It seems that the BJP has finally lost what little moral compass it held. Today, in a stunning order we lost all the ground that all our civil activist friends had hard-fought in the last few years making Right to Privacy a fundamental right . At least a decade worth of effort has been put down the drain. While the reasons are not hard to fathom, they just lost 5 state elections and instead of introspecting the reasons of why they lost, they have chosen to act in this brazen manner.
The most worrying and interesting part at the same time is that the powers that have been given to the Central Agencies is without any judicial oversight so it’s pretty much given that they will use it more for their personal gains and enmity rather than any real or perceived threat to Indian sovereignty. They might be perceiving that losing in elections is tantamount to threat to Indian sovereignty. They forget that BJP!=India which means BJP is not equal to India, no political party is. In putting this order they are also putting precedents of fascist and dictatorial orders in a democratic, peace-loving country like India. The picture that emerges is a simple one, if they are going to lose, they might attempt these sort of orders in the hopes they can eavesdrop on the opposition, business leaders, threaten them etc. and by hook or crook win National elections which is supposed to be held in middle of next year nobody would be the wiser. They have made many changes in the highest court expecting that the judges that have been appointed would rule in their favor. And anyways, any filing of suit today would have a first hearing at least 3-4 months down the line or even later depending on dates of judges, court-room access etc. If nothing, the General Attorney from Government of India can always ask for more time.
The most worrying aspect of this is they have given even the Police Commissoner the said powers. While we hope that the higher bodies like ED and Intelligence Bureau would use the powers responsibly, the police sadly has been known to overreach its authority against civilians even without the additional powers given to them. Also this is setting precedents that State Police of different States could also ask for the same powers citing law and order. It is a bit ironic if you ask me that if you a law enforcement official serving say in the United States, you would have to get judicial consent before tapping a suspect’s phone even though they have right to bear arms (it is one of the fundamental rights), while here, i.e. in India posessing arms is more or less illegal but still police will get such powers citing law and order.
I wanted to share that the diversity and values that Indian people have and this seems to be the most opportune time to share it as had bunch of experiences in Kerala. There were couple of interesting experiences and observations that I made on my short visit to Kerala, Kochi. After being for the whole of Debutsav I decided to take a mini-holiday of 2-3 days to just look around Kochi. While I had been to Kerala before but each time it had been either a beach, a temple and not really seeing Kerala. This time around, I was able to see how due to Kochi being a sea port had lot of influences on Christian and Muslim minorities and how they are able to have a sort of jovial relationship. I did see Christian schools on roads named after Muslim saints and vice-versa although due to Dutch East India Company, most of the places and even roads had english names. Being alone, I was able to talk to some of the fishermen and they shared both their helplessness with the State’s response to the floods and the uncertainty of the catch. Because Fort Kochi is still a functioning port, I did see couple of huge cargo or freight ships as well as was able to use the ferry which the local people used for point to point travel. I would probably upload pictures of both in couple of days here itself. While I was fascinated by these huge container ships, the fishermen shared with me how it has polluted the inland and how fishing is not good as it once was. The only way is to go to open sea and with the recent floods it is not inspiring.
One of the more interesting experiences was meeting a Mr. Singh. I will not share the gentleman’s details as all the sharing were done off the record. I am sharing here just as an example of a reality which is not exposed often. Mr. Singh is the eldest of the three brothers. While he was born in Punjab but due to reasons unknown (I didn’t ask him) his father settled in Kerala. Just like rest of Keralities of his time there wasn’t much for young men like him to do. So instead of sitting idle like his 2 brothers he decided to risk and go to Middle East. This was in the 70’s. He worked in UAE, Dubai, Qatar and other places. He found many Indians, Punjabis included and none gave a fag about what religion they were. They made many watering holes where Indians used to meet every Friday, socialize and share news of whatever currently was happening there or whatever news they could get of home, India.
When he came back in the 90’s many people including him started either some small shops or restaurant business to cater to people. Unlike Pune though, Kochi doesn’t have seem to have many restaurants but anyways that’s a different story.
Around 1991/92 unrelated to the Bombay riots 1992 there were communal riots even there where his shop was burned down. But due to relationships he had built up in Middle East, many Muslims and even some Parsis came to help him and get back on his feet. So while his children are well-placed, he did feel that the community relationships which have helped and guided him hoped didn’t get trampled by BJP which is trying to upset the easy relationships most communities have built over decades. I did hear some similar stories from other people as well. There are even lot of Assamese people who have emigrated to Kerala and they speak Malayalam better than the natives. In fact, Balasankar confided that the domestic helper who comes to their place to help out his mother and family, her son got 100/100 in Malayalam . This says something about the spirit of the place and the people therein.