The magician and the crowd

Yashwant Sinha

       The scenes unfolding before us are rather dispiriting.Consider the lone crusade of the opposition’s joint candidate for the post of the President,Yashwant Sinha, as he travels from state to state like an old but sturdy war-horse.It now appears that some elements in the opposition have been brought up short by the support generated for Droupadi Murmu among considerable numbers of tribal people.Some are also tracing their steps back for fear of losing tribal support in other electoral campaigns ahead.This almost gives a walk-over to the ruling alliance.Strangely enough,the opposition parties did not consider the fact that after all Ms Murmu represents only one strand of tribal opinion and there are others,equally strong or even stronger.Droupadi Murmu seems to be a loyal member of the saffron legion,committed to the cause.But there are also other tribal leaders who oppose resolutely the ideas and policies of that army and believe that there may be better pathways to uplift and development of tribals.Was it not possible to get some of them to gather round Yashwant Sinha and present a different and opposite vision of the uplift of the tribals?But no,such things don’t seem to occur to them in their panic over the threat of loss of tribal support in regions where they preponderate.Nor do they seem to have any conviction that the policy of the NDA amounts to mere tokenism,and indeed their acts would seem to suggest that they too believed in the efficacy of such tokenism!

In fact the government seems to be engaged in rigging up an elaborate smokescreen to hide the actual impact of its policies on the lives of the people.It may even be argued on the basis of available evidence that the state too can be presumed to be indulging in conspiracies against selected citizens.But there are no sections of the IPC,neither any law,to cover such  crimes of the state.

I provide below the outlines of a bizarre incident that can serve as a case in point.Readers already have faint acquaintance with a news in  newspapers and channels that a young college girl from Assam had been arrested on the quaint charge of writing a poem supporting the ULFA.What had actually happened was that a police constable,from the lowest ranks of the police,had alleged that Barshashree Buragohain,a young girl of nineteen from Teok village and 2nd year science  student of Debicharan Baruah college of Jorhat,had posted a poem on social media declaring her intention to ‘revolt against the state’ and rise like the sun rising from the horizon.She had also apparently repeated in social media her desire to join the ULFA.Such flamboyant gestures are typical of youths outraged by injustice and oppression in the world around them,and these by no means amount to active conspiracy against the state.In any case those who are really committed to such causes quietly slip away without even informing their parents.

Now it is a fact that thanks to its blood-spattered record few decent people today would feel any sympathy for the dreaded outfit.But the fact remains that before its callous adventurism muddied its image many young people in Assam had been drawn to its aim to wipe the slate clean and begin reconstructing society on the basis of justice,freedom and progress.Its influence has marginally improved in some pockets of upper Assam thanks to the ravages that the policies of the NDA government have inflicted on the lives of the people.Actually people had turned their backs on it completely until the supposed  alternative that has risen in the last decade have completely robbed them of all hope of regeneration.Coming as she does from the lowest level of poverty and destitution she would tend to feel the wrongs of society and the despair of the common people so much more keenly.

The case demands more attention from conscious people as at no stage right up to the level of the DGP and the Chief Minister there seems to have been any ‘application of the mind’.All that Ms.Buragohain’s defiant verbal gesture required was a quiet chat by the Inspector of the local police station,if at all.But to put her under arrest,that too under stringent UAPA law,seems quite a staggering response and smacks of some other ulterior design.The DGP has quipped that she would find it better in jail than in the company of ULFA.The Chief Minister raged against the media and ‘intellectuals’ for suggesting she had been arrested for writing poetry,where she has been prevented from exploding bombs that might have killed dozens of people.But even papers supporting policies of the present government have editorially dismissed such fears as baseless.

As with other detainees under the UAPA,after having put her behind bars the police are busy piling up more and more ‘evidence’ against the hapless girl.When releasing people on bail judges routinely admonish them against tampering with evidence.But what are we to make of additional heaps of evidence concocted  by the police during their period of detention for interrogation?Will they not indefinitely extend the trial and sometimes the detention even though exposed as hollow in the end? Why should their precious right to life and liberty be valued so cheap ?

The latest twist to the story and torture on the hapless girl is preventing her from appearing in her first semester examination in her second year in the normal examination centre.Even though there are clear orders by a Sessions Judge  that authorities should make arrangements for allowing her to sit for her examination at the college,they had relied on a petition from the Principal of her college to compel her to write her answers inside the jail.For that purpose an Asstt Commissioner had been appointed an invigilator in this very special examination centre.The message that is being sent ou t thatl this young girl of nineteen is a dangerous criminal who may not be allowed out of the jail even with a police escort.Whether the college principal had been persuaded into making such submissions will surely be a question on everyone’s lips.

The absurd yet painful incident recalls two English phrases ’Making a mountain out of  a molehill’ and ‘Breaking a butterfly on wheels’.But they tend to veil the stark reality of a monster state making an example of an unfledged youngster to strike terror among thousands watching in a kind of dazed spell.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator


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