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Muzzling political dissent


Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepped into the 17th Lok Sabha for his second term,  paying respect to the constitution and declaring aloud the role of opposition in democracy.   His words ran that an active opposition,  regardless of its numerical strength,  and media are essential elements in a democracy.  But scepticism that they could be mere verbiage,  have been proven right by the recent attempts to muzzle political critics through legal actions.   For, the Home Ministry is now presiding over an operation to clip the wings of civil rights movements and individuals who are on the other side of the government's positions.    

What started during the last phase of the previous government in the form of hunting 'urban naxalism' is getting wider,  as shown by the court proceedings and CBI raid against senior lawyers Indira Jaising and husband Anand Grover.   The Opposition and human rights advocates have come out against the government excesses targetting the lawyer couple,  but there seems to be a deliberate attempt to tightening legal measures, and arrest them.  Many who have spoken against the Centre and the sangh parivar agenda are already in jail,  including Rona Wilson,  Arun Ferreira,  Vernon Gonsalves,  Prof Shoma Sen,  lawyer Surendra Gadling,  adivasi rights activists Mahesh Raut and Dalit editor Sudheer Dhawale.  Now the doors of jail appear to be opening also for the lawyer couple who raise their voice and lead the legal defence for them.

'Lawyers Collective', the voluntary organization whose founder secretary is Jaising,  works in the area of human rights issues.  For her crucial role in civil rights legislation,  the country honoured Indira Jaising with a Padma Shri in 2005.  As a legal luminary,  she has a reputation in the country and abroad.  But, because of her firm stance in defence of the civil rights of the victims of sangh parivar hounding,  she had already become a bete noire for Modi government.   And her legal battle demanding an enquiry into the mysterious death of Justoce Loya, invited the wrath of Amit Shah too.  These are the real reasons for the current proceedings initiated by the home ministry and CBI against her with allegations that she harmed the public interest of the country,  violated foreign contribution regulations and took part in economic offences.  The CBI case registered on 13 June in Mumbai is on the grounds that,  during her term as additional solicitor general during 2009-14,   Indira Jaising's volunary organization illegally spent Rs 32 crore out of the Rs 98 Cr received as donations.  On the grounds that her acceptance of foreign contribution as a government servant was illegal ,  the home ministry and the Maharashtra government cancelled the registration of the body under FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) on 27 November 2016.    It was in the pendency of the case filed in Bombay High Court by Indira Jaising against this cancellation that the CBI filed its case.  Further, a paper organization called 'Lawyers Voice' filed a petition in Supreme Court,  demanding action for having violated foreign contribution law and got a verdict in its favour.   The CBI used this verdict as basis for its raid.   Indira Jaising and her husband Anand Grover are clear victims of a conspiracy led by the government.

The administrative machinery of the country has entirely become subject to a political mafia.  The Indira case is a continuation of the prosecutory pursuit against those like Teesta Setelvad, Shabnam Hashmi and Sanjeev Bhatt.  The whole establishment of the nation is spreading fear among those raising voices of dissent and forcing them to shut their mouth.   It is when there is a court judgement that the post of Additional Solicitor General is outside the definition of government service,  that the  Supreme Court gave green signal for the legal action.    Indira Jaising has through a press release publicly stated that this verdict reflects the urge for revenge against her taking sides with the female employee in the sexual allegation case against the chief justice.    What suffers damage in this whole episode is the concept that what happens in a court room is a legal proceeding without favour and administration of justice without fear.    The general public and human rights movements have hitherto survived the assaults of ruling establishments through the provisions offered by the constitution and litigation.   Now such doors are being shut.  When the sinews of deep state tighten their grip over democratic systems and lead the cuntry to a certain death through denial of civil rights and voices of dissent,  let not history record that the courts were playing to their tunes.

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