Republic of repression

Photo: Shaheen Abdulla/Maktoob

On India’s Republic Day, The Campaign Against State Repression, a collective of more than thirty organizations released a statement to urge all pro-people, progressive, and democratic sections of India to unite in the fight against Brahmanical Hindutva Fascism and to demand the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners who have been incarcerated while fighting with the oppressed and exploited sections of the society.

The full, unedited text of the statement is below.

India is marking its 73rd Republic Day today. New Delhi is beautified for the celebrations. Armed troops parade the newly built central vista displaying their advanced weaponry and military capabilities while hundreds of people cheer them on. As a part of the Republic Day speech, the Prime Minister will yet again make some new promises amid the charade of accosting the people of this country to perform their duties in his shameless bid to curtail democratic rights. At the same time, this gimmick of democracy is exposed each day by the struggling people in various parts of our country who continue to resolutely assert their rights through their fight against Brahmanical Hindutva Fascism.

This democratic spirit continues to spark mass struggles all across the subcontinent even in the midst of severe state repression. A year after the brutal repression on the protesting farmers at Red Fort and the martyrdom of hundreds of farmers, let us remember the Kisaan Andolan against the three pro-imperialist farm laws at the borders of Delhi which defied every attempt of suppression by the government and its forces. On this day, as the government continues to deny compensation to the bereaved families and scuttle its promises of revoking false cases, we must commemorate the farmers of our country who reminded us that victory is achieved through collective struggles as they braved the murderous rampage by forces of the ruling classes till the very end as was witnessed in Lakhimpur Kheri. 

In the same manner, the country-wide protests against the communally discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) saw the assertion of rights by the people of this country.  As we all know, these struggles were also met with brutal repression either in the form of anti-muslim pogroms in north-east Delhi and different parts of Uttar Pradesh that killed many and destroyed the livelihoods of many others or the arrests of hundreds of Muslim youth and activists who continue to languish in jail under the draconian UAPA. That Hindutva leaders and ministers from the BJP were not only complicit, but also triggered the genocidal calls that preceded these attacks is known to all. 

Even recently, the Dharma Sansad at Haridwar organised by Yati Narsinghanand in December 2021 gave genocidal calls against Muslims and threatened to attack mosques and other religious places. They also declared an economic boycott of Muslim vendors. Recently, Hindu Yuva Vahini, a militant Hindutva organisation founded by the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Ajay Mohan Bisht, took an open oath in the capital to make India a ‘Hindu Rashtra’  even if that meant ‘die or kill’ for it. Immediately in the aftermath of these genocidal calls and hate speeches, Muslim youth were attacked and lynched by Hindutva goons in different parts of the country and interfaith couples attacked under the bogey of ‘Love Jihad’. It is evident that Hindutva goons have been given a free rein to unleash violence on all religious minorities. 

This December, Christmas celebrations were forcibly stopped by Hindutva goons, and Christians and churches were attacked in various parts of the country in the pretext of curbing ‘conversion’. In Ambala in Haryana, a statue of Jesus Christ was vandalised. The BJP led Karnataka state government also enacted the draconian and anti-constitutional ‘The Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Act’, 2021 to systematically target christian minorities and missionaries. Even Christian convents were not spared by the militant Hindutva goons. 

Everyday Dalits are targeted by caste Hindus. Tens of lynchings occur daily. Just a day before in Madhya Pradesh, a Dalit groom and his family is attacked by a group of upper caste people brutally for riding horse during his marriage. Dalit women are raped and killed. The casteist Brahmanical system and its various organs stand in support with the upper castes and collectively take part in the attacks. 

We are all witness to these lynching sprees and attacks on minorities that are being promoted and protected by the Indian State at a time when the country and the frontier regions are being militarily fortified in the name of ‘security’. In Kashmir, the lives of the people have only worsened post the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. In order to quell the democratic protests of Kashmiris, a strict curfew was enforced from 2019 August till February 2021. This period was marked by rampant human rights abuses carried out under the impunity of the Indian State Forces on the people of Kashmir. Tens are killed every week in the valley in fake encounters while illegal detentions, custodial deaths, missing cases, torture, and cases of sexual harassment of women have only increased. Kashmiri students in various parts of India are repeatedly targeted and attacked brutally. Even today, Kashmir is in the throes of an undeclared curfew. Any Kashmiri journalist who reports on the crimes perpetrated on the people of Kashmir are immediately targeted and charged with draconian UAPA and PSA. Recently, journalist Sajad Gul was charged with the Public Safety Act and sent to Jail hours after his release on bail in another case. Alongside, the Kashmir Press Club was taken over by some journalists promoted by the Indian State in a coup-like manner. 

While Kashmir is seething under the violence of the state, protests have erupted in various parts of Manipur, Nagaland, and Assam against the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) after the heinous killings of civilians by the elite para special forces of the Indian Army in Nagaland. While action has not yet been taken against the special forces who were involved in the merciless killing of the workers returning from a coal mine, arrests under draconian laws, torture, and fake encounters have become everyday occurrences in these regions of the subcontinent. In the face of this militarisation, people are marching together demanding the repeal of AFSPA and other draconian laws like UAPA which are being used to suppress the democratic aspirations of the people. 

Financially, inequalities have increased. The income of  84 percent of households have decreased during the last two years whereas the number of Indian billionaires have grown from 102 to 142. The spread of COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown devastated the lives of India’s working class. In both urban and rural areas, violence against women has become manifold. In most cases, culprits are brazenly shielded by the government. In rural areas, farmer suicides have increased. In urban areas, all democratic voices of dissent including activists, scholars, journalists, lawyers and students are being targeted through anti-people laws, arrests and fake encounters or are surveilled through international spyware.

In the economic sector, contrary to the state policy of Atma Nirbhar Bharat (Self Reliant India), Narendra Modi-led Union Government has decided to privatise coal blocks belonging to Coal India and other such public sector companies. The Government has approved 55 New Coal Blocks and has authorized the expansion of existing 193 mines by giving free hand to major multinational corporations like Llyod and Hindalco to obtain leases for more than 50 years to mine coal, iron and bauxite. On one hand, non-renewable resources are being pillaged at an accelerated scale while on the other, land grab under the amended Land Acquisition Act has reached its full pace with the construction of big hydroelectricity projects like the Indravati Bruhat Bandh Pariyojana and Polavaram.  As a result of this government-aided corporate loot and devastation in the name of development, hundreds of Adivasi villages and hamlets are going to get submerged in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Instead of serving its ‘duty’ towards the people, the Indian state led by the BJP government has not left any stone unturned in brutally suppressing peoples’ resistance against corporate exploitation. Recently, in Dhinkia of Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur, protests by the people against setting up of a steel plant by Jindal Steel Works (JSW) limited were brutally suppressed. Protestors were lathicharged by the state police forces along with the goons of Jindal. Similar protests against Llyod in Surjagarh of Maharashtra and Adani at Hasdeo of North Chhattisgarh were also met with force. Clearly, both central and state governments are keen on selling off the natural resources to big conglomerates. In places where the protests against anti-people policies have not gained media attention, the government has continued to blatantly deny basic constitutional provisions provided under the Gram Sabha and the Panchayat (Extension of the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 or PESA.  A case in point is the protest in Mandi in Himachal Pradesh against forceful land grab for the construction of an airport in the ecologically and geologically sensitive region of Shivaliks which has largely been ignored by the government.  

Wherever the people have risen in revolt against corporate loot to protect their rights on land, water, and resources, they have been met with state repression facilitated by increased militarisation. To suppress people’s democratic dissent against the lies and the loot of the government and to facilitate the export of natural resources, the Indian Government has unveiled its latest action plan monickered Operation Samadhan – Prahaar by intensifying the paramilitary presence in central and eastern India. In lieu of this contemporary avatar of Operation Green Hunt, hundreds of new paramilitary camps are being set up in this resource- rich region augmented by an increase in the killings of Adivasi youth in fake encounters. Every day tens of them are detained illegally and charged with draconian laws. 

This continuing saga of repression is also being met with the thunderous resonance of peoples’ resistance. Adivasis are marching against the setting up of police camps and the mining corporations. The protest against the setting up of CRPF camp at Silger in South Bastar that saw the killings of four Adivasi protestors has entered its ninth month. Similar protests have erupted in various other parts of Bastar at Edsmetta, Mettanaar of Maad, and Narayanpur. In Jharkhand’s Mohanpur, at the foothills of Parasnath Mountains of Giridih District, Adivasis of 45 villages blocked the roads and declared a resolution against setting up of paramilitary camps. Instead, they demanded school, electricity and safe drinking water facilities. Indeed, it is not in the hollow stench of military might that democracy lay, but in the unflagging spirit of such peoples’ movements. 

On this day, let us pledge to carry forward the spirit of Kisaan Andolan, Anti CAA – NRC movement, and other democratic peoples’ struggles and fearlessly challenge this republic of repression. The Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) urges all pro-people, progressive, and democratic sections of our country to unite in the fight against Brahmanical Hindutva Fascism. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners who have been incarcerated while fighting with the oppressed and exploited sections of our society. We stand in solidarity with all people’s voices and for democracy!