Growing use of iron fist by the Modi government – the diplomat

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In this May 30, 2020 photo, Indian migrant workers and their children look out of their train window in Prayagraj, India, as they return to their villages due to the lockdown, which has forced them out of the cities.

Credit: AP Photo / Rajesh Kumar Singh

More than 600 people, including prominent activists, lawyers and intellectuals, have lashed out against Narendra Modi’s “bullying tactics” “to silence all those who criticize” his policies and actions. They released a statement in support of human rights activist Harsh Mander last week, hours after his home and office, including the children’s homes he runs in New Delhi, were raided by officials. Directorate of Enforcement, a government agency that fights against financial crime.

A staunch critic of the Modi government, Mander has highlighted the plight of migrant workers, who have borne the brunt of severe Modi closures to contain the spread of COVID-19 infections.

The raids on Mander’s premises in the capital closely followed similar raids on Bollywood actor Sonu Sood. Sood had come to the aid of thousands of stranded migrant workers and helped them return home to their villages during the lockdown. His efforts had left the government furious as it exposed the colossal failure of the government’s response to the pandemic and its callous lockdown strategy.

Authorities not only raided the homes and offices of Sood and Mander, but also charged them with tax evasion.

During its seven years in power, the Modi government has endeavored to project an image of self-reliance, of promoting inclusiveness (“sabka saath sabka vikaas“) and bringing”heartache”(Prosperity) to the country. And any person or group who tore up that claim and exposed the lies, whether activists, media portals, journalists, actors or students, had to face the iron fist. of the BJP government on criminal charges, tax raids, indefinite imprisonment, and other forms of intimidation.

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The purpose of such intimidation is not only to silence these critics, but to send a warning to others about what to expect if they do not side with the government.

Outraged by these coercive tactics, the signatories of the declaration said the raids on Harsh Mander were “part of an ongoing chain of abuses of state institutions to threaten, intimidate and try to silence all critics of the government.” current. The Constitution of India and the law of the land will prevail, exposing these intimidating tactics for exactly what they are: an abuse of state institutions in an attempt to curtail all of our rights. “

Intrepid by the raids that lasted four days, Sood tweeted that he was “busy looking after a few guests” (that is, the tax officers who raided his house), and therefore was unable to help the public. He has since resumed his civil service.

Two weeks ago, the online news portals Newslaundry and NewsClick were also the subject of tax raids, described as “investigations”. Both websites, which are among the few mavericks in India’s generally flexible media landscape, have tirelessly exposed the Modi government’s community agenda. They also highlighted the government’s mismanagement of the deadly second wave of COVID-19.

The BJP-led government has worked on a two-pronged strategy of polarizing society along religious lines to unleash community hatred on the one hand and create an environment of fear on the other. He sows fear in the hearts not only of members of India’s religious minorities, but also of critics who denounce his divisive agenda.

He also engaged in chauvinism, which served as a useful tool to ostracize his detractors as “anti-nationals” and to reserve them under the draconian Prevention of Illegal Activities Act (UAPA). Students like Umar Khalid, who questioned controversial citizenship laws, and activists challenging the abuse of tribal rights have been charged under the UAPA. It has been a year since Khalid was convicted on specious sedition charges and although nothing has been proven to date, he continues to languish in Delhi’s Tihar prison awaiting a bail hearing.

It has been a year since the Modi government passed controversial farm laws through parliament. These laws remove the minimum support price hitherto guaranteed by the government for crops. This will leave farmers vulnerable to exploitation by legal persons.

The Modi government used force to muzzle opposition to these farm laws. Despite his multiple attempts to crush the protests, thousands of farmers have camped along the Delhi border for nearly a year now, demanding a complete repeal of the laws. To date, 700 farmers have died in protest, including several during police interventions.

Modi did not hesitate to use the state apparatus to silence critics and crush dissenting voices. Significantly, while his government failed to take action against people like BJP politician Kapil Mishra, who fanned the flames of community hatred and violence in Delhi, which led to the riots in the north- east of Delhi in 2020, he called all these women participating in peaceful sit-ins at Shaheen Bagh in the capital.

Strikingly, despite Modi’s persistent attempts to project a picture of India as all-good, the international community has noted with concern the shrinking space for democratic rights and freedom in the country. . During Modi’s recent visit to US Vice President Kamala Harris urged the Indian Prime Minister to defend democracy and to “protect” and “strengthen democracies”. We need to strengthen “democratic principles and institutions within our respective countries,” she said.

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As long as the BJP government enjoys a numerical majority in parliament and state legislatures and continues to win elections, it is doubtful whether it will initiate a much needed course correction.

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