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Curbing civil liberties of nationalist opposition leaders dangerous: Harsh Dev Singh
8/24/2019 10:09:30 PM
Early Times Report

JAMMU, Aug 24: Art 370 is gone. Its a thing of the past. The 'temporary' provision in the constitution stands revoked after 70 years. Indeed it is history re-written. And the Govt wants all to celebrate the occasion as the beginning of a new Jammu and Kashmir. Very true. But how? By keeping the opposition leaders in Police lockups and in preventive detentions? Does the Govt want the celebrations to be restricted to only one political party to the exclusion of its political opponents, or is it some other reason?
The state of J&K has been bifurcated into two Union Territories by virtue of Re-organization Act passed in the Parliament. The Govt claims that the said decision is also in the larger interests of the people of the erstwhile state. But why is it refusing to trust its people. Why restrictions on people in the form of internet ban? Why putting all opposition leaders under house arrest and police surveillance irrespective of their unquestionable credentials and past antecedents. Why curbs on civil liberties and why restrictions on freedoms of speech and expression? Why the detentions of nationalist political leaders who stood for unity and integrity of the nation and upheld the national Flag as a symbol of national honour? These the questions which are agitating the minds of civil society and common man and for which no convincing explanation has been given.
When Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency it received widespread condemnation from opposition parties and inevitably led to fall of Congress Govt at the centre. Is the situation not a replica of 1975 without it being declared as such. The detention of political leaders, particularly of Jammu region, known for their nationalist credentials for the last 20 days from August 5 onwards, with no signs of their release from such captivity, is not only unjustifiable and unlawful but a draconian move to browbeat those who do not subscribe to a particular ideology. And while those owing allegiance to saffron ideology are being given open space, the political persons differing on issues with the ruling party are being subjected to illegal confinement. Its unfortunate that its the political philosophy which is determining the conferment or deprivation of civil liberties of citizens in J&K. Whereas the opposition leaders have been restrained from meeting people or the press, the BJP leaders have been granted open license to address public meetings and to hold party functions at their free will. Isn't the govt policy an abuse of the constitutional muscle? Does it not undermine the democratic quotient of our constitutional architecture? The BJP has once again demonstrated its intolerance for opposite spectrum of opinion. Our's is not a monarchy where the king can order the execution of the courtier at will. The fundamental rights and liberties of opposition need to be respected in a free country. National interest can't be used and abused as a overriding mantra to consecrate any opportunist and political manoeuvres. The BJP must learn from 1975 order of Indira Gandhi. Its needs to remember that lessons of history are not for sects but for civilizations. The decisions of Govt need to be logical and not ideological. Curbing of civil liberties and choking of inconvenient voices is an anti thesis to the very concept of democracy. Even the Supreme Court has acknowledged the right of dissent when it ruled that Dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If it is suppressed, the pressure cooker would burst. The right to dissent should not be muzzled by use of force or authority. Allow liberal democracy to flourish. Don't let it dis-integrate. Don't allow it to be supplanted by pseudo democracy by placing restrictions on freedoms and movement of nationalist leaders who are being denied access to masses and media under the smokescreen of law and order and national interests.
India has a huge cultural history of tolerance and accommodation and it can't be altered by arrogance, aggression and aberrations. Resorting to strong arm method in times of rampaging democratization at various levels the world over would lead to dangerous denouement. The Govt needs to understand and respect the right to freedom of its political opponents. Remember, we are all Indians. And we can take on the inimical forces within and outside only by collective onslaught against enemy and not by fighting our own countrymen for vested political interests.
Pertinent to mention that writer, who is also under house arrest, has been a cabinet rank Minister in J&K who used only National Flag and refused to put up state Flag on his official car despite fierce criticism from Kashmir based MLAs. He had also moved a Bill in Legislative Assembly, during his term as MLA, to de-recognize the separate state Flag. Whereas the BJP Ministers while in govt continued to use both the Flags on their official vehicles. And now they stand for restrictions on freedom of speech and expression of their political opponents. As hypocritical, as dangerous.
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