A Promise In Cage

“You’ll understand when you grow up. These talks are for elders”

Around twenty years ago, I had attended a dinner at the house of my civil servant uncle. He sat on his couch and told us about his views on the public policies of the country. His eyes sparkled with sadistic glow, as he cherished telling us the stories of custodial brutalities towards those who defy State. Everyone in the room listened to him with a sense of servitude. My uncle was very influential. Therefore, when I tried to debate him, the entire gathering disliked my resistance. I was conditioned to believe that questioning the powerful was a sin. And children are not supposed to ask questions. The answers appear magically on growing up.

On March 7, 2017, Dr Saibaba, former Professor, of the Delhi University was convicted by the Gadchiroli Trial and Sessions court, under sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1927, read with, Section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code. Dr Saibaba is 90% disabled. Yet, the Court found no ground to show any kind of compassion towards him. The elaborate judgment went on to discuss the gravity of the situation. To the Court’s opinion, Saibaba deserved harsher punishment and a life term was in fact, a lesser sentence.

Sometimes, there are certain minds that do not wait for societal gratification to express their ideas. They follow their conscience. However, in a world that is constantly shrinking itself to create a space only for conformity, such audacity can be dangerous. Dr. G.N Saibaba and his intellect therefore, needed to be muzzled soon. Yet, the questions lie on what really is the meaning of being faithful to a country. And what does a country stand for? Does the sentiment of a country overlook the well being of its countrymen? What is the value of a country without its citizens?
Millions of years ago, before mankind evolved, we lived under the ‘Rule of jungle’. It was the reign of the fittest. Each moment was a fight to exist. There was no time to think. There was no protection for any one.  There was no space for creativity. Human Beings lived as beasts. Yet, we painted our stories on the cave walls and created culture instinctively. We built our world and progressed with civilsation. We built a society with ‘Rule of Law’. Unlike the jungle, ‘Rule of Law’, promised the protection of individuality. Even the weaker, could rightfully survive under this rule. We agreed upon a social contract, under which, we could nurture our inherent inclinations. In return, we would accept the perceptual authority of the State and its institutions. These institutions derived power from us. Now, we needed a foundation to observe the performance of the terms of the contract between the State and its people.  And hence, we founded the institution of judiciary and laid down a legal system to nourish the most important term of the social contract- Justice.
The case of Dr Saibaba is perhaps, not just another unfair judgment. Instead, it contains an impression of our present struggles with dissent in India. Sadly, the society that was founded upon a promise of freedom has been vitiated with prejudice. The Court, while hearing the case, chose to deny the retraction of the confessional statement by the Accused 1 and Accused 2, even after they alleged that the statement was extracted from them under torture and intimidation. Even though, the evidence act, in section 24, clearly makes any confession under fear of torture, inadmissible, the statement was found to be valid in the court. Repeated allegations of custodial torture by the police went ignored. The prosecution, instead, received the indulgence of the court, when the crucial witness testifying the illegal search of Saibaba’s house was rejected. Mr Jagat Bhole, testified that, when the search took place, both, himself and Saibaba were made to stand out. Mr Bhole, was a witness taken by the police during the search and seizure. The Court believed that the witness was an illiterate man and may have been too troubled by the court atmosphere to speak nonfiction.  The primary evidence that lead the judgment were certain articles that may have been accessed by Dr Saibaba from his computer and the copy of a newspaper that may be use used to establish contacts with the Maoists. It is rather hilarious even to a student with basic knowledge in civics that a mere slogan about political prisoners, was found to easily serve as evidence to prove his Maoist affiliations.  Dr Saibaba, being a disabled man with a body paralysis is under tremendous pain for speaking his mind. The court denied him medical care and the Prison authorities; too, continue to deny him proper treatment. The court and the authorities have acted in a way; most of us, in the society are behaving today.
While trying to discuss about Dr Saibaba, with some students around me, I had found a similar disconnect. I faced comments like “Oh! That Naxal guy? Why are you supporting him?” and “How can we demand medical help for a Maoist?”  Few others simply chose to stay away from the issue because “We must not talk about certain things. Why should I get in trouble for a jailed dude?”  Amidst our fears of the unknown, and disinterest to know our people, the voice of justice remained diminished. Now, the question remained, what do people like Saibaba really do to enrage our society so much? Why is he so formidable for us?
The National Human Rights Commission Report of 2017 declares that the police had raped over sixteen girls amongst many other abuses of human rights in Chattisgarh in 2015 alone. One of such incidents that scarred our history was the torture and rape of Soni Sori by Police Superintendent Ankit Garg. Soni Sori was brutalized and stones were inserted into her genitals which were later presented as evidence. Mr Ankit Garg was never punished. He was honored with the President’s medal on the Republic Day Parade of 2012.
Soni Sori never made it to the headlines, of our media.  Neither did Madkam Hidme, who died under ‘suspicious circumstances’ in Sukma Village of Bastar.  She too, was allegedly, kidnapped, killed by the security forces and as the grounds of a Public Interest Litigation observed, her ‘Naxal cadre’ uniform, post encounter, was perfectly ironed without any trace of a possible gunfight. She too, awaits justice. The police usually does not allow lawyers, writers or activists to visit these areas of conflict. We seldom find out the happenings here. Journalists and Lawyers, trying to make an effort, often end up in jail under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Chhattisgarh Public Securities Act. None of these acts comply with the International standards of Human Rights.

As Ms Arundhati Roy writes, in these jungles of central India, near the Indrāvati River, the area is controlled by Maoists and the police call it ‘Pakistan’. Women in lock ups are raped and the villagers, common civilians, live in constant fear.  The ‘Operation Green Hunt’, believed to have begun in the year 2009 has emptied villages. The Adivasis, nearly starve in torture and meager earnings, as the multinationals like Vedanta grab their lands and resources. With indigenous rights ignored and promises of the constitution violated, Chhattisgarh like areas, remain as conflict zones. With such repeated attacks on the indigenous people of the Adivasi lands, the situation is often referred to as ‘genocide’, as described under Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crime of Genocide, 1951. As the helpless Adivasis continue to battle against the States on one side and armed non state actors on the other, their rights and sustenance stay crushed. These are areas with least improvement in terms of Human Development Index. Education, healthcare, Sanitation and other basic amenities stay shattered amidst the tears of oppression. Yet, this unspoken emergency situation of India remains unheard amidst the noise of glamorous malls, soaring GDP growth and majoritarian impositions.

Speaking of majoritarian impositions, one really wonders, who is this majority in India? As Professor Amartya Sen, writes, in his book, The Argumentative Indian, it is very hard to speak about any one majority group of Indians. In fact in a society as plural as ours, there is possibly no majority social group at all. Yet, our minds are bombarded each day with cacophony of majoritarian slogans and a miniaturized representation of history, culture and society.
The Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes Population of India, is over 25% of the Indian population. Yet, the Supreme Court of India has not appointed a single Dalit judge this year. Amongst the 20 High Court judges of Delhi, not one belonged to the Schedule Castes. The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes report that only around 8.4% of the A grade officers belong to the Scheduled Castes, when the figure should be 15%. The Media is largely controlled by family owned private bodies, who are either Brahmins or Baniyas who also own electricity, mining, education and other businesses. Yet, any kind of positive discrimination or affirmative action in the form of reservation is found to be unfair for the Upper Caste elites of India, who control most public offices and believe that they are racially higher in descent. Even after sixty four years of abolition of untouchabilty by the constitution, a survey by the National Council of Applied Economic Research and University of Maryland, U.S.A, reported that one in every four Indians practice untouchabilty.

The realism of our primitive mentality came out of its veil, recently, when the protests of Dalits took place in the Una Azaadi Kooch, under the leadership of Jignesh Mewani. When the Dalits, refused to clean the carcass of dead animals, the country, in this era, was left with no alternative to clean its dirt! Manual Scavenging, particularly by Dalits and women, is the reality of ‘Swatcch Bharat’.  Of course, no media had covered the anti caste march and Mr Mewani, too was intimidated and vindicated.

But then, the questions persist, who is the real Indian?
Unfortunately, our text books, never answered the question for us. But Dr Saibaba did. India is defined by her legacy of public debates and cultural discourse. Dr Saibaba had given us certain views. We could have disagreed too and delivered some better lectures. All he wanted from us was a consideration of ideas. Yet, our minds were shackled with taboos. As Dr Ambedkar had warned us, chained minds are the worst kind of slavery. We are slaves even without chains. Our slave mentality is afraid to utter words of freedom.  We failed Saibaba. As Tagore called it, the ‘Nightmarish’ description of our history has distorted our minds with hatred. We have erased the struggle for liberty that created this country.

Dr Saibaba is a man of learning. He feels the pain of those who cry. He spoke about the agony of not being allowed to dream. Is that so criminal? Does the constitution, not promise the protection of individuality? Was he violating the Social Contract? Or is he the only one performing it?
The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act allows the arbitrary arrest and detention of people without a trial.  Ironically, we are the same nation which fought against the Rowlatt Act by British. And Saibaba has been found guilty under sections of UAPA. He is also accused of Criminal Conspiracy against the nation, under, sections of the IPC, which were created by the British to silence words of the freedom movement. He languishes in the jail, today, with a grave risk to his health. International Organizations, like the Amnesty International, continue to demand medical attention for him.  Also, India, being a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and UN convention against torture has an International obligation alongside, her constitutional impositions and prison guidelines, to provide immediate medical attention to Dr Saibaba.

I am twenty three years old today. I have still have not found the answers that were supposed to appear magically to me. I do not have the courage of Dr Saibaba. Speaking the truth comes at a premium price in our times. Saibaba is paying that price. Saibaba had not realized that by appealing to the conscience of the country and its legal system, his mere words, could disintegrate the nation. He did not know that the nation and its solidarity were so brittle. He was perhaps, the only one to understand the terms of the social contract as stated through our Constitution, which only wanted to empower human intellect and conscience. Perhaps, Saibaba grew up to be able to gather courage to ask his questions. Perhaps, by growing up, they meant, the maturity of the strength of one’s character. Saibaba had found that courage and our society has none of it. Maybe, that is why, we cannot look into this man’s eyes.

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Long Live Revolution -II

  • “If my subjects cannot speak, how would I know their desires? And how would I then, suppress those dreams?”- Evil Minister, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, Satyajit Ray

I did not wake up to watch the Republic Day Parade of 2012 in which Mr. Ankit Garg was conferred the President’s Police medal for gallantry. I was least interested. I had not heard of Soni Sori. I was preparing to join a Law School in a few months.   I believed that the Indian society was dynamic and justice, though, sometimes delayed was never intentionally denied in India. I trusted the sanctity of Indian Courts. I had not heard of Surekha Bhotmange either.
Delicious War!” was the immediate reaction of Winston Churchill, after the declaration of the Second World War. He loved wars. At that time, specifically, when International politics was dominated by patriarchy, wars were the best expression of Chivalry. A colonial chauvinism had already waged one world war in their race to imperial domination. Churchill was soon going to be both, significant and a prodigy of War. Yet, he would also lose the election ahead of the war and the world would choose humanism over brute Nationalism.

The debate about nationalism, had perhaps, reached its peak during the very World war that brought nothing more than misery to commoners across the world. When Bengal suffered famine, England was reduced in Poverty. Both the countries had nearly extinguished all their resources in funding a war that had only scripted praise anthems for the winners.  Yet, national win could not wipe international tears. Colonial rivalry had proved to be of absolutely no good.

The previous week went by, in a number of heated discussions about how much rebel ‘nationalism’ permitted. And whether, at all, Kanhaiya, a Post Graduate student, was justified in questioning the execution of Afzal guru. A furiously excited Arnab Goswami exuded his frustrations as he questioned the very audacity of the students to protest against a nation that ‘subsidized their education’. I felt a strange nostalgia of the medieval taboo towards freedom. It seemed like watching Da Vinci once again, being threatened by the powerful for his rebel in Art. Yet, we were not in the dark ages. We were brought up under the fantasy of freedom and Democracy. And Democracy was born on a seeking ground of truth and individuality. Appeasement of the state’s interest did not always address the individual struggles. Without the recognition of minority opinions, it is perhaps, impossible to construct an inclusive democracy at all. Under the circumstances, the taxpayers certainly assisted in education of the country, not for conformity, but to create a pedestal of individuality. We did not educate our youth only to hear them sing confirmatory slogans and campaigning for political parties. Our intention was to facilitate thinking and encourage opinions.  In fact, is it not an obligation for every individual to voice their opinions and concerns in order to revive our thinking and attention towards the realities that go unseen?

We are living at a time, where our beliefs, our education and even our protests are being constantly governed by various authorities. Young minds are gradually being influenced in a way, that we hardly hear anything different. It is the same old populist rhymes that we are used to memorizing. Our generation has found no Beatles that could instill upon us, the courage to defy and imagine a world without God or boundaries. Neither could we create a Pink Floyd to question our crammed education system. We were brought up in the age of entertainment supplements where glamour eclipsed debate.
By the 1920s, the Rockfeller and Carniege Foundations had already begun creating the most powerful pressure groups of modern times- the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR). Soon, the Ford Foundation joined its funding too. The organization continues to work very closely with the CIA, United Nations, and IMF and needless to say, it is the strongest manipulating factor of global politics. All the World Bank Presidents except George Woods have been members of the CFR.   CFR decides our leaders, and also, CFI members like Bill Gates decide our education policies. The Indian members of the organization include, Mr.  Tarun Das, Mr.  N.R Narayana Murthy, Mr.  Jamshed N., Mr. JJ Irani (Unsurprisingly, he was also one of the key committee members of the New Companies Act, 2013 in India) and most other capitalists. From the Cold war, to the foundations of the Taliban, the CFR has closely maintained its presence and ensured that every move in History was in the favor of corporate profits.  And none of this is any conspiracy theory. They are as transparent facts as the existence of the biggest bottles of coke in my refrigerator. The India against Corruption Movement, too, was funded by Coca Cola and the Ford Foundation.  Where exactly, was our patriotism then?  Or was it a swell to our hypocrisy to watch an uninformed bunch of youth, supporting the movement with least awareness in the happenings of the country? Or did it make us happy about securing further corporate jobs? Is that the kind of return, we expect out of the ‘subsidized education system?’
Speaking of the education system, we should indeed be proud of Kanhaiya and his friends. Despite the best efforts of our system, they could, still contain their individuality and show the character to protest without the greed of any myopic gains.  Our text books have defined not just history in political terms, but sometimes altered our geographical realities too! Only a few years ago, NCERT text books for school children read that Madagascar was ‘an island in the Arabian Sea’ and that Lancashire had been ‘a fast growing Industrial town’.  The denial towards independent learning had not just paused at these bizarre mistakes. History was suitably altered to narrate a Hindutva tale of the Indian History. The texts were nothing more than a certain kind of RSS manifestos.  Being squeezed with cultural terrorism on one hand and the corporate tyranny on the other, Kanhaiya, chose to instead voice dissent and not give in to this desperate indoctrination. Kanhaiya did not apply for a Corporate Working Visa abroad. Instead, he tried to make a difference.
In Legal terms, Kanhaiya had only restored the honor of the Indian constitution that was born out of a struggle not only against an imperial dominance but the backwardness and discrimination within the country.  How does screaming ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ make me a traitor as long as I do not say ‘Attack India’? And even if I say so, I cannot, definitely be booked under sedition! As described by the Supreme Court in the case of Balwant Singh V State of Punjab, in India, even complete rants against India and slogans in favor of division of the country do not amount to sedition. Kanhaiya’s arrest itself was unnecessary and the Criminal procedure with various precedents outlines the fact that an interrogation is first necessary in case of any report as such which may be followed by an arrest only if absolutely essential. Alongside a right to Free speech, I also have a right to hear every opinion. If at all, an opinion is so frivolous or wrong, I would definitely choose to not accept it. Why is, India so afraid of criticism? Do we really have a lot to hide? Can a speech, a song or a caricature really create uproar in the nation? Is the unity, that India is boasting about so fragile, that a few people armed with a different set of ideas can break it? Free expression makes us insecured only when we are trying to desperately hide something. Is India afraid?

Kashmir and the Sister states, continue to be the most militarized area in the whole world. We have deployed more military in the zone than the United States did in Afghanistan.  We cannot deny the reality, that Afzal Guru continues to be a hero to these destroyed by misrule of the AFSPA and to them, it is a struggle for freedom. If India wishes to understand Kashmir, we need to work much more seriously towards Democracy.  If one does not feel to be an India, his expression can be muzzled, but the hate and denial cannot be ended. The more we oppress and overlook Kashmir, the worse it gets.  To maintain the sanctity of heaven, heaven should find democracy. We have had generations of children growing up in Kashmir with bullet sounds as their daily alarm. Families have been destroyed and Human Rights have been abused. Irom Sharmila continues to fast and protest against the oppression of AFSPA .AFSPA cannot be a reality in any democracy.  Tax payers’ money is also not meant for military occupation in Kashmir or the rape of Manorama Devi in Manipur! Neither is it paid to contribute to the ‘Hinduisation of Kashmir’.  A democracy cannot afford to create a zone where human beings are caged like animals and leave the country in illusion and terror created by Goswami like anchors. A weeping soldier cannot undo the arbitrary abuses of the military in the valley.
In the jungles of Central India, near the Indravati River, the area controlled by Maoists is called ‘Pakistan’ by the police. Women have been raped, and remain in lockups. The villages are empty and civilians are escaping the ‘operation green hunt’ by the elected government.  A lady called Soni Sori was arrested, upon the suspicion of being a ‘Maoist terrorist’ as Mr. Goswami would call her. In lockup, stones were pushed into her genitals. Soni Sori struggled in a Calcutta Hospital when those in the red corridor were starving to death as Corporations with our governments continued to snatch their living, identity and culture. Indian’s GDP spiraled, yet in terms of development, the country stand second worst after Pakistan in Asia. Soni Sori was a ‘Maoist Terrorist. ‘The Unlawful Activities prevention Act’ could certainly imprison her without question.  But that day, with Soni Sori, Democracy was arrested too!

The French Student Union movement and the all the 1968 movements in the Capitalist countries were also against the national policy of war against Vietnam. They stood for humanity. If only, there was a little less nationalism across England and in 1943, there would have been no famine in Bengal. Free speech and a little less national fervor can, at times, restore humanity. A Japanese teardrop is no different from a German sorrow. Neither is Pakistani rejoice, that was once a part of us only to be divided for political momentum, any different from our happiness.  The death of millions of soldiers was no pride…they were scapegoats brainwashed with nationalism for political gains. There can be no pride in killings. I mourn Afzal Guru…I mourn the deaths of Kashmir and I mourn the soldiers of World war. But were these deaths really needed?

Surekha Bhotmage’s FIR against local tyrants was rejected by the Police. She was gang raped in front of her family for being from the Mahr community. Yet…She fought and struggled to live on. Just as Malala fights the Talibans, Surekha fought against caste oppression. So did Rosa parks, Sidney Poitier, Harper Lee and everyone who chose to rebel against norms. Annihilation of Caste by DR Ambedkar was censored in fear of ‘anti nationalism’.

I did not wake up to watch the Republic Day Parade of 2012 in which Mr. Ankit Garg was conferred the President’s Police medal for gallantry. However today, I am interested. Ankit Garg was the superintendant who had tortured Soni Sori. She was released from her Hospital in Calcutta. She did not die. She is protesting again. She is an anti national. So am I. We do not believe in honoring imaginary boundaries, rhetoric dusts or a piece of fancy cloth. We honor Human beings.  In Kanhaiya and Umar, we find hope and we wish protect that hope. It is a hope we are proud of. Chhattisgarh is protesting again. So am I. Our youth is reigniting the flames of rebel. Umar, Kanhaiya and every other thinker, I am with you. Capitalism sponsored elitist anchors can only silence your mikes…not your courage…not your integrity. You are cherished by our dream of humanism. Long Live Revolution!

 

 

diego Riviera

Man at the Cross Roads,  Diego Riviera .