supreme Court of India, there have been 13 adjournments and finally, his lawyer has now withdrawn the appeal from the court. In the meantime a man serving a prison sentence on serious charges of rape and murder, the godman - con man Ram Rahim has repeatedly been let out on parole to campaign for India’s ruling party the BJP —the BJP Govt. in Haryana granted seven paroles to Ram Rahim in the past 10 months. The latest one was for 50 days in Jan 2024; Not only the paroles, the central Government also granted Z plus security to Ram Rahim, usually reserved for the VIPs (Finally, the court has woken up to notice wrongdoing regarding his frequent paroles). [5] Similarly the convicted rapists in the Bilkis Bano case who had had been wrongly released by the Gujarat court, and who were ordered back to Prison by the Supreme Court are out on Parole to attend family weddings [6]. The wheels of Justice seem to turn differently for people depending on which side they are on.

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The dirty tricks dept of the ruling BJP is actively trying to capture and induce legislators from opposition parties. As the 2024 national elections approach there have been continued defections from Congress & other parties towards the BJP. A random search on the internet came up with the following recent instances. Geeta Koda, Congress MP from Jharkhand joined the BJP on Feb 26 [7]; West Bengal Congress leader Koustav Bagchi just resigned and is likely to join BJP; [8]; Newspapers report that Assam Congress working president Rana Goswami has resigned and is also likely to join the BJP [9]; In Gujarat, a Rajya Sabha member from the Congress Party and former Union Minister Naran Rathwa joined the BJP on February 27; On February 25, BSP Lok Sabha MP from Ambedkar Nagar Ritesh Pandey resigned from the party’s primary membership and has joined the BJP in New Delhi. On Feb 24, Vijayatharani, a sitting Congress MLA in Tamil Nadu joined the BJP. Before that, Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan of the Congress party joined the BJP in Mumbai on February 13. Richa Singh, former president of the Allahabad University Students’ Union who had been with Samajwadi Party just joined the BJP [10]. We also witnessed cross-voting during Rajya Sabha elections of Feb 27, by Congress Legislators from Himachal Pradesh which currently has a Congress government, and by Samajwadi Party legislators in Uttar Pradesh. Senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi lost his Rajya Sabha seat with 6 Congress MLAs cross-voting “. . .on the evening of Feb 27 these six Himachal Congress MLAs arrived at a PWD rest house, in Panchkula, amid speculation of their defection from the party and the BJP moving to pull down the Congress Govt in Himachal Pradesh. A CRPF and Haryana Police convoy had taken away these MLAs., to an undisclosed destination [11] The protesting farmers in their thousands from Punjab, Haryana, UP, are prevented by the police from entering Delhi the capital of their country. But the same police and para-militaries accompany BJP officials to whisk away six Congress legislators to a Haryana resort. In Haryana the police say that efforts are underway to cancel the passports and Visas of the alleged farmers involved in violence, DSP Ambala Joginder Sharma says, "We have identified involved in violence coming to Haryana from Punjab in the name of farmers’ protest. We have identified them with CCTV cameras and drone cameras. We will request the Ministry and embassy to cancel their Visas and passports... Their photos, name, and address will be given to the passport office. We are working on canceling their passports…” [12]. The right to protest is legitimate and democratic, no law gives the right to cancel passports based on facial recognition but the police seem to act like the arm of an autocratic regime. The BJP is openly using state paramilitaries and police to subvert the democratic process.

March 2, 2024 —HK

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