Democracy, Constitution under threat: Arundhati Roy

Civil society members condemn crackdown on activists; bid to divert attention, says Arundhati Roy

Updated - August 31, 2018 01:41 am IST

Published - August 30, 2018 10:03 pm IST - NEW DELHI

NEW DELHI, 30/08/2018: (From Left) Prashant Bhushan, Aruna Roy, Arundhati Roy addressing a press conference' Stop Crackdown On Rights Activists, in New Delhi on Thursday . Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma / The Hindu

NEW DELHI, 30/08/2018: (From Left) Prashant Bhushan, Aruna Roy, Arundhati Roy addressing a press conference' Stop Crackdown On Rights Activists, in New Delhi on Thursday . Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma / The Hindu

Following nationwide crackdown on rights activists on Tuesday, civil society members and prominent citizens on Thursday said that democracy and Constitution is “under threat”.

Speaking at an event held at the Press Club of India, author Arundhati Roy said, “This is an attempt to divert attention from the losing popularity that the BJP is facing right now and to fracture Opposition unity. This means we are living in a dangerous time and there will be a ruthless and continuous attempt to divert attention from the loss of popularity. Divide and rule is an old method but now it is divert and rule.”

Defines ‘crime’

“To belong to a minority is a crime, to be murdered is a crime, to be lynched is a crime, to be poor is a crime and to defend the poor is a plot to overthrow the government. By such arrests, in effect, they are isolating lakhs of people as these activists are the representatives of those people,” she added.

“The current scenario is a coup against the Constitution, which is potentially more dangerous than the Emergency. This is an attempt to overturn the Constitution. This is in order to declare that it is a Hindu rashtra and all those who do not agree with this majoritarian point of view will be criminalised,” said Ms. Roy.

Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani said, “The arrests seem like a combination of undeclared Emergency, fascism and the Gujarat model. Every person who opposes the ideology of the ruling dispensation and those who fight for the rights of the people are being terrorised. Their second attempt is to discredit the Dalit movement and Dalit assertions. This is not a war that activists have waged on the State but rather one which the State itself has started.”

Mr. Mevani added, “Theories about the Prime Minister’s assassination are being floated to create sympathy for Narendra Modi before the 2019 elections. This is an attempt to divert attention from real and concrete issues like demonetisation, GST, farmer suicides and so on. However, we will not get terrorised and shall carry nationwide rallies to make our voices heard.”

Rights at stake

Stating that the current situation is that of a “constitutional breakdown and failure of the rule of law”, activist and Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) founder Aruna Roy said, “Today there is maladministration and failure of respect to the Constitution. The right to freedom of expression is decreasing constantly and this is dangerous for a democracy. It is an indication to all those who speak for the rights of Dalits, Adivasis and others, that if you speak up, action will be taken against you as well.”

“Is it a sin to speak up for the rights of the poor and the deprived? A situation is being created where those on the margins are being suppressed. It is time for every citizen to stand up for their rights at this hour,” she said.

‘A conspiracy’

Terming the raids as a conspiracy against those who stand for the rights of the minorities, Dalits and others, senior advocate Prashant Bhushan said the arrests indicated that human rights, democracy and the Constitution were at stake.

“What we are seeing in the country today is an attack and torture on Dalits, Adivasis and minorities. First you attack these sections and then you attack the ones who stand up for the rights of these very people,” he said. “Lynch mobs have been let loose and cases are being registered against those who have been attacked. Whoever stands up for human rights, opposes the government and advocates the rights of people is termed as ‘Urban Naxal’,” said Mr. Bhushan.

Systematic fear

Safai Karamchari Andolan founder Bezwada Wilson said, “This is an attack on our fundamental rights and the State is creating a systematic fear among the people. What is wrong if the Dalits came together to celebrate at Bhima Koregaon? Today we are forced to think twice before we speak. While on one hand, they want everyone to stand during the National Anthem, on the other hand why can they not respect the Constitution? This is not the way to run the country. The Prime Minister has to take a call and listen to the people.”

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