Monday, December 14, 2020

Dealing with Dissent: Term a person 'troublemaker', demolish house or attach property, make entire family suffer




Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Unfortunately, it is becoming common to initiate proceedings for attachment of property or ordering demolition of a house, just to send a message to the opponents, dissidents or vocal critics. 

A person may have been part of an agitation or may not have even attended a protest but, still, case can be registered under different sections. Once case is there, he is 'accused'. Local media doesn't raise questions, rather, it readily terms him as troublemaker and the result is that the entire family suffers.

If someone is accused of participating in agitation, delivering a speech or even organising people, is it a crime? Even if the person's act was unfair, first try him or her in court and let there be a judgment. If he gets sentenced, will go to jail.

But, who waits for trial? Idea of breaking houses, attaching properties is becoming so common that in cities, people don't even find it odd. If a person is convicted, he can pay for his 'act'. But, rather than justice there is a display of brute power, vengeance on entire family that includes women, children, is becoming common.

There can be numerous examples but this post doesn't list specific cases or any region, because it just aims to tell how this happens and there is little outrage. As, people in positions are able to misuse the powers. If a CM wants someone 'fixed', entire system, officials from top to bottom, just follow it. 

If someone is 'targeted', multiple cases registered & ground is prepared for such actions. No anger or even feeling of uneasiness is seen in society. All this happens even before there is a charge-sheet, let alone case reaching the court. 

So, those who feel that things can be dealt with, should understand that this is at a level where it is happening in cities [within states faraway from national capital] & no outrage or interventions. It's normal. Earlier, what happened was that if it was 'decided' that someone was to be taught a lesson because he was vocal or active, few cases were registered & person was externed from district.

If the person was a fighter and had some resources, he could approach high court & get some relief. Now 'family' also becomes a target. As far as public is concerned, it is least bothered. Firstly, the news that reaches people is through media.

When you destroy a person's reputation and term him 'accused' or 'suspect' or some similar word, it's okay, the exercise of demolition of a house or structure becomes a mere spectacle. Even municipal babus get a high, feel as if they are bureaucrats with real power, on that day, when the house is termed illegal and demolished.

This suits officials too who go by the ruling party leaders' diktats. But where are the checks and balances--role of judiciary and press? Even opposition remains silent and media presents every such action that overrides law as 'strength' of govt or a 'dabang afsar'.

In one particular case, one newspaper in a small item on the same page, carried how children were crying, girl saying that the kin who was termed a 'lawless' person wasn't even staying with them for years but the entire house was demolished just because of it, to show 'strong sarkar'.

Also, that family was not Muslim. I mean, such is the level of 'complicity' of press, that any law can be broken, civil rights trampled upon, all sorts of injustice, everything is justified and hailed through headlines in these 'mass circulated' vernacular dailies in states.

Worse, people even think of 'legal' and 'illegal' on the basis of names. Big players who destroy forests, interfere with environment, never identified, nobody will dare talk about them. That's why they run media houses, make you feel good about action on 'other community'. 

On one hand, a year old basti can be legalised before election, a fifty year old house or settlement can be termed 'encroachment' and bulldozed. This is the harsh truth and newspaper headlines would make people believe that the particular structure had to be demolished, and 'it is good for the city'.

Media houses are part of huge encroachments, those owning the big newspapers, also run schools and colleges, institutions on encroached land, and hence, they are always on the side of establishment. Also, there are a lot of other factors.

Take instance of a vocal legislator of the opposition who get targeted. First he was booked for delivering an inflammatory speech and later on the basis of this, case was registered against him under harsh sections. 

As newspapers created the impression that he was trying to create a divide in society, the administration went out demolishing part of his college, terming it encroachment. As the leader was Muslim, this sent a message to electorate that the government is 'strong', and tough on 'minorities'. 

However, it later came out when the case reached High Court, that the speech had no such thing that was claimed in the FIR. In fact, it was completely twisted to prepare a case. However, the result was that others who don't have clout or political connections, get scared that if a legislator can face it, then who are we!

Making not just dissenter, but his entire family suffer is the mantra. So that people should think twice before even speaking up. In fact, people are ready to face false case, incarceration but the thought of entire family suffering because of them! That's the ploy.