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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La Démocratie, une Cocotte-Minute prête à exploser

by Lina Sankari

In India, Democracy is a Pressure-Cooker Ready to Explode

Translated Tuesday 4 September 2018, by Henry Crapo

The Indian police have organised a vast crackdown of intellectual circles, blaming the intellectuals for their supposed links with Dalit and Maoist movements.

Indian Dalits still dream of caste struggle. Those often referred to here by the abusive term "untouchables" remember the battle of Bhima-Koregaon in 1818, during which 500 Dalits from the Maharashtra (west) defeated 28,000 soldiers from the high Brahmin castes. If the English benefited from this victory, which allowed them to impose their domination in the western part of India, the Dalits still commemorate this symbolic success against the brutality of the Hindu order and its governors. At the end of December 2017, during the celebration of the 200th anniversary of this battle, extreme right-wing militants, pushed by the exacerbated nationalism of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, threw stones at the 400,000 Dalits gathered for the occasion. The violence resulted in the death of a young man, 28-years-old. The demonstrations and the "dead city" operations followed one another in Mumbai and in all the agglomerations of Maharashtra, paralysing transport and trade. The case became a national one, and experienced a new twist last week.

Indian Communist Party militants protest against arrests in Hyderabad, on 29 August

photo: Noah Seelam/AFP

The military’s relentlessness under the Prevention Act

The investigation was used as a pretext for the arrest last Tuesday of emblematic figures including writers, poets, academics, lawyers, journalists and human rights activists, in several Indian states.

The lawyers Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira had already been detained and accused of links with the revolutionaries, before being acquitted. Some now denounce the relentlessness to which militants are subjected under the law on the prevention of illegal activities (UAPA), which provides for imprisonment of up to six months, without judicial authorization, of terrorist suspects, the express dissolution of associations, and even capital punishment.

The Political Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) immediately issued a statement explaining that none of those arrested had any connection with the their party. The charges are also heavy against the poet Varavara Rao, accused of plotting to assassinate the head of government. "Why do you own books on Marx and Mao? Why do you have pictures of Phule and Ambedkar [1], and no representation of divinities? ", questioned the police.

Prominent intellectuals have joined the protest, and have denounced these arrests

Important figures in the intellectual world have renewed their commitment by denouncing this vast crackdown. Already in the government’s sights since the publication of her last book, The Ministry of Supreme Happiness, where a transsexual, a Dalit, a Kashmir insurgent and even a Maoist rebel rub shoulders, Arundathi Roy has denounced these "simultaneous arrests (which) are a dangerous sign of a government that fears losing its mandate and is sinking into panic. Because, on the eve of the 2019 legislative elections, the nationalist government is torn by internal strife. The government accuses the "Maoists" - meaning by that the entire spectrum of opponents - of being the greatest threat to internal security. "That the raids take place among lawyers, poets, writers, rights activists, Dalits and intellectuals, rather than among those who lynch and murder people in the open, tells us very clearly where India is headed [2]. Murderers will be honored and celebrated. Anyone who speaks for justice or against the Hindu majority is branded a criminal," adds Arundathi Roy.

India has been the theater of targeted killings of journalists

A sign of the times, the country, often described as "the world’s largest democracy", has been the scene of targeted assassinations of investigative journalists in several states, following calls for murder, notably relayed by prominent members of the ruling party. "There is only room for one NGO in India, and it is called SSR (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [3]. All other NGOs must be closed. Imprison all the activists and shoot down all those who complain. Welcome to the new India," Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi joked on Twitter.

The Supreme Court agreed, ordering last Wednesday the release of all activists from prison and their house arrest until Thursday’s hearing. Judge Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud even warned: "In a democracy, dissidence is a safety valve. If you destroy it, the Pressure Cooker will explode." Yet the government does not step back. In the courts, intellectuals have been described as "urban activists" offering "logistical support" and "expertise" to the Maoists. To maintain confusion and fear, the police pointed to the 6,956 civilians and 2,517 security forces personnel killed by the guerrillas since 2001. This expression of "urban Maoists" or "urban Naxalites", in reference to the revolt of 1967 in the village of Naxalbari (West Bengal) which marked the beginning of the movement for the rights of peasants and tribal populations, flourished within the extreme right, which has a strict definition of the citizen: exclusively Hindu, of high caste and patriotic [4].

[1historical figures engaged against the caste system

[2ie: toward a ship wreck

[3a Hindu paramilitary organization from which emerged the current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi

[4Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator
In the end, very little correction was necessary.

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