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State Intolerance Must Be Stopped

By Devika Mittal

18 June, 2014

The ruling Government of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power on the mandate of the people. After 30 years, a single party has managed to win with a clear majority. While the reasons for this clear mandate of the people is certainly debatable, the fact is that for whatever reasons, a large section of people of India did give its mandate to BJP and as believers of democracy, even those who disagree with the ideology of BJP respected the decision. However, while they respected the mandate, the government doesn’t seem to respect the spirit of democracy.

This refers to the increasing cases of witch hunting of individuals and organizations who are against the ideology of the ruling Government. On the target are NGOs, students’ organizations and campaigns that have been working to voice the need for a more inclusive and sustainable development. Recently, IB has released a list of NGOs that are accused of receiving foreign funding to oppose development projects in India. A look on the name of the NGOs, their issues and demands will be sufficient to tell what exactly is going on. The NGOs mentioned are those who far from stalling India’s development are those who are demanding development for all. They are opposing developmental projects for which lands for the projects have been forcefully taken away by the corporates. They are opposing them for the disregard to the people’s basic rights. They are opposing them with regard to the huge environmental damage. Because of corruption, projects that entail huge environmental damage get approval. They are opposing the scams involved. They are opposing the politician-corporate nexus operating at the cost of people’s survival. They are demanding for a more fair and people-centric development. How is it wrong?

Similarly, an NGO is being targeted for its opposition to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act(AFSPA). AFSPA has a law been regarded as inhuman and undemocratic not just by international human rights’ organizations but even national human rights’ organizations and the Supreme Court has attested to the human rights’ violation under AFSPA.

Instead of understanding the cause of their dissent, the Government is trying to silence all dissent. Unlike the Government, they are not even resorting to force. While their protests are often suppressed with force, they continue to adopt peaceful measures. They believe in democracy which allows freedom of expression. In a democracy, people have the right to accountability. They have the right to protest against injustice. How can this right be taken? The Government far from hearing their rightful demand for a more inclusive development is targeting them. They are trying to silence all opposition.

Similarly, there are increasing cases of individuals being arrested for anti-government opinions. Individuals have been booked for anti-Modi views. This is unheard of in any democracy. A democracy is supposed to accommodate difference of opinion. We have the right to freedom of expression. It is on us to decide who is a good leader and who is not. It is the people who decide the able government. This is the essence of democracy. We have every right to criticize a political ideology and the person who represents it.

As about the posts that may are capable of "provoking communal disharmony" and "inciting riots", the cyber crime cell that has become hyper-active must share their definition of what is “offensive”. It seems to find only the posts that are against Modi as “offensive”, “grossly offensive” and amounting to “incite riots”.

Instead of working to curb this culture of intolerance which leads to enmity and riots, the government is only encouraging it. The state is becoming intolerant of dissent and in doing so, it is challenging the very spirit of democracy.

Devika Mittal is pursuing her M.Phil in Sociology from Delhi School of Economics. She is the convenor(India) of Indo-Pak initiative named Aaghaz-e-Dosti and core member of Mission Bhartiyam. She tweets at @devikasmittal





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