CHURUMURI POLL: India, intolerant to dissent?

After evicting Baba Ramdev‘s congregation in the dead of night, Delhi police have denied permission to Anna Hazare and gang from holding a protest against that eviction at Jantar Mantar tomorrow. The draconian move raises a simple question: is democratic India becoming a despotic republic?

Ramdev’s protest was nixed after the UPA government, which had wooed him publicly, suddenly discovered that he was a front for the RSS and that the gathering was upto no good. And now, the Congress leader B.K. Hari Prasad has used similar terminology to describe Hazare, that he was a face of the sangh parivar.

Be that as it may, seen in conjunction with the “establishment” reaction to tribal protests against mining companies (Orissa, Dantewada), farmer protests against land acquisition (Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh), Arundhati Roy‘s speech demanding freedom for Kashmir, etc, the question is: are we getting too thin-skinned, and intolerant of criticism?

If this is the government reaction for legitimate demands of the people—a mechanism for an anti-corruption law, the return of money stashed away in foreign banks—what is the reaction likely to be if protests were to break out for the overthrow of the government of the day?

The Hazare gang says it will go ahead with the protest despite the ban, setting the stage for a confrontation.

Are we no better than China in snuffing out dissent? Have Arab countries (Egypt’s Tahrir Square protest went on peacefully for 17 days) been far more mature in handling different shades of protest? And, are we really a “soft” state, or a very hard one in disguise, intent on protecting the old order even at the risk of the image of the country?

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25 Responses to “CHURUMURI POLL: India, intolerant to dissent?”

  1. twistleton Says:

    Add one more question to the list:

    Just how much of decision-making should be made public and who will decide this?

  2. the colonel Says:

    the level of immaturity shown by some in your blog…………….

  3. apoorvagowda Says:

    Santosh Hegde: Playing to the gallery?

    Soon after Baba Ramdev was evicted from Ramlila Maidan on Saturday midnight, a host of leaders, activists across the country came down heavily on the UPA. Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde was probably first among those to criticize the happenings. He spoke to Deepa Balakrishnan, representative of CNN-IBN early morning on Sunday.

    He gave a full length byte to the tv channel. He was full of anger and minced no words to criticize the Centre. For Justice Hegde, the events at Ramlila Maidan reminded the emergency situation declared by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975. He termed the eviction of a yoga teacher from Ramlila Maidan – a second emergency situation! Eviction of people sleeping at midnight was the violation of fundamental right to protest, he alleged.

    These strong words came from the Lokayukta even much before the clear picture of the turn of events at the Ramlila Maidan was made known to the world. Justice Hegde did not choose these strong words when the BJP government in Karnataka opened fire on farmers agitating for fertilizers in Haveri and ended up killing two. On top of it the government continued to argue those killed were not farmers. (As if the government has every right to kill agitating non-farmers). Let’s not forget in both the incidents, the people agitating threw stones at the police.

    As claimed by Baba Ramdev and his associates more than one lakh people gathered at the maidan. According to the records available at the registration counter, as many as 25,000 people registered. Going by the media reports, based on which Justice Hegde and others worked out their opinions, 37 people were injured in the scuffle with the police on that night. The number of injured is much less than 0.01 per cent of the total gathering, even if you consider the number of injured was 100.

    Baba Ramdev had no reason to continue the protest Saturday evening onwards, given the letter he had submitted to the Centre much earlier. He should have pulled the curtains down and asked his fellowmen vacate the place as the government had assured him to bring in a law to declare the black money as nation’s property and punish the offenders severely. No other government at the Centre could do better than this considering the technicalities involved in bringing back money deposited in foreign banks. This is something cannot be done overnight or within a week – duration of yoga camp.

    Justice Hegde with his vast experience as an advocate, judge at the highest court in the country and Lokayukta, would understand these issues better than anybody else. Surprisingly, Justice Hegde ignored the fact how Ramdev’s associates collected funds for the hunger protest. It is hard to believe that Justice Hegde, who watched mid-night drama on TV, missed the video clips showing how Baba’s men collected donations.

    The contributions varied from Rs 11,000 to Rs 11 lakhs. One of his associates was seen forcing one of the contributors to bring some more people who can contribute generously. It is shocking that they collect funds and fool people without telling them what would happen if the Centre accepts their demands even before they begin the protest. Is this the new trend of protests against corruption?

    Medha Patkar has staged hunger protests a number of times. The media failed to highlight her demands as it did in case of Baba Ramdev or Anna Hazare. But there are no reports of Medha Patkar raising money from the public to stage hunger protest and nor she invited lakhs to accompany her. Why people like Justice Hegde never bother to notice flaws in the very process of staging a satyagraha. How anyone can press for ‘truth’ following ‘corrupt’ means?

    It is more disturbing that many panelists on TV debates call Baba Ramdev an icon of struggle against corruption. Can they tell the world what all agitations he was involved in before, other than teaching yoga. When he visited Bangalore recently, he preferred not to raise voice an opinion against Chief Minister Yeddyurappa, who denotified government land in favour of his kith and kin, and facing charges of corruption in court.

    Justice Hegde, as the Lokayukta, is at the helm of affairs to fight against corruption. He is the person capable to sift genuine individuals from the corrupt. But why he is often playing to the gallery?

    -Apoorva Gowda

  4. Objectivist Mantra Says:

    It is more like India becoming fed up of dissent.

    If these crusaders keep conjuring a hunger strike for every flimsy reason, then these forms of protest will become as banal as the item numbers of Rakhi Sawant.

    They need to come up with a coherent and articulate plan. Just whining about the government is not enough.

    The Civil Society readily agreed to be part of the committee to draft the Lok Pal. Now it is their responsibility too along with that of the government. They have no right to make excuses.

    They can’t sulk like teenagers every second day. They have to behave like mature & responsible men who are here to get the job done.

    The most IMPORTANT point is that if the stalwarts of the Civil Society are unable to handle the ministers, then what is the guarantee that the Lok Pal will be able to control the ministers.

    Perhaps, the lok pal too will have to go on a hunger strike at some date….

  5. Sapna Says:

    All the comments above bring out very valid points….

  6. harkol Says:

    Apoorva Gowda:

    You have a long list of grievances against Mr. Hegde. But, here is a simple rebuttal. Mr. Hegde reacted in this case, because he is involved in issues of corruption. He didn’t condone shooting on farmers (no person in their right mind would).

    Ramdev is not a sterling character. He most probably is a charlatan. But, that is the domain of law & investigation. I don’t know why Congress was willing to bend to him if he was willing to make a deal with them!! A crook is a crook – there can’t be my crook or your crook. Which is what Congress is doing.

    Their justification for action against Ramdev – He is RSS Stooge!

    In our dislike of Ramdev, we can’t overlook a simple fact. He was exercising his right of free speech and expression. He didn’t violate any law, didn’t incite people for violence and had a legitimate short-term lease (they paid for an entire month) on the ramlila ground in which they held Protests. If he violated the terms of lease, the right course of action is to terminate the lease and ask him to vacate.

    In following the action govt. did emulate the Emergency laws – Section 144. It is a dire law that gives power to govt. in dire situation. Not something to be casually used (like Mayawati has now done).

    Mr. Hegde is absolutely right in condemning this action.

  7. Gaby Says:

    My objection is to the word ‘ becoming’. India ( like most other civilisations in any case) has always been intolerant of dissent- look at the establishment’s responses to any need for change in the caste system and patriarchy.

  8. Sanjay Guha Says:

    Most of you are missing the point that congress denied someone the right to sit on a hunger strike and that was a clampdown on civil liberty. Sonia Gandhi and her minions think that they can get away with what Indira did ages ago. Manmohan Singh has proved that he is a moron and the pet poodle of the family that lives in No.10 janpath.Digvijay Singh and Kapil Saibal are brown-nosers at best. It’s time jokers like these stopped ruling the country. Unfortunately the BJP leaders don’t come across as a viable option. One thing is for sure. We’re headed for a civil war.

  9. shivane shambulinga Says:

    Isn’t BK Hariprasad the same guy who called NaMo as Gutter?

  10. Narayana Says:

    @Apoorva Gowda

    Santosh Hegde is a member of citizens committee drafting the lokpal bill. In that capacity he has expressed his reservations.

    You seem to brush aside trampling down of a basic right of free speech and peaceful protest by concerned citizens.

    Even in 1975 your kind of people gave hubris to Indira that anything can be done as per her whims and fancies and highest judiciary abdicated its duty to India.

    It is good that we have justices like Santosh Hegde coming out strongly against Dr. Evil and St. Sonia. So chill it man. Back up a little and then you will realize where you have been wrong.

  11. Anti Corrupt Says:

    Hazare is a political quack, ram’dev’ is a medical quack. Both fast for publicity.
    Both are semi-literate. Both have no respect for federal system or democracy.

    Soon the socalled activists like Shekhar Kapur, Kher, Bedi etc will declare B S Yeddyurappa a modern Lal Bahardur Shastri!!

  12. apoorvagowda Says:

    @ Harkol and Narayan,

    Thanks for your responses. Santosh Hegde has every right to have his opinion. I am not questioning his right. My question is how far his opinion is right? He was in a hurry to compare the event with the emergency in 1975.
    He did not make similar comments either when two farmers were fired or police in khaki uniform forced inside the Legislative Assembly hall. People like Hegde, Arvind Kejrival have become audacious just because the public consider them as ‘honest’ and men of impeccable integrity.

    A year ago, the BJP ruling in Karnataka restricted all MLAs of Opposition parties from entering Vidhana Soudha because they had a plan to stage protest. Did Santosh forget the fundamental right to protest then?

    These are just few examples. It is impractical to expect Justice Hegde to react all such instances. But it surprises me when he compares two incomparables.
    – Apoorva Gowda

  13. A Journalist Says:

    Look at this……..

    Ramdev is a quack. An alleged criminal. He is now planning to take on the government of India by raising his own private militia. He wants to perform Ravan lila at Ram lila next time.

    Hazare, who thinks that he is only next to the real Mahatma is supporting Ramdev and even sitting in a dharna supporting him.

    Justice Santosh Hegde is supporting both ramdev and hazare.

    Hegde’s permanent target B S Yeddyurappa is also supporting hazare and ramdev. Both Hegde and Yeddyurappa claim that L K Advani is a father figure!
    It makes them brothers!
    All three are on the same page with Hazare and Ramdev.

    Hegde’s favourite target Bellary Reddys’ right hand man B Sriramulu is also supporting hazare and ramdev.

    What a great combination and fight against corruption!!

  14. Aruna Says:

    Time for all of us to read Ambedkar’s grammar of anarchy speech.

  15. Faldo Says:

    In all this din, many of the real points seem to be lost. The government and the media seem to be focussing more on the people involved or the way they choose to protest but the issues of corruption and the need for stronger laws against it seem to be getting bypassed. There is no doubt that of those protesting, some have dubious credentials. However, the best way to face this would be bring the focus back on the issue at hand. Instead the government and the ruling party have chosen to use brute force and target the bonafides of the protestors. There has been very less time spent in explaining what the government plans to do, to bring back black money, what the limitations are and how these can be tackled.

  16. alak.niran Says:

    “Anna Hazare and Gang”????!! I thought there are better words to describe them….

  17. Praveen Says:

    I wish Congress remains in power for 1000 years.Couple of positives which i see

    They stand for secularism truthfully for last 100 years.
    They stand for legal protection to corrruption since independence
    They know how to handle emergency,operation bluestar and Sri Lanka IPKF Operation.
    They will deal with parties who had an alliance with terrorists like DMK.
    Their leaders are born dynastic leaders…so papa kehthai hain bada pyaar karega…

    Now Im planning to open a swiss bank account, because Im assurred of legal protection

    Thank you congress for the Goodies till date and ever after

  18. Angry Young Man Says:

    I have a simple question to all those who oppose Anna Hazare on the grounds that he is just bulldozing his way through with his fasts and subverting democracy in the process:

    Do you think the government/politicians will change for the better if they are not forced to? How long are you willing to wait in the hope that positive changes will happen, “just like that”?

    Ramdev’s methods are a different matter. He has political ambitions, so there are grounds to oppose his movement.

    But not Anna Hazare. He is sincere, he is backed by people who understand the constitution and legal processes. He does not have dictatorial traits (so there is no fear of the government being replaced by a military-like regime), and his simple message is something everyone trusts and agrees with.

    We should all support Anna Hazare’s movement. Removing corruption from the country is the way forward, and that should start right from the top.

  19. Jagadish Says:

    Well, I am not surprised. We lost all self respect and integrity when we decided we needed an Italian mafioso to run this country since there is not one among our billion people who is fit enough to lead our nation.

  20. harkol Says:

    Apoorva Gowda:

    You are confusing issues here. The problem we have is not just with Congress govt. at center.

    It is with the entire political class, who think they are the lords/monarchs just because they win an election by getting 20-30% votes polled (sometimes even less, and then they buy the legislators).

    Attack on Ramlila protestors is as symptomatic as the routine attacks on other protestors in various states (mayawati is recent example).

    I am not saying protestors are always right. If they resort to tactics like Rasta Roko, Rail Roko and become impediments to regular life, then they need to be dispersed. Some violence at that stage may be justifiable.

    But, there has to be a breakdown in law-and-order for such an action. In Ramlila there wasn’t any breakdown of law and order.

    Yediyurappa & BJP aren’t paragons of virtue either. They have made mess of things many times. I still remember how they trampled all the rights of Tehelka publisher and his financiers because he dared to catch BJP chief red-handed.

    Our problem is with the whole class of people, called politicians, think they are the ‘rulers’ of the nation – not selected administrators/trustees, which is what they really are. They have a mandate to govern and make laws. Not “RULE”. They can’t tell people in general what they can or can’t do.

    For eg. Mayawati enforced a Section 144 in all of U.P. even without a single incident! All this is symptamatic of the misuse of power – which is what Emergency was all about.

    Hazare and co are trying to bring that awareness and have institutions that will check them. Hegde is part of that effort.

  21. twistleton Says:

    The problem with satyagraha is it can be used for dubious reasons. This particular cause has not been defined in sharp and concise terms. It is vague and broad and sometimes borders on the juvenile.

    The worst thing to do now is to designate the State as the ‘enemy’. And if the leaders insist on such a course, then where were they during the Naxal issue? Whose side were they on then? Would be interesting to find out…

    Ramdev has made this protest a personal vendetta gainst the Congress, i doubt if he appreciates the difference between State, Governement and party.

    And where is the other half of the “unholy nexus” all the anti-corruption crusaders are fighting against? While people have been extremely quick to insinuate political leaders, how is it that not one shady leader of business being mentioned in protests. The theory of ‘corruption by the govt, for the govt and of the govt’ will not fadge in a liberalized economy, would it. The government is corrupt, no doubt; but the Government alone is not corrupt.

    The assumption that only public bodies are corrupt itself attaches the fallacious tag firmly to this protest. (If i were one of those upstanding and honest government officials this movement would goad me into corruption, not out of it :D)

    There is a parallel movement by farmers against land acquisition. Why have they not figured in this oh-so-great “second independence movement”? This is just one example of sections unrepresented by this self-important movement. If it is indeed a ‘mass movement’ where are the masses?

    The longer this drama unfolds the more suspicion hardens into truth that this is nothing more than a short-cut to fulfill the political pretentions of a few hopefuls. I hope i am proved wrong in the days to come.

  22. Curry Hurry Says:

    Kapil Sibal advising Yoga gurus to stick to just teaching Yoga and stay away from Politics is hilarious. This is the Journalists like Barkha branding bloggers as internet hindus who are not qualified. Kapi should have stuck to his lawyering and defending corrupt criminals instead of holding the post of HRD Minister.
    Congress response to request for transparency is to accuse the requestor of having dubious antecedents (or worse having a wrong dress code or mode of transport). The Padma Awards to the dirty brokering Journos has paid off as none of those inconvenient questions are asked of the UPA2 government. When Barkha was busy with Radia trying to get Kani a good post (like environment ministry to sanction her papa ThiruKa’s pet project – RamSethu), why will she ask any inconvenient questions ?
    Royal Loose Cannon Diggy Raja is threatening to expose Ramdev’s wealth. Arrey Raja saheb please do so. And don’t stop at that. Expose the wealth of the Politicians and Media class also.

  23. harkol Says:

    >There is a parallel movement by farmers against land acquisition.

    One of Ramdev’s agenda items was indeed a law against forcible land acquisition. But, then Ramdev’s agenda is very confused.

    Anna on the other hand is clear. he wants to focus on one issue at a time. His logic is that if you remove the incentive for wrongful action (i.e. Financial lucre to folks in power), then most other law/policy making will become better.

    It isn’t a given, but to an extent that’s true. If a politician can’t personally benefit, then why would he favor a industrial group by forcibly acquiring land?

    Besides, Anna Hazare said, Lokpal alone will not fix all troubles. He has said that he wants judicial reforms to be the next step, to ensure quick justice.

  24. Indu Ramesh Says:

    I am really appaled at the tone and selection of words being used by the congress secretaries. How is it that Digvijay Singh ‘knows’ that both Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare are the faces of RSS? Why is the Media intent on making so much noise at press briefings that Ramdev or his Aide Acharya are not able to say a word in their defence? Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev are just the beginings of amassive revolution in the making.

  25. Murthy Says:

    No one cares.
    PM declares his assets to be 5 crores and this woman is on liquids for 10 years!!!
    North East is really neglected.
    No alternative for a total uprising.

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