The rise of the Modi government has seen a marked aggravation of brutalities carried out by organs of the Indian state – the armed forces and the police in particular - against the people of North East India. Following and amplifying the policy direction of the UPA, the BJP-led dispensation seems hell-bent on using all its might to crush and muzzle voices of democratic dissent. The most recent such onslaught on the right to protest has been the brazen re-arrest of Irom Sharmila, tireless crusader against the draconian and colonial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), barely three days after her release. Sharmila has been on a hunger strike since 2000 demanding the revocation of the AFSPA, and her struggle has consistently foregrounded the manner in which the law has been shamelessly used by the armed forces to unleash a reign of terror in the North-East – employing the dastardly tactics of rape, murder, torture and other varied forms of intimidation. The re-arrest of Sharmila is yet another tactic of the Indian state to quell the ever-strengthening democratic upheaval against such untold human rights violations. The ascendancy of the self-styled “Loh Purush” Narendra Modi has emboldened the ruling classes in their constant crusade against the rights of the people, and increased the pitch of assertion of their feudal, misogynist, casteist and racist attitudes.
While on the one hand the draconian AFSPA is being used to ride roughshod over the rights of the people of the North East, on the other there has been a tremendous increase in incidents of racist violence and other forms of discrimination against them in various parts of the country. The racially motivated killing of Nido Tania, and the rape of a 14-year old Manipuri girl in Munirka are still fresh in public memory. Built on a foundation of racial stereotyping and prejudice, such attacks have rendered the lives and livelihoods of people from the North East extremely vulnerable and insecure. While the left and democratic sections have consistently demanded a comprehensive legislation against racial profiling, stereotyping, discrimination and violence, the ruling classes have turned a deaf year on every occasion. Both the current regime and the previous UPA government made no effort whatsoever to contain, check or prevent such forms of racist discrimination and violence. Despite increasing democratic assertion on the need for an anti-discrimination legislation, both the Congress and the BJP have tried to shove the issue under the carpet.
It must be remembered that question of AFSPA-related brutality, and the systemic racist discrimination and violence faced by the people from the North East, are deeply interlinked. The need of the hour, therefore, is to forge a larger united democratic struggle which battles both draconian legislations like the AFSPA, and systemic and entrenched forms of prejudice. This struggle has to begin with a recognition of the multinational character of our country, and with a re-envisioning of the republic on the basis of the staunch upholding of the equality of the nationalities which constitute India. A democratic churning is required demanding both the immediate repeal of the AFSPA and the setting up of institutional and legal mechanisms to counter deep-seated discrimination. With the firm resolve of strengthening and deepening such a united and democratic struggle, and to discuss the possible directions and forms this struggle should take in the days to come, SFI invites you to tonight’s public meeting at Kaveri Mess.
Kishalay Bhattacharjee, Independent Journalist, Author of Che in Paona Bazaar: Tales of Exile and Belonging from India's North-East
Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty, Journalist, The Hindu
Vijoo Krishnan, Former President, JNUSU
Date and Time: 26 August 2014, 9.30 pm
Venue: Kaveri Mess
Venue: Kaveri Mess