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Double discomfort

Editorial |

It was an eminently forgettable Wednesday for the NDA. The Supreme Court, and two other courts, flayed the manner in which the Pune police ~ not even the village idiot would believe it acted without political clearance ~ tried to crack down on five civil rights activists whom the saffron brigade labels “urban naxals”, and directed their liberation from custody and detention at home until further orders.

And an overdue report from the Reserve Bank of India punctured many of the balloons the government tried floating to positively project its demonetisation misadventure just under two years ago.

The public and political reaction was truly forceful, and there an element of the craven to the government’s silence: which left illinformed BJP spokespersons squirming when unsuccessfully trying to mount a credible defence on either front.

The tsunami of discord found powerful expression in the apex court’s reminder that the right to dissent is a “basic feature” of a democracy ~ there was no further need for drawing parallels with the infamous Emergency, the reminders of authoritarianism were much too palpable. Even the National Human Rights Commission raised procedural queries.

Since the cases against the allegedly Left-tilting activists will be subjected to judicial scrutiny it would be improper to comment on their merits: suffice it to say that the Pune police appeared determined to blacken images ~ even commenting at a press conference after the Supreme Court intervention.

While we must await the judicial determination of the cases, it does appear farfetched to link ideological affinity with Maoist violence ~ which the BJP tried so hard to do. The inherent dangers of a politicised police stand reconfirmed, and a less-than-competent lowerlevel judiciary (a Delhi magistrate exemplified that) enhanced the perils of what one of their Lordships recently warned might become a “surveillance state”.

Now that basic human rights are under focus it would be opportune to mount a fresh legal campaign to review of draconian provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act: never mind which government legislated it.

Like its predecessors MISA, TADA, POTA etc it militates against the freedoms vital in a civilised society. And we still claim to be one. If a tad more than 99 per cent of the Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes declared illegal in November 2016 have found re-entry to the system it points to chronic mismanagement of the economy.

No amount of political spin will erase memories of the pain to which the common man was subjected ~ those ensconced in North and South Block were immune.

Lives were disrupted and juggling manipulated statistics will never serve as redemption. That mismanagement, or indifference to the plight of the simple citizen persists: no attempt is being made to reduce the impact of runaway fuel prices that nullify enhanced MSPs for farmers.