TESTING WATERS! TESTING TIMES!
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
Banner headlines in several of the major newspapers of the country this morning screamed, ‘Deleting Whatsapp, FB, Viber chats could be made illegal!’, ‘Centre mulls controls on instant messaging apps!’, ‘Save your Whatsapp messages, govt wants to play peeping Tom!’ and so on, as the Central Government introduces yet another proposal which not only infringes but also violates a fundamental right of the Indian citizen.
The proposal (a draft policy on internet security) seeks to strengthen the Government control over private data; one of the points states that “instant messaging, apps like (Whatsapp) users will have to keep their communications for 90 days and should be able to produce them if asked by the authorities”. A blatant attempt to gag social media and freedom of speech! That such a proposal can even be contemplated would surely make the thinking citizen wonder whether “the dark times” have already arrived!
On hindsight however, one should not be surprised! The ruling political dispensation, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS); the main ideologue of the RSS is its second Sarsanghchalak MS Golwalkar who in two of his significant works “Bunch of Thoughts’ and “We or our Nationhood defined’ makes it clear what their core ideology is all about; this includes the denouncement of the Constitution of India, the upholding of the ‘Manusmriti’ code; the negation of basic democratic principles and above all the treatment of minorities as second-class citizens. Given the fact that all the key Ministers of the Government had to pay obeisance and to report to the RSS top brass recently is a clear proof that it is the RSS that is calling the shots in the country today.
Since May 2014, there have been several efforts by the Sangh Parivar and their ilk to tamper with, manipulate and intervene in almost every section of the life of the ordinary citizen. The way the education system of our country is being mauled makes one squirm; the students today are fed with a syllabi which is loaded with myths, superstitions, half-truths, discriminatory attitudes and everything else which hardly befits a nation which desperately seeks to find a niche as a global player. It is unbelievable that people without the necessary academic qualifications and competence are now made directors of reputed institutes of learning and even Vice Chancellors! The Government has entered the private domain of what people eat and wear, what films they should see and whether or not an Indian girl can even be out late at night! The “ban” culture reigns supreme as an aura of “majoritarianism” gains a stronghold. Media to a great extent is muzzled as never before!
The ‘Ghar wapsi’ programmes and the ‘Patidar’s stir’ in Gujarat also makes transparent the intentions of those who govern us: a national anti-conversion law and of course as RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat has said unequivocally that ‘reservations need to be done away with’. The denigration of minorities include the attacks on Churches and Christians and the renaming of roads with Muslim names.
The impunity by which another affiliate of the Sangh Parivar, the ‘Sanathan Sanstha’ has murdered intellectuals and rationalists like Govind Pansare also demonstrates that those who stand up for what is right will be severely dealt with. The murders of other rationalists like Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, Dr. M. M. Kalburgi also point to this group; as expected, no Government official has condemned these dastardly acts. Human Rights Defenders, RTI activists, whistleblowers and other civil society members - who fight for truth and justice continue to be the target of vicious attacks.
One certainly has to toast the many who from every walk of life have had the courage to take a stand against what is happening in the country today; however, when one looks at the broader picture there seems to be no groundswell of protest; no visionary political leadership which can contain the heap of violations, abuses and injustices to which the common man and woman of India is subjected to today.
Yes, the waters are being tested today! It’s testing times for the country at large! We, the people of India need to wake up and act, before it is too late!
22nd September, 2015
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)
Address: ‘PRASHANT’, Hill Nagar, Near Saffron Hotel, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052