Protest Onslaught on Democracy! Join People’s Convention [25 June, Constitution Club]

People's convention poster

This is an emergency!

Protest the Onslaught on Democracy!

Call for a People’s Convention, 25 June 2016

225 June 1975 is marked as a day of shame, a blot on the history of independent India – the day when democracy was formally suspended through the imposition of the emergency.

Today, more than four decades later, the nightmare is playing out again. We are now faced with the stark reality of achhe din, saffron style: an upgraded, corporate-friendly, tech-savvy version of the Emergency, packaged as a Hindutva dream.

The evidence has been piling up over the last two years.

  • A majoritarian worldview, where might equals right and violence has become an acceptable substitute for dialogue and debate, is being rapidly rolled out across the country – in Parliament, in schools, in community organisations and government institutions. Our sense of being Indians our pride in the rich diversity of beliefs, traditions and practices; our syncretic culture and ways of life; our respect for difference; our ability to extract consensus from disagreement, debate and argument – all of these are being attacked and erased through brute force.
  • The saffron assault on educational and cultural institutions has been stepped up. People with no intellectual or professional qualifications other than their loyalty to the Hindutva agenda are being parachuted into position as VCs of universities, directors of national institutions for the promotion of the arts and sciences, heads of institutions of research, chairs of professional and technical bodies. The saffron worldview, where myth masquerades as history, where belief is elevated to knowledge, where superstition overtakes rationality, is actively promoted by these “thought-leaders” who are guided and supervised by the backroom boys of the RSS.
    The crackdown on democratic dissent, freedom of expression and the right to protest is brutal and stripped of even the pretence of legality. Student movements, Dalit movements, women’s movements, movements against corporate loot of national resources are all being attacked as anti-national. The benchmark of patriotism has been recalibrated to a simple formula where dissent equals betrayal of the nation. Unthinking subservience and blind obedience to the saffron diktat are the only acceptable markers of Indian-ness. Any deviation is quickly attacked.
  • The takeover of the economy by global capital is moving faster than ever before. Meaningless slogans like “Make in India” and “Stand Up/ Start Up”, crooked calculations, concocted statistics and self-congratulatory chest-thumping by the Prime Minister can no longer hide the fact that corporate profits are placed at the centre of this government’s vision of development. US-backed corporate lobbyists now openly dictate national economic policies. Huge job losses, increase in food prices, agricultural distress, wholesale displacement of communities and starvation deaths are signalling the prospects of a complete breakdown of the economy.
    Draconian laws, originally designed to further imperial and colonial agendas, are being repurposed to advance the agenda of “development”. The people of Kashmir and the North-Eastern region are being systematically prevented from speaking out and exercising their democratic rights. While Modi preens on the global stage and speaks of India as the only zone of peace in the world, the people of Kashmir and the North East live under constant threat of violence from the armed forces to whom AFSPA gives the power to flout citizens’ rights with impunity. Thousands of lives have been lost, thousands of women have been raped and thousand of young people brutalised for the single goal of preventing them from expressing their ideas and claiming their rights.
  • Adivasi communities are being treated as enemies of the state. In language eerily reminiscent of Nazi propaganda bulletins, the government of Chhattisgarh has announced its intention of completing a “final clearance” of Adivasi lands that have been signed away to corporates. As in Kashmir and the North-East, women’s bodies are the battlefields in this war, with rape and sexual abuse perpetrated on a mass scale by the armed forces. Wholesale labelling of Adivasi communities, political workers, human rights activists and journalists as “Maoist sympathisers” is the strategy used to justify sexual violence, summary executions are celebrated as “encounters”, arbitrary arrests, threats and intimidation are all used to silence those who are trying to expose this brutal reality.
  • There is a huge upsurge in violence against women, particularly those who are placed at the intersections of multiple systems of oppression. Dalit and Adivasi women, women from minority communities, non-heterosexual women, women with disability, young girls and elderly women, women from Kashmir and the North East, migrant women, African women, transgender people, women who defy caste norms – all have been openly designated as legitimate targets for violence for one simple reason: their bodies and identities are a living challenge to the Hindutva template.
  • The strategy of “crush and silence by any means” is also being employed against NGOs. The FCRA is being used as a stick to silence and control any organisations that speak out for democracy, or take positions contrary to the government line on any issue.
  • These are only a few of the ugly realities that we see all around us, despite the efforts to camouflage them by meaningless slogans, clumsy attempts to re-write history, Bollywood-inspired celebrations of newly-created “national traditions” and non-existent “success stories”.

These are only a few of the ugly realities that we see all around us, despite the efforts to camouflage them by meaningless slogans, clumsy attempts to re-write history and Bollywood-inspired celebrations of newly-created “national traditions” and non-existent “success stories”.

There is no denying that Emergency Day 2016 sees us not simply on the threshold of another emergency, but already engulfed by it.

But friends, let us not forget that Emergency Day is also a day to celebrate democracy. Let us not forget that the imposition of the Emergency in 1975 was a historic moment that unleashed a huge wave of protest and resistance and brought millions of people out on the streets. Let us not forget that every attempt to silence and crush this upsurge – the suspension of Constitutional rights, the arrests of leaders, the use of armed force against unarmed citizens, the media blackout – failed to defeat or undermine the strength of people’s resistance. Let us not forget that the struggle created new solidarities among people’s movements, students, workers groups, farmers, intellectuals, and political activists to reclaim the democratic space and build the foundations of new struggles.

Friends, the time has come for all of us to join forces to end this Emergency.
We call on all democracy-loving citizens to join us in the Speaker’s Hall, Constitution Club of India on Saturday, June 25, 2016, from 5 pm – 8 pm.

Let us reaffirm our solidarities, rebuild alliances and reassert our Constitutional and democratic rights.