Why is government stifling voices of dissent and those who speak of ground realities?

The government of the day is trying to silence any voice that is capable of raising slogans of dissent and protest and that of rebellion

Why is government stifling voices of dissent and those who speak of ground realities?

Humra Quraishi

As news comes in of the house arrest of the TDP chief and former chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, it seems more than apparent that the government of the day is trying to silence any voice that is capable of raising slogans of dissent and protest and that of rebellion. After all, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP ) chief and his son, Nara Lokesh, were all set to come out of their home at Undavalli in Amaravati, to head towards Guntur to lead the ‘Chalo Atamakur’ rally to protest against the State’s ‘atrocities’ on the TDP party workers. It was then, at the very start of the rally that the police did not allow Naidu and his son to even come out of their home and they were put under house arrest.

Correct me if I’m wrong but in those earlier years when democracy was still somewhat intact in our country, we were free to raise slogans and also to deliver passionately rebellious speeches and to bare out our anger and disgust in a non-violent way at State atrocities. Today, that seems to be getting more than sabotaged. The manner in which house arrests are getting enforced, goes on to relay the very hopelessness and a scary picture of the state of affairs. it’s absolutely shocking to see how many amongst us are being forced to sit all quiet and shut. Under house arrest!

If we were to take the case of Kashmir, it seems more than shocking to see the political class - the political leaders of the Valley - put under house arrest, if not formally arrested and imprisoned. This way the State is sabotaging even that small little space left for dialogue, for some level of talks to take off for a political way-out from the ongoing clampdown situation. Perhaps, the State does not want any talks and dialogues to take place.

Needless to say that the ongoing ‘house arrest’ orders of the political who’s who, come across as very disturbing and unsettling. It is a grim situation where daughters have to move courts to seek permission to meet their mothers, where ageing house-arrested fathers sit waiting for some news about their house-arrested sons, when ailing leaders like MY Tarigami are allowed to get out of the house and flown for treatment to AIIMS (New Delhi ) only after the intervention and orders of the courts.

I have met MY Tarigami of the CPI (M) on two occasions and was impressed with his views and opinions put forth mildly and without a trace of political aggression or arrogance. The first time I had met this veteran leader was in 2006, when I was in Srinagar to attend a conference on the ‘Indian Federalism at work’. He had invited some of us to his Gupkar road home for breakfast. I recall asking him what could be some viable solution to the turmoil and tension in the Kashmir region. He said that there ought to be opening of the borders for the travel and visits of the Kashmiris from the ‘Indian side of Kashmir’ to the ‘Pakistan side of Kashmir’. He had argued, when buses can ply from here to there, why can’t human beings walk across from this side of Kashmir to that side of Kashmir (POK) to meet their relatives?

According to Tarigami sahib that would not just help lessen the tension in the area but also bring to the fore the ground realities on the other side, which he’d said were tougher and bleeker. “I’m told that the realities that side are tougher than witnessed on our side of Kashmir …Those who have travelled to POK have got back recounting many more horrifying situations and rights violations than what is witnessed in Srinagar and in the surrounding areas.” He had said.

I had met him the second time in the summer of 2015, when a media meet was held in Srinagar. This time he had again spoken of the merits vis-a-vis to the opening of the borders. He had also spoken about the ongoing rights violations and the human tragedies taking place in the Kashmir Valley and the urgent need for a political dialogue to take off for a lasting political settlement.

Tarigami is one of those leaders who talk with great restrain and responsibility. Yet without mincing words or sentiments he manages to hit out. Around the spring of 2016 when the entire JNU controversy was at its peak, Tarigami sahib was speaking his mind, loud and clear – “This JNU incident has made it clear that it was the handiwork of the RSS!” In fact, as several other Kashmiri politicians commented, he had also said that the ‘JNU incident’ reeked of double speak and double standards in the very governance, as several students were targeted on the basis of morphed and doctored videos that were considered as evidence against them.

Tarigami sounded very pained when tension had gripped the Kashmir Valley, after the Pulwama tragedy. He had issued a statement from Srinagar, dated 23 February, 2019 - “The crackdown and arrest of separatist leaders without any solid legal grounds does not augur well for the state. It has been done before as well in the state, but it has never yielded anything. On the other hand, it just exacerbates the anger and gives rise to further uncertainty. We have always maintained that dissent should always have a place in a democratic society. Curbing the dissent and those holding a contradictory viewpoint is not democratic at all. On the other hand, such sections should be engaged. Moreover, from the last couple of days, rumour-mongering and chaos type situation is being created in the state which is causing anxiety amongst the people. The state administration has failed to assure the people on this. The way it has sought paramilitary reinforcements and started issuing ‘advisories’ to the various departments without giving reasonable answers has caused further panic among the people. The state cannot afford more chaos and uncertainty at this juncture.”

Tell me, why should liberal and progressive leaders like Tarigami be made to keep shut! Why has the State quietened and arrested their voice, their views and opinions. Why?

Why can’t they be allowed to speak out? They speak of the ground realities and assert their views in a non-violent manner.

Don’t tell me we have become so very intolerant and fascist in our approach that it gets hard to hear even a word or a sentence which carries the bitter truth and exposes the reality to the prevailing ground realities!

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