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Champions of democracy forget India’s Mamlocks

Posted by Admin on October 22, 2009

lalgarh1.jThe concern expressed by about 150 scholars, writers and political activists over the “unprecedented military offensive in the adivasi-populated regions of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Orissa and West Bengal” in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh puts a huge question mark on our polity. “To hunt down the poorest of Indian citizens in the name of trying to curb the shadow of an insurgency is both counterproductive and vicious. The ongoing campaigns by paramilitary forces have created a civil war-like situation in parts of Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, with hundreds killed and thousands displaced”, they stated.Signatories include Noam Chomsky, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, film maker Mira Nair and Arundhati Roy.

In West Bengal civil rights organisations were stupefied when sleuths took away Chhatradhar Mahato, convenor of Police Santras Birodhi Janaganer Committee (PSBJC: People’s Committee against Police Atrocities) blindfolded in broad daylight from Midnapore to Bhabani Bhaban, state CID headquarters in Kolkata on the plea of interrogation, assuming that PSBJC is a front organisation of CPI(Maoist). This was a first, at least in Independent India. Only when one is hanged is the face of the convict covered.As for the Left, especially the CPI(M), champion of democracy, one is reminded of the play Professor Mamlock, about a Jewish professor who was tortured during the Weimar Republic.

Unlike Mahato or Baske, Mamlock distanced himself from politics or political ideology — so apolitical that he threw his son Rolf out for joining the communists against the Nazis. Subsequently, the persecution of Jews stirred him to dissent as his daughter too was targeted for anti-Semitic attacks at her school, and he was tortured for that. The CPI(M) is behaving like the Nazis, forfeiting its right to point fingers at any political party for fascist, semi-fascist or even authoritarian propensities.

The Little Theatre Group, directed by Utpal Dutt, made a Bengali version of Mamlock in the 1970s when the CPI(M) — not CPI — characterised the atrocities of the Congress government as ‘semi-fascist rule’. But it’s no use reminding CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat or chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee of Mamlock.Indeed, none of the Left parties with the sole exception of CPI(ML) Liberation’s state secretary Partha Ghosh protested, which makes a mockery of the Left Front’s and CPI(M)’s frequent protests against suppression of democratic rights in states other than West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, ruled by the CPI(M).

CPI central secretariat member and minor irrigation minister Nandagopal Bhattacharjee too justified the treatment of Mahato and Baske, reflecting the CPI’s subservience to the CPI(M) bosses. The firebrand Opposition leader and railway minister Mamata Banerjee has also remained silent. She warned the state government (despite implicitly cautioning the Union minister of home affairs P Chidambaram and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) of the consequences of hounding the intellectuals who expressed sympathy for the PSBJC, Mahato and the leadership of the Lalgarh Sanhati Manch (Lalgarh solidarity platform).

There are several questions on the application of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act of 2008, if read against Article 22: “(1) No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest nor shall he be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice. (2) Every person arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of 24 hours of such arrest excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of the magistrate, and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate. (3) Nothing in clauses (1) and (2) shall apply— (a) to any person who for the time being is an enemy alien; or (b) to any person who is arrested or detained under any law providing for preventive detention”.

Terrorism is enmeshed in complexity, although India has long experience of confronting various forms of terror, unlike most countries. Which is why the tearing hurry with which the UAP(A) was rushed through reveals, Ravi Nair of South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre succinctly observed, that the UPA government “lacks any new ideas about how to tackle terrorism”, except through state terror. This makes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and home minister P Chidambaram boon companions of Buddhadeb and Gujarat’s saffron chief minister Narendra Modi. Truth indeed is stranger than fiction.sankar.ray


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