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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 12, March 18, 2023

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Mar 18, 2023

Saturday 18 March 2023


Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, March 18, 2023

In the past week, the media machine and top leaders of BJP - India’s ruling Party have gone in top gear to target the Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi for his recent remarks in the UK, suggesting deteriorating condition of India’s democratic institutions, under the Government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Many serving ministers have spoken out in the Parliament against Rahul Gandhi along with other leaders of the BJP in this hot campaign to discredit the Congress leader in the public mind. The BJP has been projecting remarks made by Rahul Gandhi as a move to defame and badmouth India from foreign shores; they are repeatedly seeking his apology and even his suspension from Lok Sabha – the lower house of India’s Parliament. Rahul Gandhi has given a press conference and has said he can explain his stance if given the time in the Parliament to respond to these allegations. This entire tactic by the ruling party seems designed to divert public attention from accusations of favouritism and supposed bending of rules by the Government for the business tycoon Gautam Adani; An issue that had been raised recently in the Parliament by Rahul Gandhi and the entire opposition has been demanding the constitution of a Parliamentary probe into possible wrong doings and nexus between Modi Government – the Adani conglomerate. No discussion of the Adani issue has been permitted in Parliament. When MPs of 18 opposition parties tried to march to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) office to register a complaint against Adani, over a thousand policemen in riot gear stopped them. The big noise blitz by the ruling party is misrepresenting what was said by Rahul Gandhi in the UK; He didn’t say anything new in the UK that he hasn’t uttered earlier in India. He spoke about democracy being in danger under the Modi Government & the world should be made aware as it will have international consequences if democracy collapsed in India. He never asked for foreign countries to intervene to save democracy in India, something that he is being accused of. One wonders if a top opposition party leader expressing concerns over Indian democracy under a particular Government can come under fire in this high-decibel fashion, it may be just a matter of time before university scholars, writers attending conferences abroad, and those speaking to foreign media will come under intense scrutiny. Will a nationalist ‘culture police’ decide what is ‘appropriate’, what can be said, what can’t be said inside national borders and beyond?. We live in hyper-connected world, you can’t pull the curtains over authoritarian ways. The recently concluded Tripura state assembly elections where the BJP returned to power, saw large post-poll violence targeting opposition parties and their strongholds, and even the fact-finding team of Left and Congress MPs, and MLAs was not spared. There have been questions raised in the past eight years over the role of many State Governors, the use of the Income Tax department, ED, or the CBI to target opposition parties, the media, and civil society among others. The recent appointments of the personal staff of the speaker of the upper house to Parliamentary committees have caused much concern over breaking established norms. The Government must learn to take criticism, allow debate on public issues, and respect the democratic rights of all. Putting up big fat ‘Mother of Democracy’ billboards doesn’t cut.

March 18, 2023 — HK

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