Stop hounding activists, whistle blowers now

Reports suggest many MPs and MLAs have declared cases of crimes against women, including alleged rape and abduction. Ironically, they are responsible for keeping law and order

Hounding of activists and academics and whistle blowers continues. The latest to be targeted is Yogendra Yadav, who not just heads Swaraj India Party, but is the man behind the farmers’ stand against the State. Yes, for the last several months Yadav has been ripping off facades and masks from the Modi sarkar’s claims of reaching out to the farmers. Mind you, Yadav is armed with facts and figures. And it is certainly not easy to refute nor veto this articulate academic’s well-researched arguments.

Yadav’s knowledge of the ground realities and his awareness of this sarkar’s tactics, makes him stand out; strong enough to take on the lies uttered by the sarkari men. In fact, from early spring Yadav has been voicing his concerns about the very survival of the farmer. To quote him, “It may seem that the Budget aims to improve the economic conditions of the farmers, but it is all a hoax… The only solution to the grievances of the farmers is an increase in their income, which is directly related to the price.”

Also, had come into focus accompanying realities to the dismal condition of the farmers in the country: the budgetary allocation to agriculture has come down to 2.36 per cent from last year’s 2.38 per cent. Also, the farmers’ income has been stagnant for the last four years, with it now being the lowest in 25 years. Also, the government has not been fulfilling its promise on the MNREGS.

According to the requirements of the States, an estimated 80,000 crore is required, whereas the government is providing only 55,000 crore, which is the same as last year. Also, the Minimum Support Price (MSP) is making little inroads, simply because it is not reaching out to the farmer and is not lessening his plight. It was expected by the farmers that the governmental agencies purchase the entire quantity offered by the farmers at the announced minimum price, but then the ground reality bared a dark, gloomy picture.

Sanjiv Bhatt’s arrest

And yet another Modi critic has been targeted and arrested. Sanjiv Bhatt, an IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre, was arrested on a basis of a 22 year old case against him. Not really surprising, nor shocking when right-wing government is centre-stage! Well, aren’t we too well aware of Sanjiv Bhatt’s ongoing criticism of the Narendra Modi led government and the role it had played during the 2002 Gujarat pogrom!

And if a 22-year-old case could be followed up till it reached its logical conclusion, then what about criminal cases against many of the political characters — the so called top brass!

Last summer (August 2017), a study conducted by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-government organisation working for electoral reforms, brought forth hitting facts on the country’s lawmakers: As many as 51 MPs and MLAs have declared cases of crime against women, including of alleged rape and abduction.

Of the 51, 48 are Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and three are Members of Parliament (MPs)…Giving party-wise details, the study stated that among various recognised parties, the BJP has the highest number of MPs and MLAs (14), followed by the Shiv Sena (7) and the All India Trinamool Congress (6) who have declared cases related to crime against women.

ADR and National Election Watch analyzed 4,852 out of 4,896 election affidavits of current MPs and MLAs. This includes 774 out of 776 affidavits of MPs and 4,078 out of 4,120 MLAs from all the states of India. Out of the analyzed 1,581 (33 per cent) MPs and MLAs with declared criminal cases, 51 have declared cases related to crimes against women. 334 candidates, who had declared cases related to crime against women, were given tickets by recognised political parties.

Among these candidates, 4 were given tickets by parties for Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha elections. Various recognised parties have given tickets to 294 candidates with cases related to crime against women for state assembly elections. The study also brought into focus the fact that in the last five years, 19 independent candidates with declared cases related to crime against women contested in the LS and RS elections. And 103 independent candidates with declared cases related to crime against women contested in the state assembly polls.

Another fact came to the fore: over the last five years, 48 candidates with declared cases related to crime against women were given tickets by the BJP. The second highest number of candidates (36) who had declared cases related to crime against women were given tickets by the BSP, followed by 27 candidates from the INC which ha contested for LS/RS and state assemblies elections.

Another fact: Among the states, Maharashtra has the highest number of MPs and MLAs (12) who have declared cases of crime against women, followed by West Bengal (11) and Odisha (6)

Also, among the states, Maharashtra has the highest number of candidates (65) in the last five years, followed by Bihar (62) and West Bengal (52) (including independents) who were given tickets by political parties even though they declared cases related to crime against women in their affidavits.

Double standards

Tell me, where are we heading? Double standards in governance have never been so very blatantly stark! Arrests of activists and academics who dare to expose the government but the tainted politicians are left untouched. Even when you have the likes of Sakshi Maharaj(who happens to be Member Parliament from Unnao where a 16 year was raped by BJP’s sitting MLA) inaugurating a night club in Lucknow and roaming about scot free! This is when he has several criminal charges slapped on him.

Taking you still further, criminal charges are pending against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Not just that, he was in the process of ‘removing’ or ‘dropping’ charges against several of his tainted BJP ministers and political workers. In December 2017, he had announced that his government was bringing a law to withdraw “politically-motivated” cases, registered against ministers, legislators and others in the state. Critics had pointed out that, that proposed law sought to scrap about 20,000 such cases registered in various parts of the state!

Leaving you to introspect on the dark days we are destined to live in, where whistle blowers and activists are hounded, and actual criminals not just roam about scot free but rule!