Saturday, 9 November 2019

Punishing dissent in Modi's India

Here are a few recent instances of people being punished for speaking truth to power. Or just doing their jobs. There are, of course, many many more examples like this.

Government employees... beware of speaking up! (Or even just doing your job.)

Tripura government doctor, Kaushik Chakraborty, was suspended for some social media posts about Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb. Among other things, Dr. Chakraborty tweeted, addressing Deb: "there is no Nobel Prize for speaking nonsense!"[The Wire] If there were such a prize then Deb, who claims there was internet in the days of the Mahabharata, would be a strong contender.[Business Standard] But the competition for the nonsense Nobel Prize would be stiff: union HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal claimed that Ram Setu, the chain of limestone shoals between India and Sri Lanka, was built by Indian engineers.[Newslaundry]

Chennai Doordarshan official, R Vasumathi, was suspended for refusing to telecast a speech by the dear leader live.[The News Minute] At the cost of her job she gave DD viewers a much needed break. Her actions score 10 out of 10 for courage!

Department of Telecommunications (DoT) official, Ashish Joshi, was suspended for filing a complaint about a hate filled video posted by BJP MLA Kapil Mishra[The Wire]. Mishra is a well known hate monger and his most recent tweet compared Muslim children to pollution.[NDTV] The DoT claims he was expelled because he filed his complaint on letter headed paper!

Indian Forest Service officer Kallol Biswas was sacked after serving notices to a Karnataka BJP leader Gali Janardhana Reddy whose mining activities allegedly crossed permitted boundaries.[Deccan Herald]

Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa was a dissenting voice on several controversial decisions where the EC gave clean chits to Narendra Modi's campaign. By a strange coincidence, the Income Tax department is now probing his wife's income.[The Wire]

Teachers and students... be careful what you say (especially about Kashmir)!

JNU PhD student and Kashmiri activist Shehla Rashid was booked for sedition - and other crimes - for her tweets about the human rights situation in Kashmir after the revocation of Article 370.[The Wire]

Hindutva activists forced the suspension of UP headmaster Furqan Ali because his students recited in morning assembly the poem Lab pe aati hai dua by Muhammad Iqbal, author of Saare Jahan Se Accha.[Newsclick] Students at his school - Hindu and Muslim - walked out of their classes in protest and later officials said that the suspension would be revoked.[The Wire] Here is what some of his students said, according to the Indian Express: "When we read this poem in our Urdu book, we liked it and asked our headmaster permission to recite it. Both Hindu and Muslim students had asked him. He does not say no to us. And he allowed us to sing this poem on alternate days... We used to recite lab pe aati hai dua and woh shakti humein do dayanidhi. If he has been suspended for allowing us to recite the poem, then it is also the government's fault for making it part of our syllabus. Does that mean this government should be suspended?"[Indian Express]

Madhumita Ray, an assistant professor at a technology institute in Orissa, was sacked immediately and without warning after appearing on TV advocating peace with Pakistan.[The Wire]

Seven UP teachers were suspended for their social media posts. It is worth reading what these teachers were suspended for, to get a sense of how far authoritarianism in Adityanath's UP has gone.[Indian Express]

Six students from socially marginalised backgrounds in a Maharashtra university were suspended for writing to the PM complaining about mob lynchings, the clampdown in Kashmir, and the sell-off of public assets. The suspensions were revoked, perhaps in response to the publicity the case received.[Newsclick],[The Wire]

Four Kashmiri students at Aligarh Muslim University were served show-cause notices for raising slogans about atrocities by the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir after the revocation of Article 370.[The Wire]

Kiruba Mohan, an Ambedkarite postgraduate student activist in Madras University, was expelled. The university claims his expulsion was because he failed to submit some documentation, but activities like protesting against visits by BJP leaders seem a more plausible explanation.[Indian Express] The student filed a case against the administration in the Madras High Court.[Edexlive]

Judges and police... beware of your decisions

Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, V. K. Tahilramani, was one of India's most senior judges. In 2017, while Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, she upheld life imprisonment sentences of 11 people convicted in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case during the Gujarat violence of 2002. The Supreme Court Collegium - which figures in the next incident too - recently made the decision to transfer her to Meghalaya. They refused to reconsider and she resigned in protest. After a backlash, including a strike by lawyers in Chennai, the authorities spread around a variety of reasons for her transfer. But her courage in punishing Hindutva violence seems the most likely reason.[Frontline]

It is not so long ago that Amit Shah was a triple murder accused: as far as the CBI were concerned he was essentially the head of an organised crime syndicate.[Reuters] Justice Akil Kureshi has the distinction of having sent Amit Shah to police custody - yes, you read that right - for Shah's role in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter. Currently the most senior judge in the Gujarat High Court, Kureshi was due to be appointed as chief justice of the MP High Court, but at the Modi government's insistence, the Supreme Court Collegium changed its recommendation to chief justice of the Tripura high court.[The Wire] This downgrade may not be enough to please the powerful enemies Kureshi made.[The Telegraph]

Earlier this year, another person punished for having had the courage to act against a powerful BJP leader was IPS officer Jasvir Singh. He was suspended after giving an interview to the media in which he claimed he had been sidelined ever since booking Yogi Adityanath under the NSA in 2002.[Newsclick]

And journalists... do not humiliate Adityanath!

Journalist Prashant Kanojia was arrested for sharing on social media a video in which a woman alleged that she had been in a relationship with Adityanath. According to the BBC, six people were arrested for tweets about Adityanath in three days.[BBC]

Five journalists were booked by police for reporting on how a Dalit family was allegedly prevented from drawing water from a hand pump in a UP village.[India Today] It seems that reporting on caste discrimination equates to provoking caste enmity.

The poor treatment of (poor) children in UP schools figures in two further recent cases. A case was filed against UP journalist Pawan Kumar Jaiswal who took a video of primary school children eating rotis with salt as their midday meal.[NDTV]. And UP journalist Santosh Jaiswal was arrested after he photographed students mopping the floor of their school.[The Wire]

[This post first appeared on the news pages of Narendramodifacts on October 29th 2019. If you like it, please share it.]

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