Baring Their Claws

censorship

There is a news that the government is planning to proceed against ‘anti-government content’ appearing in media on the lines of British colonial laws that still quietly survive in our codes of criminal law.If true,this shows its state of panic as it is beginning to sense the deep disaffection and disenchantment against it among the people.If that shows on the ballot box it would be a severe unsettling jolt to its confidence.Hence it is arming itself with all available weapons as well as with newly devised ones.Getting them phrased in Sanskrit helps as the richness of meaning of Sanskrit words permits a beguiling play of ambiguity,so that the word ‘Amrit’ may come to mean both nectar or deadly venom.

It is also using devious means to disarm effective criticism and critics.The proceedings of the Ethics Committee of Parliament apparently have little connection with the executive.It could look like law taking its own course or Dharma asserting its sovereign majesty over errant mortals.If quizzed the government can answer blandly that that is not in its jurisdiction.

Now the rushed proceedings against Mohua Moitra and the final conclusion seem to this naive observer a gross injustice.The dissenting note of the four(or five?) dissenting members from the opposition seem to put the matter fairly enough.It does look like the verdict of “a kangaroo court”.The accused had been treated so unfairly and humiliatingly that she had no option but to walk out in protest.Next the hostile witness who should share the blame for paying cash as reward to Ms Moitra for raising certain  questions he supplied and which fluttered the dovecotes has remarkably  escaped justice.And Ms Moitra was not allowed to cross-examine him on the veracity of his testimony against her.

 Can the trial by this committee be regarded as fair and its findings unbiased?Hardly.

In fact the proceedings appear the most unethical imaginable.

Ms Moitra has been using the interim period to fire salvos on media platforms at her persecutors While these may be quite useful in getting the public on her side,these will not suffice to get her out of the scrape.One hopes she is consulting legal opinion for protecting her interests.

Now that these ‘findings’ are on the Speaker’s desk he is to come to a decision about them.Since the investigation is incomplete and flawed by lacunae he can either dismiss them or order a fresh probe following correct procedures and established norms.If he goes ahead and accepts them then his decision will be open to doubt and questioning,casting a shadow on his role and office.

Meanwhile the government is getting mired in a mess of its own making through overreach. As many as 13 Indian Navy officers serving in Qatar are facing death sentence there for spying for Israel.While one will never ever find out if the government had prior knowledge of their devious conduct,there is every reason to doubt that this was the unfortunate fallout of its typically short-sighted and rash decision to have close co-opration with Israel in defense matters.The fallout may have other unforeseen and damaging consequences.Israel with the kind of dare-devil opportunist boldness that brooks no established norms and conventions that arouses our ruling party’s awed admiration has now apparently used its new ally’s alibi to steal Qatar’s state secrets.As they say,he who sups with the Devil needs a long spoon.

Of course a vital point is whether these are serving officers now assisting Qatar in some ways or retired staff.If the latter then the government is absolved of all responsibility,and interceding with the Qatar government for mercy will be only humane decency.If on the other hand they are serving officers of the Indian Navy,the GOI willfully and shamefully  shares the blame. 

Improvising on the go the ruling party is taking daring but rash steps both in domestic and international politics in a state of overconfidence that is akin to intoxication.Thereby it is plunging the country into headwaters that might yet overwhelm its stamina.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator

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