‘BJP Wants to Dictate What to Eat, What to Wear…’

Nivedya P T, a student at the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, says the current regime uses multiple tactics to quell even peaceful dissent

A Delhi Court recently dismissed the cases against Sharjeel Imam and 10 other Jamia Millia Students who had been in prison for a long time. Remarkably, the court also observed that a strong democracy depends on the fundamental right to peaceful dissent, which is guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. However, it hasn’t always been the case in recent years.

Anyone in India who expresses political dissent today runs the risk of being arrested on fabricated charges and is likely to face a tough time getting a fair trial and bail. From Anand Teltumble and Varavara Rao to Akhil Gogoi and Umar Khalid, we have witnessed that anybody who dares to challenge the status quo or something deemed ‘unfavorable’ to the current dispensation in Delhi, is arrested and charged under draconian laws like UAPA.

The charges are used to exploit the legal system as a tool for persecution. The process itself becomes the punishment; years are taken to resolve the cases, causing immense suffering for them and their families. The arrest of journalist Siddiqui Kappan is one case in point.

Another is of Safoora Zargar who was arrested when she was in the second trimester of her pregnancy and sent to an overcrowded Tihar Jail. How much more inhuman can the system be? Father Stan Swamy died while in police custody, after being denied basic health facilities despite being 80-plus and terminally ill.

Nivedya (left) says the current dispensation seeks to destroy campuses which are fertile ground for new ideas

In this light, the Delhi court judgment is welcome, but we must not forget that there are many activists charged under similar penal provisions, to whom justice has not yet been served. These activists, including women, Dalits and Adivasis, often arrested on baseless grounds, are still awaiting trial which put in dock not just the government but also the judicial system.

ALSO READ: ‘Stan Swamy Dies In Jail, Bilkis’ Rapists Are Released’

Ever since the BJP has come to power, there has been a tendency to brand a certain section of people, especially peaceful dissenters, and students, as anti-nationals, urban Naxals, or even terrorists. Various forms of hate campaigns, misinformation, and trolling are hurled at certain communities of our society by the people who exercise power, and their supporters.

There is a constant effort to push back the upliftment of minority communities. Look at the discontinuation of the Maulana Azad National Fellowship, a scholarship whose biggest beneficiaries were students from the Muslim community. Look at the Hijab ban in Karnataka where Muslim students were denied the basic right to education. The strategy is simple and scary: rob an entire section of Indian citizens of every basic right so that they won’t be able to raise their voice against this oppressive regime.

As a student who has been manhandled by guards and whose phone has been snatched inside the campus by the directions of the Chief Proctor, and who was detained without knowing the reason, I do not have the answer to where this country is heading to. Everything works at the whims of the current ruling party. There is no space for logic, rationality, arguments, debate, discussion or dissent.

From what to eat, what to watch, and what to wear, everything is dictated by this authoritarian regime! Campuses and students are falling prey to this brutality largely because campus spaces shape the future of the country. Such spaces are fertile grounds for the growth and development of ideas and the intellectual expanse of students. If such spaces are not regulated, controlled and crushed at their initial stages, then they will turn out to be a threat to an authoritarian regime. This is their biggest fear.

Besides, they do not want a section of society, the marginalized and minority communities, to access education, nor do they want to face a citizenry that would raise questions, protest or who would not follow them like puppets.

As told to Amit Sengupta

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