Authoritarian act

The Manmohan Singh-led UPA government’s drift towards authoritarianism is unmistakable. Heading the government, it is shocking that the Congress party that swears by Mahatma Gandhi is resorting to blatantly undemocratic methods to ban the peaceful and non-violent ways of protest the Father of the Nation used in the freedom struggle. It also seems to have forgotten the bitter lessons it had learnt from Indira Gandhi’s infamous Emergency regime. The detention of Anna Hazare along with scores of his associates before his proposed fast in Delhi on Tuesday is unacceptable.

The government will not be able to explain to the people with any valid reason such an action. The crackdown underlines the hostile and oppressive attitude of the government to people’s movements for clean and accountable governance. The freedom to protest in peace against government policies is a given for any citizen of the country. Hazare and his supporters did not violate any law of the land and only highlighted the need to frame an effective legislation to create a Lokpal which would have real powers to act against corruption and corrupt ministers and officials. To try to suppress their voice and their freedom is to punish the good and the just and to shield the bad and the corrupt.

The pretext that he planned to violate prohibitory orders will not wash. The government clamped the prohibitory orders through the Delhi police though there was hardly any evidence of an imminent law and order problem. What the government wanted was to avert the fast itself which posed damaging questions about its intentions on the Lokpal bill. For the last few weeks, the ruling party and its leaders have been running a systematic slander campaign against Hazare and his associates, though it could establish nothing from it. Hazare is no political opponent and he has no political axe to grind. He only represents the impatience of the people with the corrupt ways of politics and government and the urge for change to a moral and accountable system.

It will be naive if the government thinks that Hazare’s cause and demands will go away with his detention. The spontaneous support he has drawn from people across the country and the widespread protests against his detention are an indictment of the government. As its leaders labour to advance feeble legal arguments to justify the unjustifiable, the government is clearly losing its moral authority; it stands denounced in the people’s court.

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