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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 12 New Delhi March 9, 2019

Reading State Power in Our Troubled Times

Monday 11 March 2019, by Arup Kumar Sen

Michel Foucault’s seminal lectures delivered in College De France (1977-78) were published with the title Security, Territory and Population. (Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2007) While introducing the theme, Foucault argued: “...what is involved in this analysis of mechanisms of power is the politics of truth”. He observed in this connection: “There is an increasingly huge set of legislative measures, decrees, regulations, and circulars that permit the deployment of these mechanisms of security.”

Foucault emphasised that older techniques of power get integrated in the new mechanisms of security. To put it in his own words: “Mechanisms of security do not replace disciplinary mechanisms...security is a way of making the old armatures of law and discipline function in addition to the specific mechanisms of security.”

The power being exercised by the Indian state in recent times is justified in the name of security. The measures of security adopted by the State get correlated with the “old armatures of law and discipline”. The invocation of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against the civil/human rights activists and surveillance/disciplinary mechanisms being made operative in university campuses like that of JNU bear testimony to Foucault’s insights regarding the new mechanisms of power.

The latest categories floated in the security discourse in India are “anti-national” and “urban naxal”. These tags are being used to silence dissident voices. Very recently, while framing charges against the eminent dalit intellectual, Anand Teltumbde, in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence in January 2018, the Pune Police alleged that he had links with Maoist organisations. In spite of the Supreme Court verdict that he could not be arrested for four weeks, till at least February 11, 2019, the Pune Police arrested him on February 2. Hours after his arrest, he was released on the same day after the Special District Judge, Pune, pronounced: “Accused-Anand Teltumbde be released forthwith.” The Judge categorically stated in his verdict that the arrest of Teltumbde “is illegal one and also amounts to contempt of order of Hon’ble Apex Court”.

Anand Teltumbde’s “illegal” arrest substantiates Giorgio Agamben’s seminal concept of ‘State of Exception’ in which “law encompasses living beings by means of its own suspension”.

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