It is good to see Jharkhand chief Minister Hemant Soren speaking so powerfully against the arrest of Father Stan Swamy. Many other voices are speaking against his arrest. The 83 year old Stan has been working in Jharkhand for years and has Center at Bagaicha has been a place for the Adivasis particularly those who have been victim of the police violence and whose rights are often violated under one pretext or other.
In the last few months, we have witnessed the increasing use of central agencies to fix the political opponents and activists. The Sushant Singh Rajput’s case was used to smear not only the government of Maharashtra but also the Film Industry and attempt were made to divide it on communal lines. TV channels were pressed in the service of the government and create an environment as if India did not have any other issue except Sushant Singh Rajput. Channels like Republic TV have become the biggest threat to Indian republic and its freedom. Under the pretext of freedom of expression they are throttling the voices of the people and creating an environment of hatred in the country. This is not possible unless some body think he is the “Lord of the ring’.
Many of the important cases don’t find their way on the top listing for hearing but those spreading hatred can use the ‘media freedom’ to protect themselves from the further questioning. Look at the hearing at the Bombay High court and how Republic TV is defending its ‘freedom’ but one should ask this question to Arnab Goswami and his bhakts whether they believe that others who do not agree with them too have right to freedom of expression.
I have time and again said that it is time for the former judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts to speak up. There are one or two but they are ‘usual suspects’ in the eyes of establishment. Former bureaucrats too are speaking and need to continuously speak. Former police officers, senior editors need to speak. Press Council or Editors Guild could do nothing except speaking on the issue where the issue was not ‘politically sensitive’. Can Editor Guild with new editors take a stand on the vicious propaganda channels and their hate spread campaign. Will they take some step so that media houses show some responsibility and not surrender or crawl. I was just thinking whether L K Advani himself has forgotten his famous ‘ media was asked to bend but it started crawling’ quote for media during emergency. I am sure, he must be remembering that and should have the courage to speak up whether the current phase of media is better than emergency or worst. The problem is that all these ‘ethics’ are over now, perhaps forgotten with growing age and fading memory.
So many people are behind the bar and there is no trial. Many of them languishing in jail for years. Isn’t it time to call for a special commission related to such cases. Trying to be happy with one bail or one case is not the solution. It is time for political leaders to speak up, seek meeting with the government on such an issue. It is the question of democracy in the country. We may not like the political thoughts of many of those political activists who are languishing in jail but isn’t it their right that a trial should start on time or should be expedited. Shouldn’t there be a consideration for ones work, age and physical disability.
There are lots of issues of federalism here too. While all the central agencies can do things independently, shouldn’t it be a coordination with state police and state government to arrest a person or question him or her. It is time, all these issues should be debated and political leaders should think of a united India when we can put aside our differences on major and important issues of national security but if central agencies are used to fix political opponents then there will be tension between the center and state. It is time these boundaries must be respected in the greater interest of India. The only way to come out of this crisis is that either Supreme Court step in and frame guidelines about using such acts and appoint a commission with enough powers and transfer all such cases which are of political nature to the commission and give it a time frame to come out with recommendations and guidelines for future.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
October 22, 2020