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Dr. Sandeep Pandey

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Uttar Pradesh’s Director General of Police Mukul Goel has been removed from his post for disregarding government work and not taking interest in departmental duties. Quite obviously not everything has been alright with the UP Police department.

On 1 May police raided the house of Kanhaiya Yadav in Manrajpur village of Chandauli district and when they left the house a 22 years old girl Nisha was found hanging from a ceiling fan. The younger sister Gunja described how brutally both girls were beaten by the police even though she kept pleading that she had an examination coming up. Kanhaiya Yadav has accused the police of demanding a bribe for a legitimate mining lease which he had refused to pay. When a 13 years old Dalit girl went to Pali police station of Lalitpur district to lodge a complaint against her gang rape by four men she was allegedly raped on 27 April by the Station House Officer inside his residence on the police station campus. SHO has been arrested by Prayagraj and the entire staff of 29 police personnel at the police station has been removed. In Lalitpur again at Mahrauni police station on 2 May, a domestic help was tortured after being stripped by two police personnel including a male on charges of theft. Three police personnel including SHO have been suspended. On 7 May in Imliya village of Firozabad district when police arrived at the house of  Fauran Singh Jatav with an upper-caste man Kailashchandra Upadhyay in the matter of a dispute between two families, the atrocity committed by aggressors caused the death of the wife of the Dalit man, Sharda Devi. A woman and her minor daughter were called at Nawabganj police station in Kanpur on 8 May at 4 pm for questioning. The daughter was accused of theft by a family with whom she stayed as domestic help. It was late night by the time interrogation ended. The mother-daughter duo were sent to stay at Asha Jyoti Kendra, a government-run centre for women facing violence. The mother was found hanging in the bathroom at this centre the next morning.

The police have gained notoriety during the Chief Minister Yogi Adiyanath’s government which ironically runs a high profile publicity campaign for good law and order in UP. During the last term of Yogi’s rule Vivek Tiwari, an Apple executive was shot dead in the posh Gomti Nagar locality by police for allegedly refusing to stop his vehicle in 2018. In 2021 Faisal Hussin, an 18 years old vegetable vendor died after being beaten by police at Bangermau police station in Unnao district for allegedly violating lockdown rules. In 2021 again, a Kanpur businessman Manoj Gupta was killed in a hotel in Gorakhpur after a police raid there. Also in 2021 a young man Altaf was found hanging from a pipe two feet above the floor in a bathroom inside Sadar Kotwali police station in Kasganj after interrogation in a matter of eloping with a girl.

Police are known to be rough with people and routinely use torture as a technique for the extraction of information or confession of the crime. However, under Yogi’s rule, their conduct gives an impression of lawlessness. A reason for the re-election of the Yogi government in the 2022 Assembly elections is that police feared that Samajwadi Party rule will entail interference of their workers in day to day affairs whereas in BJP rule they have more freedom, which they seem to be abusing at their sweet will.

Yogi Adityanath cannot distinguish between the roles of the legislature, executive and judiciary. He followed ‘thok do’ (kill in cold blood) policy with criminals and enjoyed using bulldozers to demolish properties of mere accused, so much so that bulldozers have become a symbol of his governance style which other BJP governments are also now relishing copying. Earlier his government was trying to extract recovery as part of the U.P. Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Ordinance, 2020 even before the guilt of the accused was proved in a court of law. Supreme Court intervened to stop this but the government has again issued illegal notices for recovery.

In a recent judgement giving bail to Jignesh Mevani, the independent MLA from Gujarat, Assam judge Aparesh Chakraborty has expressed concern at cops turning Assam into a police state. He said, ‘Converting our hard-earned democracy into a police state is simply unthinkable and if the Assam police are thinking about the same, the same is perverse thinking.’ Since Himanta Biswa Sarma became CM in May last year 28 encounter deaths have taken place in Assam. In Yogi Adityanath’s last term of five years over 125 people were killed in encounters. Yogi has already converted UP into a police state and now there is a competition among different BJP governments to outdo each other. For example, two cattle smugglers Akbar and Salman Banjara were arrested in Meerut, handed over to Assam Police and shot dead in an encounter in a Kokrajhar national park where they were taken for investigation.

It is noteworthy that Yogi Adityanath has got criminal cases against himself withdrawn. The UP police didn’t object when bail was granted by High Court to Ashish Mishra, son of the central minister, who mowed down five people in the Lakhimpur Khiri farmers’ protest. It was only after the intervention of the Supreme Court that Ashish Mishra is back in jail.

Hence law and order for the BJP mean treating your own criminals as honourable and targeting your opponents vindictively.  The recent incidents in UP including the arrest of journalists in Ballia in a matter of leak of examination question paper and their solution show that the Yogi government is exposed on three fronts.

Law and order are in shambles. In spite of the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ slogan, women are not safe in U.P. and corruption is rampant and blatant. But the public imagination is captured by the Gyanvapi and Mathura issues, so BJP doesn’t need to worry about its governance model going for a toss.

By Sandeep Pandey and Arundhati Dhuru
(Note: Sandeep Pandey is General Secretary, Socialist Party (India) and Arundhati Dhuru is with the National Alliance of People’s Movements)

Dimapur Conclave for ‘Save the Peace,’ organized by Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights on 25-26 March 2022, adopted the following resolution:
  • Indo-Naga political talks must be supported and protected till it achieves the desired goal of honourable and lasting peace for both parties in talks.
  • The Framework Agreement signed on August 3, 2015, in Delhi is a solemn commitment between the Naga people and the Government of India to bring about a dignified peace in the hitherto strife-torn land. Any attempt to dilute or revise it will undo all achieved during the more than two-and-half decade-old Indo-Naga peace process.
  • It is a matter of grave concern that the peace process since 2019 has degenerated into a stalemate despite the change of interlocutor. This house, therefore urges Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to take direct control of the negotiation. Negotiation at the highest level is the best recourse to safeguard the talks from the vicissitudes of bureaucracy.
    Please visit our Hindi Website for more News and Views: www.thepublichindi.com

    कांग्रेस छोड़ सकते हैं अहमद पटेल के बेटे फैसल

     

The Indian government agrees that Nagas have a unique history of having been a collective of village republics not ruled by any outsider. First, the British and later the Indians have conquered it by force. At the time of Indian independence, Mahatma Gandhi had told Nehru that if the Indian government would send the military to Nagaland then he would be the first person to face a bullet. Not satisfied with the full-fledged state status of Nagaland the National Socialist Council of Nagalim launched a struggle for autonomy. At least 3 Indian PMs have met the leadership of NSCN (IM) abroad, according to a condition laid down by NSCN (IM) for talks with the Indian government. In 1997 NSCN (Isak-Muivah) entered into a cease-fire agreement with the government of India. Isak and Muivah arrived in India in 2013. Finally, the Framework Agreement was signed in the presence of Narendra Modi.

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NO GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE

The Framework Agreement says, ‘…the Government of India and the NSCN, respecting people’s wishes for sharing the sovereign power as defined in the competencies, reached an agreement on the 3rd August 2015 as an honourable solution.’ It further says, ‘It is a matter of great satisfaction that dialogue between the Government of India and NSCN has successfully concluded. We are confident, it will provide for an enduring inclusive new relationship of peaceful co-existence of the two entities.’ The statement has been signed by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah, the two top leaders of NSCN (IM) and R.N. Ravi as the Representative of the Government of India. Ravi was acting as interlocutor then and later became Nagaland’s Governor.

The Agreement could not fructify as GoI is not prepared to accede to the Naga demand for a separate flag and constitution. Later R.N. Ravi, as Governor tried to put together another group Naga National People’s Group of seven organisations to counterbalance NSCN (IM). NNPG is agreeable to a solution even without a separate flag and constitution. After vehement protests by NSCN (IM), R.N. Ravi was transferred to Tamil Nadu and a new interlocutor has replaced him.

NSCN (IM) says that accepting a solution without a separate flag and constitution would be a disrespect to more than a lakh Nagas killed in the political struggle for autonomy. Naga sentiment is associated with this struggle and NSCN (IM) is believed to be echoing the feelings of Nagas in general.

NSCN (IM) makes it very clear that they are not asking for complete independence from India. They want to live in co-existence with India with their own constitution and flag. They want a traditional system of tribal self-rule but do not mind sending representatives to Rajya Sabha.

Nagas are known to fiercely protect their independence. It is unlikely that they will agree to be just another state of India. They have honoured their commitment to a cease-fire since 1997. If at all, the cease-fire has been violated by Indian security forces, like in the abominable massacre of 13 Nagas in Oting, Mon District on 4 December 2021. Nagas say that they never attack a civilian. Even if an Indian soldier is in civil uniform no harm will be caused to him. They have never taken their struggle beyond their boundaries. This displays the high integrity of Nagas.

It’ll be better if the Government of India honours the self-respecting Naga people who have displayed tremendous resilience and patience for over 70 years and have not compromised a bit. They have a Government of the People’s Republic of Nagalim with their own Naga Army headquartered at Camp Hebron, about 40 km. outside Dimapur which conducts itself with dignity.

The choice before the Indian government is very stark. Giving autonomy to Nagas can result in a beautiful self-rule system in Nagaland with a harmonious relationship with India. Not agreeing to their demand will see Nagaland slowly bleeding as we’ve witnessed over more than 70 years with the Indian government not just forced to keep their Army here but also continuing with the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act to some extent. The recent lifting of AFSPA from some parts of Nagaland is a welcome decision but it is inconceivable that the Indian government can carry on with its rule without the help of the Army here or for that matter in most of the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir. Self-rule for Nagas will at least free them of the Indian Army presence.

Co-Authored by Pankaj Pushkar (Former MLA, Delhi Assembly)

There are two narratives about the Russia-Ukraine war in circulation. One is projecting invading Russia as the villain and demanding immediate cessation of hostilities. Second is holding United States foreign policy responsible for this which even after the cold war got over in 1991 was unnecessarily trying to provoke Russia by trying to expand North Atlantic Treaty Organisation making the new states which emerged from Union of Soviet Socialist Republic as its members. Russia felt insecure at the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO and this became the cause of present war.

It is interesting to recall that when USSR was dissolved its 35,000 nuclear weapons were shared by Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus. The last three nations did not find any use of them and handed them over to Russia. Although, Ukraine did ask for security assurances and an agreement was reached with the mediation of US and United Kingdom.and US also helped Ukraine dismantle its nuclear weapons. Ukraine realised that it was not feasible for it to maintain the nuclear arsenal as well as guarantee its security. Moreover, US and USSR/Russia entered into treaties which reduced the number of nuclear weapons significantly.

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This reflects the mood of the time when cold war ended, especially the countries part of former USSR did not expect to get involved in wars in near future and were ready to give up their weapons. Ukraine assumed that in exchange for giving up its nuclear arsenal its security would be ensured.

However, the US and Russia continued to hold on to about equal number of nuclear weapons, around 5000-6000, amounting to 90% of total nuclear weapons in existence. This has ensured that total and lasting peace would not prevail. Moreover, while the five permanent United Nations Security Council members, all of them nuclear weapons states, did not give up their nuclear weapons, they expected other countries to sign Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and Non-Proliferation Treaty abjuring the right to possess these weapons. Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Iran defied this order and produced or have the capability to produce their nuclear weapons.

US ambition to remain the only super power post cold war and its reluctance, along with that of other permanent UNSC members, to completely dismantle their nuclear arsenal as well as other weapons of mass destruction, triggers wars every few years somewhere in the world and sustains the military-industrial complex, backbone of its economy.

Rajeev Gandhi was the last Indian Prime Minister who attempted convincing nuclear powers to give up their weapons in United Nations General Assembly. Being unsuccessful, the Indian government decided to go ahead with production of its own nuclear weapons. Indira Gandhi had already carried out the tests two decades earlier.

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With the adoption of neo-liberal economic policies India decisively moved from the Non-Aligned Movement camp to being a friend of the US. Had India been part of the NAM, it would not have found itself facing the predicament where it cannot criticize the aggressor Russia in the present conflict and will possibly annoy US for not supporting Ukraine.

Traditionally, India is known to stand for the right of oppressed. Mahatma Gandhi criticized the forcible creation of Israel in Arab land and India boycotted the apartheid South Africa. It gave refuge to Dalai Lama and allowed Tibetans to form a government in exile, which still exists, and stood in support of Bengali nationalism facing attacks in Pakistan.

Today the world is devoid of a moral voice. UN has been made irrelevant first by US, UK and China and now by Russia because of the veto power possessed by permanent UNSC members. The powerful countries give two hoots to the international opinion. Unless the UN, especially the UNSC, is democratized there is little hope that international opinion can prevail and halt wars like the present one.

Had India followed the principle of non-violence, for which Mahatma Gandhi is revered globally and is an inspiration for all oppressed people, we would not be seen as soft towards Russia, clearly the oppressor in the current conflict. Had India persevered with NAM and built it as a block of nations which could have exerted pressure on the powerful countries to change their behaviour it could have resulted in a qualitatively different world order. Instead, India is pursuing a self-defeating dream of a permanent seat in the UNSC and realsing that it’ll never be part of G8 it has chosen to be part of alliances like BRICS and Quad to fulfill its ambition of being a second rung power in the world, if not the first.

It is not just the Indian students stranded in Ukraine who deserve our support, where all our attention is presently focused. We need to think about those Ukrainians who do not have the luxury of fleeing their homeland. Their lives have been devastated by the Russian attack and their future is uncertain. To be without a shelter in extreme cold can be a very miserable feeling. They have already started running out of food supplies. And there are little children among the stuck population.

It is a humanitarian crisis. We need to stand solidly with Ukrainians and compel Russia to stop this war. War can only beget violence and misery. It cannot be justified in any name. Instead of trying to imitate the world powers, India would do well to take an independent stand and work towards a word free of dangerous weapons. Only in a world free of weapons and armies can we hope to have enduring peace and friendship between countries.

 

Some people are disheartened with the disruption in children’s education due to the menace of Covid and the successive lockdowns. While a number of children are getting used to attending online classes, their counterparts from weaker socio-economic backgrounds continue to struggle either because of unfamiliarity with technology or because of having to share a single device with their siblings and/or parents. More unfortunate ones have been completely pushed out of the system which has resulted in the virtual drop in the rate of enrolment. 

Despite the unforeseen severance in the accepted paradigm of education, the positive trend to have emerged from this chaos, is the cancellation of examinations, sending a wave of relief amongst the students as well as their parents. (The only disappointing lot are the parents, who feel robbed off the glory their kids bring by acing the exams.) It may have been inconceivable before Corona to think of an examination-free education system, but now we are coerced into exploring the possibility of such an option. Just imagine how much unnecessary stress it will save the children, parents, and teachers while freeing up time to pursue personal interests and hobbies.

It is high time that examinations be recognized as the biggest scam in education. And this is not in referral to the mass-copying or buying the certificate in Board examinations at the Class X and XII level, or several other malpractices employed to clear the finals.  In fact, as a civilized society, we should be questioning the very raison-d’être of this unnecessary evil of the prevailing system.  Why do we need examinations? A teacher should be the best judge of a student’s level of understanding. An evaluation, if at all, should be assignment-and-participation based instead of the one based on written/oral tests. As Albert Einstein once said while elaborating on how a student’s overall performance is a far better gauge of her efforts and abilities. “The teachers’ impression of a student derived during the school years, together with the usual numerous papers from assignments, which every student has to complete, are a succinctly complete and better basis on which to judge the student than any carefully executed examination.

 Moreover, if we are truly interested in children succeeding in school then the need of the hour calls for an education rich in content and relevance accomplished through quality instructional time. Unfortunately, as the use of testing becomes the norm to evaluate students, more and more classroom time is being dedicated to helping kids prepare for the examination, which can often result in a narrowing of the curriculum. And, if we are interested in success for ALL children then we need to be aware that the current testing regime does nothing to address social and economic inequalities; it only reinforces them. 

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Last but not the least, examination represents a cruel process of elimination. Why should any child be eliminated from her birthright of getting an education? If the purpose of education is learning, then the task of a teacher is to ensure that the students learn, irrespective of the time and effort it might require. The fact remains that an examination system introduces competition, which in turn kills the spirit of learning. It prioritizes individual achievement over collaborative learning, thus defeating the very premise of education with its accent on cooperation over competition. Creating an environment, where every existing member is both a teacher and a student, presents a momentous opportunity to continually learn, not only from each other but also from every situation.  Once such dynamics are evolved, even interaction with everyday people, such as the milk person, gardener, farmer, craftsperson, musician, etc. can transform into a mutually enriching learning experience and help develop skills that go beyond the drab walls of a classroom. 

The damage being done by a culture of education built around examinations can be observed both on the surface as well as at the subliminal level. While on the surface, it automatically divides the children into achievers and non-achievers from a young age, at the subliminal level its effects can be traumatizing, to say the least, resulting in a complete erosion of self-confidence for some, and brutalization of personality for others. 

Since the model of modern education finds its roots in the industrial revolution, it tends to treat an individual as a product, and educational institutions as brands, and together they navigate the existing job market. Interestingly, it is hardly unusual that education itself has become a vast market up for grabs for the affluent. Educational institutions, especially the coaching centers which at times don on the dual responsibility of coaching as well as ‘education,’ have become mechanical factories that are expected to produce a definite quality of the product. Commercialization has led to mechanization which has a harmful effect on human intellect and emotions. 

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Again Covid has coerced us to pause and rethink the way we have shaped our concept of education. Do we really have to mass educate? Luckily, with an inadvertent by-product of Covid being social distancing, in a school environment, it has paved the way for fewer students per classroom. This, in turn, should hopefully result in a more empowering teacher/student relationship and put the brakes on the mechanized version of teaching that we see today. This model would very much be in sync with the one pioneered by our ancient gurukuls. Certainly, such a model calls for many more qualified and dedicated teachers. But if this is the model which will save us from the menace of Covid then we should also consider this as the model to save us from the disaster called education.

By Sandeep Pandey, Seema Muniz, and Gopal Krishna Verma

e-mail ids: ashaashram@yahoo.comseemamuniz24@gmail.comkrishnagopal25963@gmail.com

Note: Sandeep Pandey is General Secretary of Socialist Party (India), Seema Muniz is a blogger and an artist who homeschooled her child and Gopal Krishna Verma is a socio-political thinker.

Big hullabaloo has been raised by the Indian government and some sections of the Indian media on the incidents of 26 January, 2021 during the tractor parade of the farmers’ movement. Government has used the incidents as an excuse to tighten its noose on the entire movement. However, things are not as polarised as shown by some media. Majority of the people participating in the rally conducted their march as intended peacefully. But there was a small section of the protesting farmers, not part of the 32 Jathebandis involved in negotiations with the government, that broke the first barricades and started to march towards Red Fort.
On the event of the Republic day, the only scenes showcased were that of an unruly mob taking over the capital. This was largely the result of Indian media’s biased reporting and a habit of jumping to the conclusion by painting false narratives. The sacrifices farmers have been making for more than two months were outrightly disregarded. More than 170 famers have lost their lives during this peaceful protest either due to suicide, extreme cold conditions or health reasons. Interestingly, complete disregard of masks and social distancing has not resulted in any death due to Covid.
The protestors faced condemnation for hoisting a Nishan Sahib flag at Red Fort, which is normally put atop Gurudwaras as a spiritual marker of Sikh identity and has deeper philosophical meanings attached with faith. But what needs to be kept in mind is that during the entire course of this event, the tricolor was never disrespected in any way. It was always seen flying at the highest point at Red Fort where it needs to be. Many people use flags to represent an idea/ideology they stand by. The communists have a popular slogan, ‘Lal qile par lal nishan, maang raha hai Hindustan.’ The Rashtriya Swayansewak Sangh is so enamoured with its bhagwa dhwaj that until Bhartiya Janata Party formed a government at the centre they gave priority to their flag over the tricolor. Their hidden agenda has never been disguised when they openly talk of making a Hindu Rashtra out of India with their bhagwa as the national flag. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) has been negotiating for a separate flag and separate Constitution with the government of India. Jammu and Kashmir used to have its own flag until Article 370 was diluted. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had gotten a separate flag for Karnataka approved by his cabinet. So, if somebody hoisted their favourite flag without disturbing the tricolor why is the government, including the President and Prime Minister, harping on disrespect to the national flag? And in any case, how can Red Fort, which incidentally has been handed over to Bharat Dalmia group for Rs. 25 crores for five years in 2018, be a symbol of our democracy. The Parliament, the Supreme Court or the President’s Residence are symbols of democratic republic.
BJP and RSS supporters, masquerading as pro-farm law supporters, have attacked the farmers in police presence at various locations. Journalist Mandeep Punia who reported one such incident was arrested on charge of obstructing police in discharge of their duty and of beating police personnel. Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s prophecy in August 2019 that abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in Jammu and Kashmir would not result in Indianisation of Kashmir but rather Kashmirisation of India has come true with internet ban at protest sites. Water and electricity supplies had been cut off. But brave women from western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana arrived with earthen pitchers of water.
The coverage of mainstream media, unlike during the Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement which was launched in 2011, this time is biased. It reported that farmers were leaving the protest sites after the 26 January incidents, whereas the reality is that only those who specifically came to participate in the Republic Day tractor parade were going back. Because of government’s repression and breaking down of Rakesh Tikait at Ghazipur border the farmers were galvanised. It became a matter of self-respect for them, Since then mega Kisan Mahapanchayats have been held at Muzaffarnagar, Baraut, Mathura, Bijnore, Jind, Shamli and farmers are making a beeline for Delhi border. Tikait who till 26 January was only the leader of farmers from western UP has now become the face of entire farming community of northern India. Farmers are mobilized into a stronger force now.
On the other hand the government is being mean. It tried to get twitter accounts sympathetic to the famers’ movement blocked, registered cases against prominent people who posted messages in support of farmers’ movement, got iron nails embedded on roads to puncture famers’ vehicles, put up concrete, metal and stone boulders as obstruction, diverted trains to make it inconvenient for farmers to reach protest sites. When the government starts treating its own citizens as enemies, it is clear who has an upper hand in the battle. It remains to be seen who’ll win the war.
The government is irked by the international support of Rihanna, Greta Thunberg and Meena Harris, terming it interference in the internal affairs of our country, forgetting that the basic premise behind Citizenship Amendment Act brought by it was that non-Muslims in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan are persecuted minorities and it was actively trying to get the Nepalese Constitution in 2015 amended, going to the extent of imposing an informal economic blockade, which has resulted in an ill feeling in these countries towards India. In any case, domestic violence is not considered the internal affair of a household. Similarly, violation of human rights by any country cannot be overlooked by terming it an internal affair.
BJP leaders from Punjab, Haryana and elsewhere have begun publicly articulating their discomfort at the way their government is handling the movement. Most believe that the Prime Minister is capable of resolving the crisis. Most prominent among them is the Meghalaya Governor, Satyapal Malik, with a socialist background, who has advised the government not to insult the farmers.
With discontent within and without it may be difficult for the BJP government to continue its smooth sailing for very long. The government is arresting farmers under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for having provoked violence on 26 January whereas Deep Sidhu, one of the miscreants, whose proximity to the BJP has been all over the media, is yet to be apprehended. Compare this with the violence which was unleashed on 6 December, 1992 by an unruly Hindutva mob which resulted in razing the Babri mosque and killing of 12 Muslims as their houses were burnt down in Ayodhya. While demolition of Babri mosque invited the problem of terrorism to India, no First Information Report was registered in the case of murdered Muslims even though the P.V. Narasimha Rao government paid financial compensation to the families of the deceased.  
It is ironical that the BJP government has launched a high profile programme to honour the martyrs of Chauri Chaura incident, forgetting that these martyrs were booked by the British government in a similar manner that it is charging the farmers today, even though the scale of violence in Chauri Chaura was much bigger, 22 policemen burnt to death, compared to Delhi incidents.
The role of government in any country is to look after its people. The basic needs of people are not just material but even more a sense of security. The recent history of dissents in India has show that the government rather than providing answers and being more transparent in its functioning dwells into identity politics to change the narrative and infuses a communal propaganda to every protest and voice that disrupts its non-transparent way of functioning. This attack on a person and group identity is leading to a growing sense of insecurity among the people of India and disintegrating our secular spirit while losing faith in democracy. The trust in government is sadly, already lost.


By Dr. Sandeep Pandey, Harleen Sandhu and Rahul Singh Rana
Note: Sandeep Pandey is National Vice President of Socialist Party (India), Harleen Sandhu is a Doctoral student at Louisiana State University and Rahul Singh Rana is a consultant working in the field of business analysis.

By Sandeep Pandey, Simran Kaur and Harleen Sandhu

The Bhartiya Janata Party and its historical ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh have used religion in manipulating the sentiments of the masses to gain political mileage, strengthening its grassroots presence as well as skyrocketing its electoral mandate. A mosque was demolished a few decades ago to mobilize the Hindu votes in the name of building a temple at the same exact spot. The perpetrators walked away with impunity while the police appeared to look the other way when thousands were killed and left homeless in its aftermath. Under this Hindu Nationalist administration, the cow has been accoladed a political significance and used as an instrument to polarize public opinion leading to a series of cold and dreaded mob lynchings across the country. Any intellectual, artist, journalist or even a student, anyone who has dared to question these Hindutva vigilantes through their work and advocacy are either put behind bars or murdered in broad daylight. Anybody holding a differing viewpoint was and continues to be branded anti-national or a Naxalite. Using the national interest narrative, the Indian government has been silencing any form of remonstration and dissent comes at a very high cost in India. Under the shield of this toxic communal politics the government so far got away with a number of unpopular and brazen decisions like making and enabling electoral funding by private corporations opaque and removing any ceiling on donations, demonetization, implementation of Goods and Services Tax, repeal of Articles 370 and 35A from Jammu and Kashmir, passage of Citizenship Amendment Act and instituting National Register of Citizens exercise, totally dampening down the labour laws, diluting Environment Impact Assessment regime, without any significant challenge except on the CAA/NRC where coronavirus came to government’s rescue. This democratic alienation that our government seems to have grown very fond of increases the distance between the people and the decision makers. The government thought that it could also road-roll three laws pertaining to farmers likewise but got a surprise in the form of a rock solid resistance from Punjab and Haryana farmers.

            The Sikh community has been at the forefront of the struggle at all the protest sites surrounding Delhi from all corners, whether in Haryana, Rajasthan or Uttar Pradesh. Their religious ethos of langar (free meals), sewa (service), charhdi kala (high spirits) and hakk (right/dignity) have been deeply imbibed and resonate in every space of the ongoing protest. The farmers and their families have been there for almost 2 months in harsh cold conditions but their firm resolution to stand against this tyrannical government doesn’t seem to be slowing down rather seems to be getting stronger with each passing day. The Sikh community has ensured that anybody coming to participate in protests will not face any inconvenience of any sort. The trolleys and tractors are parked in a very organized manner on highways, and they ensure that it does not disrupt the movement of the passing vehicles. The Punjabi youth and women have been playing a very key role in keeping the protest organized such that even despite the large number of protestors that keep joining everyday, it looks like a new village that has sprung up altogether than a protest site. Langar, one of the most unique characteristic of Sikh religion and a hallmark of their faith makes them stand out from the rest of the world. The practice of langar, and community kitchen is the most humanitarian deed there can be perhaps as it thrives on the principles of equality according dignity to all since it symbolizes ‘sharing’ and not charity.

The Sikh community has utilized the positive emotion or energy of their religion to relentlessly support a political cause of farmers’ rights which is not just a matter of economic rights but these laws jeopardizing the dignity of living and livelihood of farmers as well as everyone associated with this sector at the grassroot level. They have the moral strength and zeal to take on the Indian government as they are determined to get the anti-farmer laws repealed and there is no question of retreating back. The ruling dispensation on the other hand has used sophistry, manipulation, misappropriation of narrative, illusion of a false sense of pride in an abstruse idea of nationalism which may not stand them in good stead.

            The seismic waves of protests have to a large extent also eroded the credibility of the government as it was busy trying in every which way it could, to discredit the thrust of the protest and delegitimize it by calling it ‘anti-national’. It has exposed the vulnerability of the ruling alliance that churns out facts that dispel the truth. As the government dithers in taking a decision on the farm laws it is increasingly becoming abundantly clear that it is serving the interests of its corporate sponsors. Graphic posters at the protest site keep depicting how Narendra Modi is controlled by Adani and Ambani and how the Prime Minister at the behest of his capitalist masters further controls the media houses, throttling free speech and dissent in many ways. It is very clear that all three laws in question are aimed at serving the corporate interests in totality. In spite of the best and concerted efforts of the government in trying to question the motive of protestors, its own intent and vision pertaining to the laws is now considered to be dubious carrying multiple designs.

            The Hindutva brigade which is quick to ascribe motives to people who oppose its agenda is at a total loss to even comment on posters like ‘Non-Resident Indians for Farmers,’ ‘We are not terrorists but farmers’ or the active participation of bodies like Khalsa Aid and British Sikh Council in facilitating the protests or the presence of martial Nihang Sikhs who have taken upon themselves to form the first line of defense at the Singhu border. They are there willing to sacrifice themselves at any given point of time for the cause of farmers. Even Muslim farmers from Maler Kotla have set up a langar to offer solidarity. The spirit of service, a unique feature of this protest, has overcome all political propaganda unleashed at the protestors or attempts to divide them by employing various tactics invoking the bogey of communalism, terrorism, foreign hand, etc., but no charges seem to stick. The government, whose morality is hollowed out by corruption, politics of divide and polarization will not be able to face the truth that resides in the hearts of committed protestors. None of the tools employed by it to browbeat its dissenters seem to be working at this time as the protestors have successfully fought back to counter those wishing to taint the movement with cogent analysis of the consequences of the laws.

                Almost two months of dialogue process has not yielded a result because the Ministers engaged in dialogue on behalf of the government are probably not empowered to take a decision on their own. Amit Shah could have taken a decision in consultation with the Prime Minister, but farmers refused to dialogue with him rightly pointing out that farmers’ problem cannot be viewed as a law and order problem alone. Narendra Modi himself will never engage in dialogue as became clear during the 112 days of fatal fast of Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand, earlier known as Professor G.D. Agrawal, in 2018 at Haridwar demanding a law for conservation of Ganga. Modi didn’t respond to four letters written to him by Swami Sanand but was quick to send a condolence message after his death. Death of hundred farmers during the movement will not move him if he didn’t care for the life of an eminent saint-scientist-environmentalist on an issue which was apparently close to his hear. Hence the dialogue process is doomed. We can only hope that the struggle of these farmers will triumph soon one day.

(Note: Sandeep Pandey is national vice president of Socialist Party (India), Simran Kaur is 5th year student of B.A.-LLB (Hons.) at University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh and Harleen Sandhu is a Doctoral student at Louisiana State University.)

By Nilkantha Mandal, Sandeep Pandey and Kushagra Kumar

All his life he fought valiantly to defend the rights of the people belonging to marginalised sections of society who were persecuted by the State or people who would stand up for their rights and consequently were targeted by the ruling elite but in the end he paid a price for his magnanimity. Surendra Gadling, now in jail in the Bhima-Koregoan violence case, is a human rights lawyer and Dalit rights activist based in Nagpur. He is known for taking up cases of extra-judicial killings, police excesses and atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis in Gadchiroli and Gondia districts of Maharashtra. He is considered to be an expert in special laws like Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, laws under which rampant violation of rights of tribals goes on in this country.
He represented Arun Ferreira, also in jail in the Bhima-Koregaon case, between 2007 and 2012. Until his own arrest, he was also handling the case of a wheelchair-bound Delhi University Professor G.N. Saibaba, now convicted for his Naxal links. Surendra Gandling is known to take up most of his cases pro bono.
While working as an apprentice in the railways, Surendra started the Awhan Natya Manch, which would organise cultural evenings in the bastis of Nagpur and engage in conversations around rights and oppression. He has also been a member of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners and served as General Secretary of the Indian Association of Peoples’ Lawyers. The IAPL describes him as ‘..an iconic example to many dalit lawyers defending their oppressed communities.’
Gadling was part of an independent fact-finding team that probed the encounter killing of 40 alleged Maoists by the police in Gadhchiroli in April 2018. He has also been a voice against persecution of the lawyers by the police machinery. In this context he also visited Kashmir as part of a team. He conducted a fact-finding mission in Chhattisgarh and brought out a report about persecution and harassment of lawyers who take up cases pertaining to tribals trapped in UAPA cases. He was also part of the Bhima Koregaon fact-finding team.
Gadling has been deeply involved with issues related to backward communities, in defense of reservation and in defense of the independence of the judiciary. He has been instrumental in spreading awareness and organising public meetings on various human rights issues.
Among the persons Gadling defended, many were charged with UAPA/Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and labeled as terrorists or Naxalites. Some of these names will definitely be part of history for their contribution towards society. In the close to twenty five years of legal career he was able to get acquittal for all his clients, except in three cases, who were charged under these draconian laws, no mean achievement considering the powerful state paraphernalia that he was arrayed against. By deploying the heaviest of police bandobast, cordoning off the court premises, issuing alerts on the court hearing days, the police would often throw its weight to intimidate him and his clients in many of the cases he was involved with.
Despite all this, Gadling has been successful in convincing the courts of law about the innocence of his clients and in the discarding of many ridiculous allegations. He has fearlessly defended many even when there was strong objection from bar associations, negative publicity in media and open threats from investigating bodies.
He has been appointed special public prosecutor in cases filed by women’s organizations on multiple occasions. In one dowry death case, despite a hostile investigation team, Gadling managed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt and obtained the conviction of the husband. After the completion of the case, fulfilling his duty as prosecutor, Gadling wrote to the higher-ups in the police department seeking stern action against police officers from the investigation team for their negligence of duty.

National Investigating Agency had raised objections on interim bail to Gadling on his mother’s demise.

It is clear that the role of Gadling as a lawyer and activist has been quite unpleasant for the powerful people in the police department. Given his commitment to defend those who have been labelled “Naxals”, police officials have made every effort to target him. There have been many instances where police officials have conveyed their displeasure towards him in various ways for handling these cases.
During the trial of Professor G.N. Saibaba, the then Investigating Officer in the case, Bawache, had said in the court premises itself that once Saibaba is sent to jail it will be the turn of Advocate Surendra Gadling. This particular threat was given right in front of the juniors and associates of Gadling.
It was clear that the threat was administered only to ensure that the defense counsel does not dare to function with a free mind. True to his threat, Bawache even got one of the surrendered Naxalites to give 164 statements in which he has attributed some of the most ridiculous allegations against Gadling. Bawache is known to be closely supervising the present case without officially being part of the investigation.
Gadling though has never been intimidated by such threats. There was even a time when he had to keep his anticipatory bail order in his pocket when he went for his own wedding.  However this time the Bhartiya Janata Party led central government in collusion with the police have managed to find a way to silence him, but, hopefully, only temporarily.
Therefore the 6th June 2018 arrest of Surendra Gadling along with other political prisoners by the Pune police due to accusations of Maoist links, under the UAPA is baseless. Either the charges against him must be substantiated in some way or he must be freed from imprisonment immediately. It is important that Surendra Gadling is out so that the rights of many are not trampled upon by the powerful vested interests often in collusion with the ruling elite.

(Nilkantha Mandal is a LLB student at Bengal Law College, Santiniketan, Sandeep Pandey is Vice President of Socialist Party (India) and Kushagra Kumar is a student from Lucknow.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the authors. The facts and opinions in the article do not reflect the views of The Public India and The Public India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Faisal Khan, 48 has invested his entire life to strengthen communal harmony. With the intent to maintain and promote peace and harmony between people and communities he took out countless marches not just within India but also between India and Pakistan. He can recite verses from Ramcharitmanas and from the Quran with equal conviction. He offers namaz in mosques and also receives prasad and blessings from the priest of Hindu temples. Last year he also took part in ‘Saryu Aarti’ in Ayodhya. In 2018 he was invited by the well known preacher Murari Bapu to his ashram at Mahua, Gujarat, and felicitated during the ‘Sadbhavna Parv,’ as part of which Faisal also addressed the gathering present there. Murari Bapu was so overwhelmed upon hearing Ramcharitmanas verses from Faisal that he promised to visit ‘Sabka Ghar’ in Gaffar Manzil, near Jamia Milia, Delhi, which has been established by Faisal, dedicated to those who sacrificed their lives as victims of some form of discrimination or other. Sabka Ghar is a living example of communal harmony where people of different religious faiths come and live together, and celebrate different festivals like Holi, Diwali, Eid, Christmas, etc., together with equal fervour and spirit.

Recently Faisal Khan, Chand Mohammad, Alok Ratan and Nilesh Gupta undertook ’84 Kos Parikrama’ of Braj in Mathura during which they  paid a visit to a Nand Baba Mandir. They received the prasada from this temple and Faisal recited verses from Ramcharitmanas to the priest. The priest happily allowed him to offer Namaz inside the premises on 29 October 2020. When the photographs of Faisal Khan and Chand Mohammad offering Namaz in the temple premises went viral, then it appears as if someone with maligned intent asked the priest to lodge a police complaint. Three days after this incident, on 1st of November 2020, a first information report was lodged at Barsana Police Station. All four pilgrims have been charged with Indian Penal Code sections 153A, 295 and 505. On 2nd November 2020, UP Police arrested Faisal Khan from Delhi and took him to Mathura. Later IPC sections 419, 420, 453, 468, 470 has also been added to the FIR.

Faisal Khan and his associate offering Namaz in Mathura Temple

There is a contradiction in charges slapped by the police. How can those who are undertaking 84 Kos Parikrama for peace and communal harmony in Mathura spread hatred in the name of religion? Followers of Hindu faith should be happy that people from other faiths are also undertaking 84 Kos Parkirama as per Hindu traditions and customs and receiving blessings and prasada from their temple. Moreover, all religions overall believe that there is one God. Then what difference does it make if we worship the God differently? Some people may worship by offering namaz. The destination is same, only routes are different. Those who will listen to the voice of reason will not have any objection to this. But if someone wants to leverage political mileage out of religion or polarise communities on religious sentiments then such a person will make an issue out of this incident.

Faisal Khan is also a trustee of Sarva Dharma Sadbhava Kendra Trust located in Ram Janaki Mandir in Durahi Kuan, Sarju Kunj, Ayodhya. There is a plan to develop an all-faith communal harmony centre in this Ram Janaki temple where Acharya Yugal Kishore Sharan Shastri is the Mahant. Faisal Khan has offered Namaz several times in this temple. People of all faith and caste including Dalits are welcome in this temple. There is also a langar (kitchen) organized at this temple everyday like in Gurudwaras. The committee which manages the langar is headed by Danish Ahmed of Faizabad. One of the objectives of the religion is to encourage people to live in harmony and peace with each other. If people use religion to incite discontent or divide then this cannot be a called a religious act.

Faisal Khan also organised a march from Delhi to Haridwar in March 2019 to support Brahmachari Atmabodhanand, who was sitting on a fast in Matra Sadan at Haridwar to demand a law for conservation of  river Ganga. Faisal also invited head of Matra Sadan, Swami Shivanand Saraswati in February 2020 to Delhi to distribute relief materials for restoration of a damaged mosque as well as to meet victims of communal riots in a camp. Faisal Khan is doing important work of an antidote to the poison that communal forces are spreading in the society. That is why it is even more shocking to see the charges under which Faisal Khan and colleagues have been booked.

Some people are raising the question that Faisal Khan could offer namaz in a temple, can one perform yagya, bhajan-kirtan in a mosque? Now, Hindu religion is a liberal and flexible religion. The mahant of above mentioned Ram Janaki Yugal Kishore Shashtri describes himself as an atheist. Such a possibility exists in Hindu religion but not in Islam. Hence different religions have unique characters. It is unfair to compare them. Moreover, it is said that religion is a matter of faith. We should respect anybody’s faith in a particular religion and also those who don’t have faith in any religion. If there is something special about our religion we should try to preserve it and refrain from finding fault with other religions. Because criticism will only lead to controversy. Hence respecting the diversity of our religions is a way to maintain peace and harmony. As we write this, we hear that some people have gone and recited Hanuman Chalisa in a Idgah and a mosque. If they done it with the permission of caretakers of these places there is nothing wrong with it. But the intention is very important. Faisal offered namaz with the permission of priest of the temple and he was on a mission of communal harmony having done the parikrama.  He is well versed with Hindu religion texts as well. But if the intention of those reading Hanuman Chalisa is merely a reaction to Faisal’s offering namaz in temple then it doesn’t serve any purpose. If they are religious people they’ll try to understand Islam as well and not merely seek to justify their act on political ground.

The society has to understand Faisal Khan and his spirit and stand along with those who are trying to maintain and strengthen communal harmony and peace rather than those who are trying to divide for political aggrandizement.

Jointly authored by Bobby Ramakant, Kushagra Kumar and Sandeep Pandey. Kushagra Kumar is a student and Bobby Ramakant & Sandeep Pandey are associated with Socialist Party (India)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the authors. The facts and opinions in the article do not reflect the views of The Public India and The Public India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

What purpose does a religion serve?

It serves you the meaning of living a life in the right way.

Lately, the sentiment around the religion in our country is undergoing transformation, religion has become a marker of character. Earlier this thinking was limited to a very small section of society but now the politics of majoritarianism has taken over. It has influenced the government, administration, police, judiciary and the media. By conflating majority Hindu religion with nationalism the problem has been further compounded. So much so that every wrong, such as violence done in the name of religion, is sought to be justified. On the other hand Muslim citizens become a suspect in the eye of system. Innocent Muslims as well as those who are critical of the Hindutva ideology are falsely implicated in legal cases because they are viewed as anti-nationals. Laws like sedition, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and National Security Act are invoked so that the accused have to spend years in jail without trial and bail. In Uttar Pradesh, where the police have failed to control the law and order situation, out of 139 cases registered under NSA, 76 are related to cow slaughter. It shows the misplaced priorities of and the abuse of police to achieve its political agenda by the Bharatiya Janata Party government which is being played up by the media of our country. People are using digital platform to incite hate and anger, sadly there is no control over it. This politics of communalism is creating mistrust among the communities as never before and has led to many dreadful events, taking a heavy toll on social fabric of this country.

We live in a society with over 3,000 castes and over 10 major faiths. Yet a kid won’t know when he will call his friends for gully cricket their faith or caste but as they grow society molds our thinking. Our syncretic culture has an inbuilt tolerance. People of different religions and castes have learnt to live together over generations respecting each other’s views and often go out of their way to help each other. For every communal incident we also hear stories of how Hindus saved Muslims and vice versa. But unfortunately politics of communalism is polarizing the society resulting in mental ghettoisation.

Mob lynching incidents, which initially targeted Muslims and Dalits, are now on the rise as people are emboldened to take law into their hands even in other matters. Pure human emotions like love have not been spared. Love jihad is used as a pretext to hound inter-religious couples, just as inter-caste couple are persecuted. The jihad concept was extended to COVID-19 crisis accusing Muslims of spreading the virus. And now one channel has come out with a story that Muslims are infiltrating the civil services. Sachar Committee report tells us that Muslims are under-represented in service sector in proportion to their population essentially because education levels among the community are comparatively lower, but that is how the media is distorting the reality, implications of which are very dangerous for the well being of our society.

Watch The Public’s Third Eye with Anand Vardhan Singh on Palghar Mob Lynching

Our morality has been numbed by this communal-patriarchal-casteist thinking that our conscience is not pricked by even the cruelest acts. When a barber Ikhlaq from Uttar Pradesh went to Haryana in search of work his right hand which had a ‘786’ tatoo on it was amputated by a saw machine. 786 has religious significance in Islam just as ‘Om’ in Hinduism. It has nothing provocative about it, yet Ikhlaq has been permanently disabled to pursue his vocation for livelihood. Slogans like Jai Shree Ram and Allah-O-Akbar have become war cries defeating the whole purpose of religion. What purpose this hate campaign can serve except to create long lasting fissures in society?

When Wall Street Journal recently carried a story on how Facebook deliberately allowed hate speech content by some BJP leaders including T. Raja Singh to keep the government in good humour, even though it played a role in instigating communal riots, it has sparked a debate on free speech. Ultimately Raja Singh’s content was removed but a number of BJP leaders including the Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad objected to the curb on right to freedom of expression of their colleagues. Does the right to free speech give one a right to endanger somebody’s life? It is interesting that BJP leaders advocate for their freedom of speech but anybody else found to be crtical of their government or leaders or even past Hindutva leaders are likely to be booked by the police. Recently UP police went all the way to Odisha to arrest a Muslim youth who made some adverse comments about Yogi Adityanath and Narendra Modi on social media. And now the UP government is creating a Special Security Force with a power to search and arrest without warrant. We can very well imagine who the likely victims will be.

Media, with some exception, has readily propagated the right wing ideology either to curry favour from government or under duress. The manipulation by the media channels, trying to feed the negativity to serve their rating, has been damaging to our society. The social media platforms have spread fake news sometimes resulting in violent incidents. Hatred and stupidity are on brazen display on these platforms. Innocence of human beings has been replaced by cunningness.

Watch Third Eye with Dr. Sandeep Pandey & Anand Vardhan Singh on Disinvestments

During the time of pandemic when people are mostly at homes the news channels have stooped to a new low in indulging in sensationalism. Journalism is losing its essence, it’s no longer about issues but it has taken the role of judging people’s character. To ensure that no hard questions are asked about its inept handling of the crisis at border created by China, the BJP has invented enemies like Rhea Chakraborty and Shiv Sena so that energies of its supporters are directed internally. Nobody is interested in the real question of how drugs make it to our society with the collusion of authorities. Meanwhile, the BJP is unashamedly using Sushant Singh Rajput’s issue as an election issue in Bihar diverting the attention from the misery of migrant workers who are facing a dual crisis due to floods. The media is simply lapping it all up.

We have to ask some serious questions. How is the national politics and media relevant to a child who sleeps without food at night because there is unemployment? Is poverty no longer an issue in a country with most number and proportion of poor in the world? Where is the conscience of media which is required to play the role of fourth pillar of democracy?  With unemployment going up the information broadcasters are earning enough money to feed gossip but will they be able to feed an empty stomach of a family whose lives have been devastated by the lockdown? What we see or listen we tend to believe, that’s the power we have given to the TV channels and they are abusing the power of information. An uneducated man or a villager is not interested in the Bollywood. The journalism in our country is dying and the people are enjoying the funeral because they are getting their daily soap fun. Journalism means research and showing the truth, posting the current events and not twisting a person’s mind with false fancy information.

It’s no secret how the elections of 2014 and 2019 were influenced with the power of technology. The feed on our Facebook and other platforms are customized menu offered to us, the fashion videos or the food videos are not randomly there on your feed.  Sure, it is easy to just be glued to your phone and watch or get served what you ordered thereafter the rest of the menu follows without you searching for it. The extensive reach of the platforms has posed a danger to our society as whole. Since the feed for each individual is customized the opinion of a person is shaped accordingly but the downside is the race for attention of the masses and the electronic media is the most aggressive player in the game. Electronic media in India is more of drama than actual journalism. As a human mind is more prone to sensationalism, the advantage is being taken by the electronic media. The real issues like the falling GDP, the situation of migrant workers, farmers’ misery all fade vis-a-vis the suicide of a Bollywood actor, Shiv Sena leader equating demolition of Kangana Ranaut’s office to Babri Masjid’s or the politics of Hindu Muslim binary. People get carried away as they are being fed the drama and tend to forget about the actual problems, this has created polarization to a great extent in India. People hate each other for their ideology, even in families there is polarization among the kids and their parents because the kids are critical of the Government.

Is that the world one wants to live in? Where we have differences among our family members? Hate boiling in our blood for our ideology? Use of religion or caste to demean others?The external threat faced by the country can be countered only by fostering equality, liberty, and most of all fraternity, amongst its citizens and not by playing the divisive politics internally.

Maybe it’s time to rethink our actions and conscience! Remember that Idea advertisement? Where people had no religion, no caste just their phone numbers as their identity. If people were more thoughtful there would be less hatred and violence and more love in our world.

(Jointly Authored by Dr. Sandeep Pandey and Shivi Saba)

Note: Sandeep Pandey is renowned Social Activist & Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and Shivi Saba is a Masters student at Berlin School of Business and Innovation.

Also Read: TIME TO JUDGE THE JUDGEMENT

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When the only cause for elation, even a smile in the morning, is news of the release of an innocent detainee with the words that his detention ‘was bad in law’, then democracy is indeed staring at its nadir.

Priyanka Gandhi called Dr. Kafeel after his release. We would have liked to call the judges who delivered this judgment. Why? For doing their duty? For upholding a fundamental principle of the law? That a man is innocent until proved guilty? But how many judges are doing their duty today? If they were, would Sharjeel Imam, Devangana Kalita (who was indeed granted bail on one of several charges) and numerous others be rotting behind bars? Here we do not even talk of the Bhima Koregaon/Elgaar Parishad case in which many intellectuals, journalists, advocates, professors and human rights defenders are in jail on charges similar to those levelled against Dr. Kafeel Khan.

Dr. Kafeel’s is no ordinary case. Accusations made against him were never really about the ‘incendiary’ speech he is supposed to have made at Aligarh Muslim University. It is well known that the deep corruption and mismanagement of a hospital in Gorakhpur where sixty children lost their lives for lack of oxygen, was brought to light when the man in charge—Kafeel Khan—disclosed the fact that earlier bills for cylinders were kept pending despite his repeated reminders resulting in total unavailability of oxygen in the hospital. He was never forgiven for this and it was only a matter of time before the predator pounced on the prey. He was arrested in 2017 for dereliction of duty and being engaged in private practice.

Dr. Kafeel Khan after his release from jail

In 2018, Dr. Khan was released on bail as the court did not find him guilty of medical negligence. When a departmental inquiry cleared him of all charges a fresh inquiry was initiated clearly suggesting that there was more to this case than met the eye.The Uttar Pradesh government got another opportunity to nab him after his speech at AMU in December 2019 during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens movement when he was accused of promoting hatred and violence between different groups. The UP police who have proved to be a total failure in controlling the situation of law and order within the state, displayed great alacrity in arresting Dr. Kafeel Khan from Mumbai and bringing him to Aligarh from where he was shifted to the Mathura jail. He was charged with threatening the peace and tranquillity of Aligarh. Before he could be released on bail after an order of Chief Judicial Magistrate in Aligarh, the administration slapped the National Security Act on him which further continued his incarceration. The State Advisory Board extended his period of custody under the NSA.

It finally took a Division bench of two High Court judges Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Saumitra Dayal Singh to set aside his detention as well as extension terming them unsustainable in the eye of the law, clearing the way for his release. What the police thought was a provocative speech, the Judges described as ‘a call for national integrity and unity.’ What can be a more stark example of the venality of police action. The police’s role has been damaging to the self-esteem of this professional service. Dr. Kafeel Khan has proved that he is a dedicated and conscientious paediatrician and it is unfortunate that the government instead of using his services in a time of pandemic, chose to keep him in jail.

Watch the Episode- 226 of Third Eye on Dr. Kafeel Khan

All judges are aware of the fate of Justice B.H. Loya, who died under mysterious circumstances in 2014 when he was hearing the case of the (fake) encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in which Amit Shah was an accused, and of Justice S. Muralidhar who was transferred to High Court of Punjab and Haryana on the night of the day that he took Delhi police to task for not registering a First Information Reports against three Bharatiya Janata Party leaders who had made provocative speeches which were followed by communal riots in Delhi in February, 2020. Also the prospect of rewards for ‘services rendered’ at all times looms large and indeed comes to fruition as we have recently witnessed. It takes a Dushyant Dave to (want to) say to a retiring judge: “May I pray to Lord Mahabaleshwar to bless you with strength to introspect and stir up your conscience.” (Indian Express, September 3) As we know, though invited to the function as the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, he was not permitted to speak at Justice Arun Mishra’s farewell. This was immediately after the contempt of court case against Prashant Bhushan in which Dave was Bhushan’s advocate pleading before a bench presided over by Justice Mishra.

Thus whereas politicians and members of the public – those members that care – are quick to cry out against witch hunts and vendetta politics, we write in the belief that it is also necessary to salute those in the legal system who are willing to speak truth to power and deliver the sort of justice the citizens of this country deserve. It will take another set of intrepid judges to not only reinstate Dr. Kafeel Khan in his job, but even more consequentially, to set aside the case under NSA against him.If this happens, it could serve as a precedent, setting in motion the release of other innocents in jails.

We commend the Allahabad High Court judges for preventing gross injustice at a time when the public perception of the independence of the judiciary is under a dark cloud of mistrust.

May their tribe increase!

(By Sandeep Pandey and Mohini Mullick)
Note: Sandeep Pandey is Vice President, Socialist Party (India) and Mohini Mullick is former Professor of Humanities at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.  

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