February 21, 2021

BJP-RSS Regime Criminalises Dissent

Ashok Dhawale

THE diabolical and paranoid BJP-RSS central government led by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah has accelerated on the atrocious path of criminalising dissent and demonising protesters in the valiant nationwide farmers’ struggle, which will complete three months on February 26.


After the violent events on January 26 which the BJP regime had itself orchestrated, the government first went after farmers, arresting over 122 of them and throwing them in prison. Many more farmers are still ‘missing’ and untraceable.

It then attacked eminent journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai, Mrinal Pande, Siddharth Varadarajan, Zafar Agha, Vinod Jose and others, and slapped draconian cases against them. Such attacks on fearless and independent journalists have shown a sharp increase during the last seven years of the Modi regime. And the protection to, and promotion of, servile and spineless journalists has also shown an exponential increase during the same period.

Then came the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raid on the office of the independent and courageous news portal Newsclick, and the residences of its chief editor Prabir Purkayastha, who was jailed during the Emergency, its editor Pranjal Pandey and others. The raid at Prabir Purkayastha’s residence took 114 hours at a stretch. Newsclick’s only ‘crime’ was that it has for the last 12 years been consistently and excellently covering people’s just struggles all over the country, including the current historic nationwide farmers’ struggle.

The latest episode in this despicable narrative is the arrest by the Delhi police of 22-year young environmental activist Disha Ravi from Bengaluru on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy, over a ‘toolkit’ tweeted by climate campaigner Greta Thunberg supporting the farmers’ protest on February 3. The next day, the Delhi police issued non-bailable warrants against two more people in Maharashtra – Nikita Jacob, an advocate and her associate Shantanu Muluk, an engineer, alleging that they were responsible for creating the Google document. The Delhi police as usual dragged in the Khalistani angle into these actions.

The common feature in these vindictive actions is that all the above targets of the government have supported the ongoing farmers’ struggle.

These attacks have led to sharp reactions all over the country. The SKM, AIKSCC, AIKS and several other organisations have denounced these dastardly attacks on democracy and on the freedom of expression. There have been several demonstrations and a massive barrage of condemnation of these ham-handed actions in all sections of the social media. Youth have been especially active in all these protests. Several leading mainstream dailies have also editorially deplored the arrest of Disha Ravi and the clearly authoritarian trend of the BJP regime.


Meanwhile, the farmers’ struggle continues to intensify all over the country. On February 14, as per the SKM call, candle vigils and torchlight processions were held in thousands of places across the country to pay homage to the 40 jawans martyred in the Pulwama ambush two years ago, and also the 228 kisans martyred in the farmers’ struggle over nearly three months. The fact that nothing has happened about the so-called enquiry instituted by the central government into the Pulwama massacre in the last two years, was stressed everywhere. Lakhs of peasants, workers, youth and women participated in all these actions.

On February 16, again as per the SKM call, veteran pre-independence peasant leader Sir Chhotu Ram was remembered on Vasant Panchami day. He had sought to liberate farmers from the clutches of usurious money lenders and was one of the founders of the mandi system. He got the then British rulers of India to enact at least 22 important laws for the benefit of farmers.

On February 18, the SKM has given a call for a rail roko which will also be widely observed.

The massive mahapanchayats which we had written about in these columns last week are continuing unabated in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The first such mahapanchayat was held in Punjab last week. Each one is being attended by tens of thousands of farmers. Efforts are now on to organise them in other parts of the country too. 

The SKM will meet soon to decide the future strategy and actions of this massive struggle.