Dear fellow citizens
Sixty seven years ago, independent India adopted a democratic constitution that created a platform for equality and justice by ensuring the participation of all. Our constitution-makers were concerned to maintain a secular society free from any divisions of caste, sect and religion.
What has become of that vision? A large part of the population lives in extreme poverty. Millions of Indians are denied their fundamental rights. There are strong linkages amongst powerful capitalists, biased officials and unscrupulous political representatives. The political system is in danger of being taken over and run for the benefit of the rich, rather than for the vast bulk of the Indian people. Communal forces of all colours thrive in our society. Their growth has been evident since the Delhi carnage of 1984. Biased behavior has appeared in the media, police, bureaucracy and executive. We are witnessing the criminalisation of the state. One example of this is the operation of private armies all over the country.
The Sixteenth Lok Sabha elections are an opportunity for us to preserve democracy. The RSS has emerged as a direct participant, discarding its ‘cultural’ mask. It has openly intervened in the major decisions of the BJP. Its ideology is based upon a fanatic version of nationalism . The so-called Parivar has been implicated in numerous communal incidents and the destruction of Babri Masjid in 1992. Today vast amounts of money and cadre have been mobilized in the cause of the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate. This person is an incompetent Chief Minister who presided over the crime committed in Godhra and the orgy of rape, murder, arson and looting that followed. In many cases, intervention from outside Gujarat was required to secure justice. Zakia Jafri’s husband and neighbours were butchered, and she is still asking the courts to indict Modi for criminal conspiracy. A police investigation report is being hailed as if it were a judicial acquittal. In 2003 Modi’s rival Haren Pandya was killed in a so-called terrorist attack – his widow is still fighting for justice. Modi has tried to boost his popularity through fake encounters and accusations of assassination plots, many of these cases are still in the courts. Gujarat’s anti-terrorist police units were directed to spy upon a woman who was not even suspected of being a terrorist. Narendra Modi bears responsibility for the collapse of law and order in Gujarat. We may note that Gujarat’s state assembly has functioned on average 30 to 32 days per year.
One of Modi’s ministers has been convicted of illegal mining practices. Another was in office until she was charged with conspiracy and murder. Modi resisted the appointment of a state Lokayukta for ten years from 2003. When the Governor and Chief Justice selected Justice R. A. Mehta for the post in 2011, Modi spent crores in legal fees to challenge the appointment. After the Supreme Court upheld it, the state government refused to cooperate with Mehta, leading him to decline the position. Then it amended the Lokayukta Act to make it a toothless body. Modi may have learned a lesson from the fate of his friend Yedyurappa, former BJP Chief Minister of Karnataka. Yet he talks of rooting out corruption!
These are some features of the ‘Gujarat model’. What will result under a central government controlled by Modi and his corporate backers? We have seen how peaceful protests against the Patel statue, or a nuclear power station in Bhavnagar have met with police repression. Gujarat records the highest number of attacks on RTI activists. Gujarat remains a bastion of Dalit oppression. Surveys have found the practice of untouchability in over 90% of villages and manual scavenging present even in Ahmedabad. Seizures of land at low prices, violation of environmental regulations, erosion of workers rights, phone-tapping and contempt for the rule of law will affect farmers, workers, women, democratic activists and honest officials. Modi has used his position to accuse India’s Defence Minister of being a Pakistani agent. Soon anyone daring to criticise Modi will be hounded as a traitor. Is this what we need in a prime minister?
The health of Indian democracy requires that such political forces be checked and defeated. Despite their talk of development, their strong links with corporate interests should warn us of the danger of political tyranny. If this continues, it will endanger the rights not only of this or that particular group, but the very survival of constitutional democracy. Do not be fooled by talk of a stable government. Only dictators think stability is more important than constitutionally guaranteed citizens’ rights.
We must choose political forces that stand for humanity, equality and justice. Choose an inclusive, not divisive idea of India. Use your vote for socio-economic emancipation. Defend your right to obtain justice, to think freely, to protest and to struggle for a better life. Reject communal hate and choose mutual respect and dialogue. This is our vote. This is our country. We call upon voters to defeat authoritarian forces in the coming elections.
People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism
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Originally posted here