Dissent and the Famous Five: Violent Dissidence is Also Dangerous

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The Pune Police says it has ‘conclusive proof’ that nails all of them. The Supreme Court will demand proof, in English not Marathi. ‘It’s a witch-hunt?’ say supporters. Counsels for accused say Modi government is curbing “dissenting voices.” The activists and their supporters say BJP is panicking, staring at certain defeat in assembly polls and 2019 general elections. A report for Different Truths.

Arnab Goswami is easy to place. He is out-and out ‘nationalist’. Rajdeep Sardesai is difficult to make. When he claims he’s ‘anti-national’, he could be joking, sarcastic. The ‘five’ in the eye of the storm give contradictory signals. Sudha Bhardwaj is ‘inherently good’ and just doesn’t fit the ‘assassin-profile.’ Fiery poet Varavara Rao is confirmed ‘revolutionary poet.’ Gautam Navlakha devotes his pen to the separatist. To hordes of people that makes him a slime. Lawyers Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves are allegedly true-blue ‘Maoists?’

‘By association’ is half the confirmation. But it could be positive alliance. Rao, Navlakha, Ferreira and Gonsalves gain seen alongside Sudha Bhardwaj. In her company they too appear saints. But is Bhardwaj all that innocent? Did the ‘five’ commit a crime? Did she unwittingly become a partner in crime? The Pune Police says it has ‘conclusive proof’ that nails all of them.

The Supreme Court will demand proof, in English not Marathi. ‘It’s a witch-hunt?’ say supporters. Counsels for accused say Modi government is curbing “dissenting voices.” The activists and their supporters say BJP is panicking, staring at certain defeat in assembly polls and 2019 general elections; that Modi and Shah want to roil and leave it to the people to decide, it works better for them that way.

The Left parties do not count. The ‘Red Corridor’, which stretches from Nepal border to Karnataka, is Maoist. In Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra it is red hot. At other places on the corridor it simmers in anticipation. The ‘Red Corridor’ is Maoist. Not moribund CPM or CPI. That battle is over.

The Congress? Rahul Gandhi is on a redesign/revive-Congress drive. Wednesday he blasted the RSS and attacked the Modi government for hounding “activists”. It didn’t fit Congress history or DNA. Except for Sudha Bharadwaj, the rest have felt the Congress boot, during UPA rule.

Then Home Minister P Chidambaram made them crap bricks. Then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went on record and declared Maoists were India’s No.1 Enemy. One Maoist supporter says now, “I felt real fear during Chidambaram’s time.”

Congress opportunism is now showing. But the ‘five’ do not mind a helping hand. Congress leader and lawyer for hire Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued for them in court Wednesday. Most likely pro bono. Singhvi’s usual fee runs into lakhs of rupees per hearing. The beauty is the “five human rights activists” have a battery of top lawyers at their beck and call, ready to summon King Solomon’s court if it came to that.

They demand, courts oblige. Five courts in three states heard their case in less than 48 hours. Urgent. Unprecedented. Understandable. PIL-guru Prashant Bhushan explained the urgency in five words: “They are very prominent people,” adding, “their voices are being curbed.”

The Supreme Court appeared to agree. “Dissent is the safety valve of democracy,” said Justice DY Chandrachud. “Without the safety valve the cooker will burst.” Okay. But dissent is not rebellion. Dissent is not mutiny on the deck. Dissent is disagreement. What if dissent instigates violent dissent? The three-judge bench stopped short at “dissent is the safety valve of democracy.”

But if ‘dissent = safety valve’, what is democracy equal to? Is it pressure cooker or pressure? Or, is it the foodstuff in the pressure cooker? The safety valve is also called ‘regulator’. Letting out excess gas helps regulate pressure. Ditto dissent vis-a-vis democracy? But there must be a limit to dissent a la pressure.

To protect democracy, unbridled dissent has to be regulated. Curbed if it is poisonous, insidious. Dissent cannot be safety valve. Dissent is pressure applied on democracy and has to be regulated. Confusing, isn’t it? The closer we get to mid-2019 and elections, the more will be the turmoil, the more the dissent.

Outcome 2014 was a jolt. To the Congress. To the Rest of the Opposition. To so-called Lutyen’s Media. To the Maoists. To the band of ‘NGO/activists. Everybody burned. All shared a visceral hatred for Modi and Shah. For the RSS. Congress-Mukt Bharat was unacceptable. The Maoist eliminated was a nightmare. Activists cut to size was setback to set goals.

Things have to return to the old normal. Pre-2014. 

Bhimji Koregaon is the crux. There is the Dalit link. There are two sets of accused, of opposing ideologies. There’s also the alleged conspiracy to assassinate Modi. Produce evidence the ‘five’ have anything to do with either or both, says the apex court. But let’s be straight, Bhimji Koregaon, whoever orchestrated it, was not dissent. It was planned violence. Programmed to achieve certain objectives.

Sushil Kutty

©IPA Service

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