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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 39 New Delhi September 15, 2018

“Present State of Health” of Our Democracy

Saturday 15 September 2018, by Arup Kumar Sen

The recent arrests of some noted civil/human rights activists have raised fundamental questions about the present state of our democracy. In the wake of the arrests, the eminent professor of political theory, Neera Chandhoke, reminded us: “In a democracy, the individual transits from subject to citizen. Yet there is no one more vulnerable and more helpless than our rights-bearing citizen if the, otherwise, democratic state decides to terrorise, kill and drill fear and trepidation in the mind of the body politic.” (The Hindu, August 30, 2018). We would like to add in this context the observation made by Hannah Arendt many years ago: “...under conditions of terror most people will comply but some people will not”.

At a press conference in New Delhi, several intellectuals and rights activists including Aruna Roy, Arundhati Roy, Prashant Bhushan and Bezwada Wilson made a Joint Statement AgainstContinuing Arrests of Rights Activists: “We, the undersigned, strongly oppose and condemn the illegal raids carried out in different cities, and arrests of Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Varavara Rao by the Maharashtra Police on August 28, 2018. These are only the most recent arrests in a continuing wave of repression spearheaded by the police at the behest of their political leaders and their communal and casteist agendas against people’s movements and human rights defenders...”

Let us have a look at what is happening in Kashmir right now. We have come to know from media reports that the armed forces launched a massive search operation on September 3, 2018, in over a dozen villages of Pulwama district in southern Kashmir, triggering protests. It is reported that “one civilian was killed” in the operation. The names of over 270 locals, who the police suspect to be over ground workers of militants, have reportedly been circulated to all the district SPs in the Valley to get the latest information on them. (The Economic Times, September 4, 2018) It should be mentioned in this connection that, according to official records, the Jammu and Kashmir (J and K) Police recruited 9381 policemen from 22 districts in the State since 2015, of which 1647 were from the four districts of South Kashmir—Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam. In addition, close to 2000 Special Police Officers (SPOs) have been recruited from these districts in the last two years. The J and K Police is the second largest government recruiter in the State, next only to the Education Department. In addition to over 90,000 men in regular forces, 31,000 SPOs are employed in the J and K Police. (See The IndianExpress, September 4, 2018)

The recent arrests of rights activists and the emergence of Kashmir as a Police State should be considered together to get an idea of the present state of health of Indian democracy.

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