Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Draconian Laws and Civil Liberties

Earlier we had Binayak Sen and Piyush Guha being sentenced to life imprisonment on the charges of hobnobbing with the Maoists and aiding them in their programme of waging war against the Indian State. Now we have a repeat of this in similar sentencing of G N Saibaba, Hem Mishra, Prashant Rahi, Vijay Tirke, Mahesh Tirke and Pandu Narote  on similar charges. According to the trial courts in both the cases, the prosecution was able to prove that the accused were acting as front men for the Maoists and so helping them to wage a war against the Indian State. However, in both cases there is not much hard evidence or corroboration by independent witnesses and the evidence is mostly in the form of literature, material on computer hard disks, email correspondence and confessions taken under duress from the accused when they were in police custody. The question therefore arises whether those who voice their intention to wage war against the state or correspond with armed groups who are actually doing so and killing people in the process, should be treated at par with the latter when it comes to sentencing them.
The pitch is basically queered by the fact that laws such as the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act do away with the basic safeguard that is there in criminal law that confessions before the police will not count as evidence. Thus, even if there is no independent witness, the police by torturing the accused when they are initially in their custody can get confessions from them and these are then valid as evidence in court during the trial. This is a gross violation of international covenants on human rights that India is a signatory to. Unfortunately, even the judiciary turns a blind eye to this violation of basic civil liberties under the influence of the paranoia that besets the state regarding terrorist and Maoist violence.
In many cases, like that of Hem Mishra, who is a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University and a cultural activist and not in any way connected with the Maoists, the police use the impunity that is given to them by such draconian laws to implicate innocent people. In Mishra's case he was a vocal opponent of police high handedness in his native Uttarakhand. He was arrested in Gadhchiroli while he was going to meet Prakash Amte and then tortured into admitting that he was a courier for the Maoists.
Never has it happened that six people, including Hem Mishra and the journalist Prashant Rahi from Uttarakhand in addition to Professor Saibaba and three Adivasis, have been given life terms together for allegedly aiding the Maoists in waging a war against the state. The Judge not only said that by aiding the Maoists in their mayhem, the accused are as culpable as the Maoists but that if his hands were not tied by the letter of the law he would have given even harsher punishment.
Whatever, the intent of the legislature, executive and the police in bringing in such unjust laws and then using their impunity to implicate people in false cases on flimsy or concocted evidence, it is the task of the judiciary to uphold human rights and especially civil liberties in a liberal democracy. The judiciary should take the charges and the investigation reports filed by the Police with a pinch of salt always and the Supreme Court on a number of occasions has said as much in what has come to be enshrined in judicial practice in India as the "rule of prudence". But somehow when it comes to cases of terrorists and Maoists, the judiciary seems to become part and parcel of the executive and pronounces harsh judgments.
Sentencing people to life for having tenuous or no connection with Maoists or terrorists just on the basis of police chargesheets and confessions is a travesty of justice ill suited to a country like ours. It is laughable that such a huge and powerful state as India has to advance danger to its national integrity as a reason to incarcerate for life, professors, journalists and students, not to mention the poor Adivasis because of the suspicion that they have been colluding with the Maoists. The battle will of course continue in the higher courts and the sentence will surely be reduced if not the conviction overturned but the state of the lower judiciary in this country is a blot on the tenets of liberal democracy that are enshrined in our Constitution.  

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