Authoritarianism vs Our Urge for Democracy

Authoritarianism vs Our Urge for Democracy
We shall Fight, We shall Win



Our democratic rights, in every sense that we understand, have come under attack in the last seven years – the right to freedom of assembly and speech, the right to freedom of association, the right to equality before law and consent, the right against discrimination on grounds of gender, race, caste, religion, language or region, the right against exploitation, the right to equality before law and above all the right to life.

The sustained actions of the BJP led Union Government in sending Father Stan Swamy to his death on 5 July epitomises this. The 84-year-old Jesuit priest was repeatedly harassed, questioned and searched and then finally arrested as a ‘terrorist’ under the Unfair Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) amidst the global pandemic and incarcerated in a jail without necessary medical facilities. He was denied medical bail on account of the objection raised by the Union Government. After months of appeals, he was finally shifted to a hospital when it was too late to save him. He was murdered through collective action of agencies of the state without evidence against him and without a trial. This is because he dared to stand up for the adivasis in Jharkhand in their defence of their land, their right to livelihood and their right to life.

Over the last seven years, we have seen countless workers, trade unionists, student, democratic rights activists, journalists, lawyers, writers and scholars being arrested under the UAPA and other draconian laws including the Sedition Act. Not even one of these arrests has reached trial. Every one of these arrests is of people who stood up for the oppressed, for the working class. People who stood up in defence of democracy. People who stood up against the BJP. These are arrests aimed at putting down protest, creating fear and intimidating people.

Divide and Rule – the weapon of oppression

The BJP-RSS ideologues believe that an assault on peoples’ democratic freedoms will be sufficient to suppress dissent and protest in the country. With this in mind, the BJP government attacked workers’ rights through the Labour codes, farmers through the farm laws, undermined land rights through constant changes in the Forest Rights Act and rules on environment protection. Simultaneously, the BJP government, in every budget, cut public expenditure on social security and social protection, while handing out the largest reduction in corporate income taxes in our history. In the midst of this unprecedented pandemic the BJP government has come out with niggardly support for people’s needs. The divide between the rich and the poor has widened sharply.
Alongside, the BJP government changed the citizenship law in order to specifically discriminate against muslims. The ‘othering’ of muslims, by the BJP government, has ranged from the ‘beef ban’ to dismantling the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories and repealing article 370 to the NRC. To further their divisive agenda, the BJP government has promoted reservations for socially advantaged castes to pitch them against historically discriminated and marginalised castes.

When faced with the power of strike of the Ordinance Factory workers against privatisation, the BJP government legislated the Emergency Defence Services Ordinance 2021 (EDSO) to criminalise the right to strike. The right to strike is an inalienable democratic right of the working class enshrined in our constitution in recognition of the imbalance in power in employment relations. It is the right to withdraw our labour power in resistance and defiance against that which is unacceptable to workers. The ordinance is not so much as to stop the strike but to signal to workers that if they dare to oppose the government, their fate will be no different from Fr. Stan.

The BJP recognises that its survival in power can only be perpetuated through the RSS ideology of majoritarian Hindutva and which cannot be achieved without dividing society, the polity and the economy through discrimination, exclusion and the denial of rights and the expansion of the capitalist class.

You may Kill us with your hatefulness, But Still, like air, We Rise!

Despite all efforts of the BJP Government to intimidate and harass, people who believe in a democratic, non-discriminating, diverse and equitable country, those who believe in the idea of progress, of plurality of forces and thoughts, continue to rise against the BJP-RSS project across the country.

It is this spirit of democracy and progress and plurality of ours that the BJP fears. It cannot comprehend a world in which people resist despite all odds, defend their ideas to create a better world and above all make personal sacrifices to defend their ideas of liberty and democracy. The working-class movement evolves in a democracy just as it shapes this democracy. The challenge of defending and advancing democracy finally rests with the working class as it shapes society in its struggle for emancipation.

On 23 July 2021, trade unions across the country have called for a countrywide protest on the attack against the right to strike demanding the repeal of EDSO. Democratic rights organisations, mass organisations including trade unions, and peoples’ movements have also called for a countrywide protest against the attack on the right to democratic dissent demanding the repeal of UAPA, the Sedition Act etc.

The NTUI calls on all trade unions and all organisations of farmers, women, students, discriminated communities; and democratic rights organisations along with the peoples’ movement to come together this Friday 23 July 2021, in memory of the fearless Father Stan, to demonstrate in one voice to defend our democracy, defend workers’ right to strike, defend our right to dissent and above all to defend the idea of a plural and progressive India.

REPEAL the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act
RESCIND the Essential Defence Services Ordinance