Friday, June 19, 2020

Dealing with 'dissent' in democracies: 'Discredit, defame, destroy' is the strategy but a bad one



Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

In an ideal or even a functional democracy, there must be freedom to speak up, question and criticise government's policies.

In strong democracies there are traditions--people are allowed to speak their mind, oppose official and government line and agitate on the failures. 

Earlier, it was mostly in monarchies that dissent is seen as 'rebellion' or even linked to treason. However, now a days even in several democracies, dissenters and opposition is seen with suspicion, they are viewed as 'enemy' and even termed 'anti-national'.

This is not a good sign for any strong nation. Of course, 'system' is powerful and can deal with a dissenter in many ways. But it's better to let him speak because diverse opinions make a country stronger. 

There must be right to agitate, right to peacefully protest, right to express our disagreement with the government. It also acts as a safety valve. If there is a section that is angry, it feels relieved once it is able to express itself, well.

But often it happens that detractors are seen as adversaries. So, they are discredited, defamed and steadily 'destroyed'. There are dirty tricks that are used, lapdogs on TV channels will target them and make the person(s) appear evil. 

In case of groups, new terms can be invented to make them sound more sinister. Defaming is not tough. Once, the lapdogs get signal, they go after the person. Cut a video, if not possible then insert audio in background or claim anything. 

If slogan was 'Jine (life) ki Azadi', it can be given a spin and falsely claimed that they were seeking 'Jinnah ki Azadi'. Media invents the new 'anti-national', manipulates the public opinion, ignoring all other important issues affecting us.

Somebody makes a provocative statement or not, it seems 'enemies' have to be invented constantly because youths, students continue to be hounded. If there is no statement, some media persons event 'invent' it to defame or for 'eyeballs'.

Then, they can be demonized and booked under harsh laws so that they don't get bail for months. On the other hand, those who threaten, warn of repeating 'Godhra like massacres', threaten just before riots in Delhi or give hate speeches, are never booked for sedition, let alone facing interrogations or arrests. 

This is happening for too long now. The script remains same and continues to play in front of us for years now. But it doesn't help anyone in real sense. it speaks volumes about a powerful government if they can't handle, deal with dissent.

Overall, temperature remains high, there is too much anger in the society and it doesn't help the country in the long run. If only the leaders realised that voices are necessary, all the voices, especially, the dissenting voices for a healthy democracy!

Photo courtesy: Jason