Subverting Law and Justice: Amit Shah Rules the Roost
PRIME Minster Modi in his first post Republic Day Mann Ki Baat, lamented that ‘insult to the National Tri Colour hurts’! Its sounds ironical because, he has in the past, several times mentioned that he is a proud Swayam Sevak of the RSS, an organisation which refused to hoist the national flag atop its headquarters in Nagpur for many years after independence. The mouthpiece of the Sangh had vigorously criticised the adoption of the tri-colour as the national flag in its mouthpiece Organiser. But, politics apart the actual hoisting of the Nishan Sahib on a flag pole below the national flag on the ramparts of the Red Fort was allegedly the trigger which brought out his anguish!
However, he ought to have questioned his most trusted lieutenant, the home minister, Amit Shah over how this could have happened. To anyone who is aware of the security arrangements of the Red Fort which is emblematic of the Indian State would know that this untoward breach could not have been possible without a complete breakdown of the security arrangement. This was more so because for the whole week between January 19-26, the Red Fort remains under complete security lockdown on account of the Republic Day. If at all the prime minister would have done well to inform our citizens as to how such an inexplicable breach had, indeed, taken place. And it was the home minister who is directly responsible for the security of the capital, who would have been in a better position to explain things. And so long as our constitution is not formally jettisoned, accountability of the government to its citizens remains the supreme foundation of governance.
IT’S THE NARRATIVE, STUPID!
Democracies anywhere in the world are known by the capacity and empowerment of the citizens and the institutions to question the power. But, in new India that we live in under the Modi dispensation, it is not ‘truth’, but the ‘official narrative’ which matters. It will be pertinent to refer to the recent outrageous developments in Capitol Hill in Washington. It has now come to be universally recognised that the takeover of the Congress and the Senate premise by the hoodlums, the ideological soulmates of the outgoing president, Donald Trump were inspired by the narrative of the most powerful incumbent of the world that he cannot lose an election.
It is this official narrative driven ‘post truth’ that powers the actions of the government by subverting not only truth, but law and justice as laid by our constitution. The government being the custodian and executioner of the constitution, the law takes place at their behest.
That the narrative which is officially constructed has nothing to do with truth, the citizens or national interest has become crystal clear with the exposure of the WhatsApp chats between Arnab Goswami, the chief of a private television channel and the head of the television rating regulator. It is clear that, Goswami’s commercial interest led to subversion of grave national security interest. Since the television channels concerned have functioned as the main transmitter of the government’s narrative, their access to the sensitive security related information was facilitated. It was so outrageous that the heart breaking information of killing of forty of our uniformed soldiers in their line of duty had made the channel head rejoice and armed him with the prior information about the military response! That the passing of these information themselves constitute a massive security breach need not be underlined.
However, since the offending television channel and the others could successfully transmit the narrative of the government to rouse a sense of muscular nationalism leading to landslide victory for the ruling dispensation cannot obviate the need for accountability of the government. The prime minister, the home minister and the defence minister, the political leadership responsible for this security breach has not spoken a single word so far on the subject lest it punctures the official ‘narrative’.
Since the new Modi 2.0 has been into existence the ‘narrative’ intensified with Amit Shah going berserk. The two signature initiatives, scrapping of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and CAA enactment, primarily undermined the provisions of constitution. Both these questions have ended up in being such important questions being shelved by the Supreme Court these two also remain in deep freeze.
Meanwhile, the government spearheaded by home ministry under Amit Shah went on an overdrive. The J&K situation was for some time kept on wrap by the unprecedented security and communication lockdown. Not allowing the media in the valley to trickle out and figure in the public discourse of the country. However, what little could find its way in the public domain was from the foreign media outlets. These were, of course, wished off by describing them as inimical to ‘national interest’. Only recently, the development council elections have brought out the degree of opposition to the BJP. The prior information about the impending move of the government was made known to Arnab Goswami 2-3 days before August 5, 2019, the day government moved to scrap Article 370 in parliament.
But, on the question of CAA and the ‘chronology’ of CAA-NPR-NRC was sought to be posed as a Hindu-Muslim question rather than a fundamental shift in the constitutional precept of ‘equal citizenship’, regardless of caste, creed or religious denominations. Obviously, this also provoked an extremely divisive agenda despite the critics and the opponents basing themselves in the framework of defence of the existing constitution. It generated widespread opposition. In its attempt to undermine this, Amit Shah led the assault with strong arm targeting peaceful protests in university campuses which showed unprecedented energy and resilience in opposing this assault. Counteracting, HM demonised peaceful protests and criminalised them. Official patronage was visible in letting loose armed goons against opponents in JNU, Jamia and other peaceful protest sites like Shaheen Bagh in Delhi.
The pattern was sinister; charging victims and protecting aggressors. The partisanship of the police and other central agencies was brazen, coordinated by the home ministry. This was underlined with organised communal violence unleashed in North-East Delhi. Delhi was on fire for a week by inverting the narrative. This narrative was clear from Amit Shah’s submission in the parliament itself where he detailed out this narrative based on alleged findings of the Delhi Police referring to ‘face recognition’ software devoid of legal backing. WhatsApp chats were used widely to back these claims. In many cases, subsequently, the manufactured narrative stands exposed by the proceedings in trial court while granting bail to those who were accused by the police.
This targeted violence also revealed another sinister ploy. The arbitrary invoking of provisions of UAPA, Sedition Act and National Security Act. A recent study shows, 96 per cent of sedition cases, 405 in all, in the last decade were under the Modi government. Of these 149 and 144 were simply for critical remarks against PM and UP, contrary to SC’s specific directions. Understandably, success rate of prosecution is abysmally low. It is also becoming clear that this strategy is unrelated to challenge of law and order; but to incarcerate targets denying bail convincing despite lack of evidence.
This pattern has been set out by the manner in which the NIA has conducted itself in the Bhīma Koregaon case. Where some of the well-known public intellectuals and human rights activists have been charged by dubbing them as ‘Maoists’ and ‘urban naxals’ without credible evidence in the public domain.
Several RTI queries have attempted to explore the basis of these notions like ‘urban naxals’, ‘tukde tukde gang’ and ‘anti-nationals’. None of the replies furnished details of any exercise, if at all, undertaken within the home ministry. However, these have been obnoxiously used by the Hindutwa brigade for extensive hate campaign spearheaded by BJP’s IT cell.
STIFLING THE INDEPENDENT VOICE
It is being widely recognised now by the international media and human rights agencies that the plural and secular nature of Indian democracy has fast deteriorated under the current regime, with Amit Shah as HM spearheading this downhill journey. Fake news and manufactured distortions feed this hate campaign. International studies have revealed that the maximum fake news is produced in India. It is clear that the governance under the home ministry has substituted rule of law with an orchestrated campaign to pursue the political agenda of the ruling dispensation. That this undermines the constitution itself is obvious.
It is this narrative driven approach which has resulted in the unfortunate incident on the Republic Day in Red Fort which ‘pains’ the prime minister. The orchestration of pattern pursued in Bhima Koregaon and anti-CAA-NPR-NRC and the Delhi violence was also attempted in demonising unprecedented united and peaceful farmers’ movement which was demanding the complete repeal of the three farm Acts. This movement entered the current phase where the gateway points to Delhi have all transformed into resilient protest sites since November 27. Since then, every effort of the government to break the resistance of the farmers have failed with added momentum every passing day. The farmers’ movement have managed to strike a resonance across the country with agreement that these Acts constitute a major threat to their livelihood due to complete handover of agriculture to the corporate.
After elaborate negotiations the farmer organisations were allowed to hold a tractor rally in the capital on January 26. The scale of the rally was unprecedented with more than two lakh tractors and one million participants. Facts now reveal that some stray groups were allowed by the Delhi police to follow a diversion and they included agent provocateurs close to the ruling Party and seen in photographs with the home minister and the prime minister. Video films also finds one of them, Deep Sadhu engaged in the act of putting up Nishan Sahib which supposedly, pained the PM.
Failing to break the resistance even with such media orchestrated narrative, the alternative description of the real events has emerged and appears to be far more credible. This has led to unprecedented security offensive by Delhi and UP police. There is an unprecedented attack on individual media personalities being charged with the Sedition Act.
Unlike the earlier protest this is a protest based on the reality of a major threat to livelihood. Therefore, it is proving to be far more resilient based on the principles of peaceful satyagraha at the same time they bring out the entire array of these narrative driven governance of the home ministry.
HOW TO MEET THE CHALLENGE?
It is clear from this experience that the way to meet this challenge of the narrative driven attempts to undermine constitutional precepts would be to concentrate on uniting different sections of the people primarily on the crisis of livelihood that overwhelming majority of our people face. With broadest possible unity on livelihood which reflects and resonates their lived experience that the violations of law and role of the mainstream media and pernicious use of social media to fuel hate can be called. Taking this forward, destruction of constitutional governance, particularly that of the home ministry and the home minster can be called. It is a protracted battle. All opportunities and all avenues will have to be used to combine these struggles inside the parliament and outside to move from the post truth to a narrative of the people firmly anchored in truth. Battle lines have been drawn, so are the barricades; but, with truth on the side of the people, victory is assured. Finally, calling out the shenanigans of the home minister in undermining the rule of the law is an essential imperative.