By Sunil Dang, Editor-in-Chief
The recent incarceration & subsequent release of journalist Prashant Kanojia has once again thrown open the debate on citizens right to liberty & freedom of expression. What is worthy of mention here is the disgust & displeasure shown by hon’ble SC Justice Indira Banerjee & Justice Ajay Rastogi who held that liberty guaranteed under fundamental rights was sacrosanct & that the state government’s action in this case was a glaring case of deprivation of individual liberty.
In an astonishing demonstration of highhandedness by UP government, I am afraid the issue was handled too badly. Gone are the days when public servants would be at the receiving end of people’s ire, admonition & ridicule & yet they wouldn’t pay much heed to any of this, leave aside being vindictive. Being elected does not mean having a license to act rough shod over your people or trample their right to express. In a democracy, the subjects ought to be given the space, respect & freedom guaranteed by the constitution, rather than treating them as subservient to the establishment. What is now becoming clear by the day that the present state would have none of such liberties & expressions that are perceived to be an undue trespass & intervention into others dignity & life.
UP isn’t alone in this demonstration of intolerance to public behavior & conduct. We see instances elsewhere like West Bengal where the state is being exceedingly irrational in its handling of public dissent & anguish. It is essential to remind ourselves of what Gandhi; the father of our nation had to say about 4th estate. He had said that wherever some form of media existed, there would be as much less corruption but as much more freedom to express oneself for the larger good of society. When L. K. Advani as the information & broadcasting minister in 1977, chided the press for having crawled in-front of the administration when they were only asked to bend a little, he was making a very important point concerning the role, liberty & power of the media in a democratic country.
Power corrupts & absolute power corrupts absolutely. Politicians are no holy cows. They must govern & not rule. They must learn to respect dissent & not be vindictive. That is when all the pillars of democracy survive together. They must learn from their illustrious predecessors like Nehrus, Vajpayees, Advanis & Somnath Chatterjee. It is time PM Modi took it upon himself to cull such tendencies of excesses, in keeping with his promise of responsible leadership & strengthening of democracy & its tall visible pillars.
It is now known that the fires in the sea of Oman may have been caused by the unexploded mines laid by Iran. In the wake of economic sanctions on Iran by USA, the gulf region is becoming increasingly volatile. There is chaos, confusion & instability. The world is uncertain of the next move & the ramification this would have on world economy. We are witnessing a trade war between expansionist regimes & those who happen to be at the receiving end of the economic prosperity, their exports bring to their countries. We are also witnessing a cold war between powers to the west of pacific & their eastern competitors. We may well see the emergence of a new world order where we see India, China & Russia on one side & the hostile US on the other end of the spectrum.
West Bengal is on the boil. We have a situation where the new Home minister Amit Shah, who had umpteen run-ins with Mamata Banerjee before & during the polls having to deal with the law & order situation prevailing in the state. There have been incessant road fights, killings allegedly by both TMC & BJP factions & in such a situation, it remains to be seen if the HM would like to travel any other route to unsettle the Didi government. Regardless, it is Bengalis who would suffer, in the game of political one upmanship. Having said that, there remain questions, if the HM could have done without staying the BJP president & discharged his obligation to the constitution, effectively & unquestioningly without being partisan.
On a somber note, we offer our condolences to those bereaved by the AN-32 tragedy. May the departed brave hearts rest in peace!
And may India continue their winning streak in world cup cricket.