August 16, 2011

life in general: undemocratic, dictatorial government of India

Criminal Procedure Code sections were applied by the Delhi Police, under instructions from the home ministry of the central government of India, in arresting civil activists Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal and a few other aides of Hazare, today morning.

These activists intended to hold a protest in Delhi against the weak anti-corruption legislation being put to vote by the government of India.

This is the latest incident of the government of India has been directly or indirectly acted against civil activists. There have been several similar instances all over the country, many of which go unreported in the mainstream media.

I am sure that the Congress party and other political parties which form part of the ruling alliance in the central government of India, will not be able to get away with their undemocratic, dictatorial acts for too long. 

Not that alternatives such as Hindu-extremist Bharatiya Janata Party, the Left parties and others are much better. The peformance of their governments in a few states where they won the state elections are not less dictatorial. But the Congress party cannot be allowed to get away with fast degeneration of democratic principles. 

Immediately below is a newsreport on Anna Hazare's arrest by the Delhi police, and following it is another commentary on the unfair restrictions which Anna Hazare and his followers were being asked to comply with.


Unfazed Anna Hazare fasts in police custody as protests in his support spread far and wide

 | New Delhi, August 16, 2011 | 07:37

Anna Hazare; Protests against Anna's arrest.
Hours before he was to launch his fast against corruption, Anna Hazare was on Tuesday arrested by the Delhi Police, preventing him from going ahead with his proposed protest. Other prominent activists in the Lokpal Bill campaign - Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Shanti Bhushan - were also arrested.
Delhi Police personnel; Anna Hazare supporters
Delhi Police personnel and Anna Hazare supporters near his residence.
Hazare and his associates were arrested under CrPC sections 107 and 151. Hazare, a 73-year-old Gandhian, was taken into custody from a residential area in Mayur Vihar before he was to proceed to the venue of his fast at J.P. Park, where prohibitory orders are in place.
My arrest won't stop protest: AnnaIn a CD relased by his team members after his arrest, Hazare urged people to carry on the fight against corruption through non-violent means.
"How can my arrest stop this agitation against corruption? My team will carry on the anti-corruption stir further and this fight will continue," he said.
"I appeal to the people to be non-violent and not damage any individual's or national property. Nobody should be hurt," Hazare urged.

Hazare fasts in police custodyHazare, Bedi and Kejriwal were brought to the Delhi Police Officers' Mess at Civil Lines after their arrest, where the Gandhian launched a fast. Hazare's team said he was not even taking water.

Protests in support of Hazare
Team Anna is planning to move the Supreme Court against the arrests. Meanwhile, there were reports of massive support pouring in for Hazare, with IIT Kharagpur students planning to go on a hunger strike.

Residents of Hazare's village Ralegan Siddhi took to the streets in protest. Scores of people trooped out of their homes soon after news of the arrest of Hazare and his team members reached the village, about 230 km from Mumbai.

There was a spontaneous shutdown in the village. Many villagers, including women, marched to the local Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation bus depot and raised slogans against the government.
While thousands of activists staged a march in Pune, a large number of protestors started a gathering near Dadar in Mumbai. An agitation is planned at Azad Maidan in Mumbai later on Tuesday where prominent activists, including Medha Patkar, are expected to congregate.

Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh said efforts were made in the morning to persuade Hazare to give up his proposed fast, but he refused to relent.

Cops tried to persuade AnnaAccording to sources, senior police officials, including DCP (Crime) Ashok Chand, met with Hazare in the morning at an East Delhi apartment, where he was staying, in a bid to convince him to not go ahead with his planned protest defying prohibitory orders at J.P. Park.
Emergency is back, cries Bedi
Flaying the police move, Bedi said: "Emergency has revisited the country. This is undemocratic and unconstitutional," she said.
Around 500 supporters were with Anna at the time of his arrest. Chanting 'Bharat Mata ki jai' and 'Vande Matram', they created hurdles in the way of police personnel as they were trying to take him to a nearby police station.

Government has become dictatorial: Prashant BhushanPrashant Bhushan, a key civil society member of the joint Lokpal Bill draft committee, said: "The government has become dictatorial. Democratic rights are being infringed upon, which will lead to more anger among the people."

Anna detention undemocratic: Ramdev
Baba Ramdev said the arrest of Anna Hazare was undemocratic.

Ahead of the proposed fast by the Gandhian, a group of people had thronged the East Delhi apartment where Hazare was staying to pledge their support to his protest. Security personnel, including some in plainclothes and some from the special branch, were deployed around the apartment premises.

Chetan Bhagat, Anupam Kher slam arrest
Author Chetan Bhagat said Hazare's arrest was a disastrous move by the government while actor Anupam Kher called it the saddest day for Indian democracy. Anupam Kher said, "Government has angered the common man."

PM holds CCPA meet
Prime Minister Manmohan  Singh held a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs to take stock of the situation.

After the Delhi Police denied him permission to hold his fast, Hazare had on Monday given a call to his supporters to fill up jails all over the country if he is arrested.
Addressing a press conference after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh slammed him for resorting to fast as a protest when Parliament was seized of the Lokpal bill, the Gandhian had said he will go to J.P. Park in Delhi on Tuesday, the venue of his fast, even though the Delhi Police imposed prohibitory orders.
"If I am arrested, I will continue my hunger strike in jail. If I am released, I will go back to the venue and this circle will continue," he said.
Hazare said once he is arrested, people should fill up the jails in every village across the country. "Going to jail for the country is no crime...It is a decoration," he said.
He accused the Prime Minister of "speaking" the language of his ministerial colleague Kapil Sibal saying that the Lokpal bill was before Parliament which will take the call.
Before his press conference, the 73-year old activist had made an unscheduled visit to Rajghat on Monday, where he sat in meditation. Hundreds of supporters gathered around him.
The Delhi Police refused permission to Gandhian and his supporters, saying that Hazare's team refused to give an undertaking on restricting the number of days of protest and protesters besides four other conditions.
In his speech at the Red Fort on Monday morning, the prime minister decried Hazare going on fast and said Parliament alone will decide on Lokpal and those having grievances should approach Parliamentary Committees for airing their views.
-With inputs from Headlines Today and PTI


Protest is central to a democracy

Gyanant Singh | August 16, 2011 | 08:03
Delhi Police has put arbitrary restrictions on Anna's fast.
It is ironic that the capital of the largest democracy in the world has no place for public protest. One might not agree with Anna Hazare or like his mode of protest but the manner in which he has virtually been denied a right to sit for an indefinite fast protest against corruption cannot be justified in a democratic country like India.
The government may be right in claiming that it was its prerogative to draft or give a final shape to the Lokpal Bill but it will find it difficult to explain the use of its power to regulate protests to virtually stifle dissent being expressed in the form of a peaceful protest.
Since the proposed protest was against inaction on part of the executive, the government dealing with the group should clearly seem to be fair and reasonable.
Despite Anna having compromised on the venue for his much publicised 'indefinite' fast protest beginning today, the Delhi Police restricted the duration of his protest to three days at the 'rear portion' of the Jai Prakash Narayan Park on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg.
Incidentally, the Anna-led group had given up the Jantar Mantar site and had decided to settle for another venue after it was stressed that no 'indefinite' protest could be allowed at Jantar Mantar as many organisations would want to hold protest at the site as the monsoon session of Parliament was in progress.
The new venue was agreed to between the Anna camp and the police after the latter stated that such a long protest could not be allowed at Jantar Mantar in view of the need for equitable distribution of space for protests by various groups.
In a letter on August 16, the Delhi Police said it had 'now been advised' that the venue could not be allotted beyond 'one or two days' due to legal and administrative constraints. It would,
however, persuade the land owning agency to extend the period to three days. To add insult to injury, Anna, Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi have been asked to sign an undertaking that they would ensure that "the gathering does not exceed 4000/ 5000 persons". Apart from the fact that it would be beyond their control to predict the number of people unlike in political rallies where supporters are ferried to the venue, restricting the number of people to a maximum of 5,000 would amount to curtailing the rights of thousands of people who would like to voice their concern against corruption by going to the venue.
The right of people to visit the site to support the protest - which may be justified or unjustified - is independent of the right of Anna or his team.
With team Anna terming the restrictions as unconstitutional and gearing up to defy the Delhi Police diktats, Union minister Kapil Sibal quoted a Supreme Court judgment (1973 1 SCC 227) stating that "the right which flows from Art. 19(1)(b) is not a right to hold a meeting at any place and time". Though Sibal stopped at this, the next line of the judgment stresses that the state can only impose 'reasonable' restrictions in the interest of public order.
"Freedom of assembly is an essential element of a democratic system. The basic assumption in a democratic polity is that government shall be based on the consent of the governed," the Supreme Court has said in the judgment quoted by the minister.
It further stressed that free consent implied discussions and the right of citizens to "meet face to face with others for the discussion of their ideas and problems, and public streets are the 'natural' places for expression of opinion and dissemination of ideas." On limiting the crowd, Sibal said it could have been more if he had opted for far off Burari as the venue for protest. If this argument is taken to be valid, one cannot explain the symbolic march of our first freedom fighters from Meerut to Delhi in 1857 and repeated 'Delhi Chalo' refrain by protesters across the country.
Besides, the Delhi Police had initially agreed to venue. Sibal was further joined by his colleagues in the government to question the protest at a time when the Bill had already been introduced in Parliament.
The ministers reportedly stressed that Anna's demand was unconstitutional and his protest at this time was an affront to Parliament.
No doubt Parliament is an important institution but 'we the people' of the country also enjoy a special status in the Constitution.
Such a protest may not be justified in normal circumstances but to prevent it by imposing onerous conditions might be worse.

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