After evicting Baba Ramdev‘s congregation in the dead of night, Delhi police have denied permission to Anna Hazare and gang from holding a protest against that eviction at Jantar Mantar tomorrow. The draconian move raises a simple question: is democratic India becoming a despotic republic?
Ramdev’s protest was nixed after the UPA government, which had wooed him publicly, suddenly discovered that he was a front for the RSS and that the gathering was upto no good. And now, the Congress leader B.K. Hari Prasad has used similar terminology to describe Hazare, that he was a face of the sangh parivar.
Be that as it may, seen in conjunction with the “establishment” reaction to tribal protests against mining companies (Orissa, Dantewada), farmer protests against land acquisition (Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh), Arundhati Roy‘s speech demanding freedom for Kashmir, etc, the question is: are we getting too thin-skinned, and intolerant of criticism?
If this is the government reaction for legitimate demands of the people—a mechanism for an anti-corruption law, the return of money stashed away in foreign banks—what is the reaction likely to be if protests were to break out for the overthrow of the government of the day?
The Hazare gang says it will go ahead with the protest despite the ban, setting the stage for a confrontation.
Are we no better than China in snuffing out dissent? Have Arab countries (Egypt’s Tahrir Square protest went on peacefully for 17 days) been far more mature in handling different shades of protest? And, are we really a “soft” state, or a very hard one in disguise, intent on protecting the old order even at the risk of the image of the country?