Shrinking Spaces of Dissent Voices – Raise of Economic and Political Power

Puronjoy Gupta Thakurta

Increasing control of economic and political elite in influencing national decisions and their usage of threats against those who question them are proving to be a threat to Indian Democracy. Voices of Dissent who keep a check on unquestionable exercise of power and control exercised by forces of economic and political power are being curtailed. Critical media and socially conscious intellectual section help in raising an alarm bell in deviations which take place in a political and economic system. However, when the economic and political elite exercise their authority in a manner to threaten the voices of dissent, those threats through limiting spaces of dissent only shrink the effectiveness of a strong Political Democracy.

Two recent examples show the way the economic and political elite is using its spaces to crush the voices reflected by socially conscious intellectual sections in the country. Puronjoy Gupta Thakurta in the latest episode had to receive threats as Editor of Economic and Political Weekly.  The center of the issue was two articles written in Economic and Political Weekly. The articles dealt with allegations of government policy being tailored to benefit the corporate house, whose promoter, Gautam Adani is known to be close to Prime Minister. The first article questioned over how the systemic loops were manipulated and tax worth Rs. 1,000 crores was evaded by the Adani group. The second dealt with how the government tweaked the rules relating to Special Economic Zones and how these specifically favored the Adani group and in the process benefitted to the tune worth Rs. 500 crores. The Adanis issued a legal notice and wanted the article to be removed and threatened a defamation case against EPW. Similarly, Ambanis had earlier used threats against publication of a book titled “Gas wars: Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis”. They wanted hardline and online versions of the book to be destroyed. The book had dealt with how irregularities happened in determination of price of natural gas in India. The raise of corporatocracy poses a threat to Indian Democracy.

The recent period had also witnessed attempts by the Government to crush the voices of persons such as the Nobel laureate Professor. Amartya Sen.  Sen is a known critique of the Gujarat model of Development. His emphasis on human development challenges the model of growth propagated by the proponents of ‘Gujarat model’. The Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) led by Pahlaj Nihlani recently undertook cuts of a documentary made on Amartya Sen by Documentary flim maker Suman Ghosh titled ‘The Arguementative Indian’. Beep sound were introduced at six places in the Documentary where critical references were made about Gujarat model, Cow politics and Hindutva. Amartya sen had also earlier critiqued the Demonetisation decision stating it was neither an intelligent nor a humane decision and had stated it as a despotic action. The Prime Minister in the process of countering the arguments of Amartya Sen had mentioned that ‘hard work is more powerful than harvard’.

The curbs introduced on expression of dissent or critic of the current irregularities only seems to create a citizenry which will merely accept the decisions which flow from the top. The role of intellectuals is expected to be not that of as a mirror reflecting the irregularities but that which legitimizes the unthoughtful decisions and actions of the Government. While the spaces of non-state actors such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Corporate houses widen, the one of people are actually declining. People are expected to toe the line of these two principal actors.

The shrinkage of spaces for voices of dissent is merely an attempt at establishing economic and political despotism. It is time that the shrinking spaces are protected and widened, while the larger takeover of economic and political elite is stopped.

T Navin works with an NGO as a Researcher. He did his M.Phil from Jaharlal Nehru University (JNU). 


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