Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > India: After Food, the RSS Assault on Speech

India: After Food, the RSS Assault on Speech

Lawfare as a censorship strategy

Saturday 29 July 2017, by siawi3


After Food, the RSS Assault on Speech
Lawfare as a censorship strategy

Newsclick Report
22 Aug 2016

The right wing in their attempt to silence critical voices, has found new targets in Seema Mustafa, Amnesty International, Outlook and Neha Dixit. Seema, Roushan Illahi and Amnesty International have been charged with “sedition” and “promoting enmity” in a FIR filed by the ABVP. In the Neha Dixit case, instead of taking up the issue of child trafficking by RSS, which her article in Outlook exposes, the police is “investigating” the FIR, again filed by BJP figures for “inciting hatred”.

Amnesty International had organised a day-long event in Bangalore to hear those voices from the Kashmir Valley, who have been subjected to human rights violation. Seema Mustafa, a senior journalist, and the editor of The Citizen, was invited to moderate a panel discussion on human rights violations in Kashmir. The meeting had barely begun, when members of ABVP started shouting in order to disrupt the meeting. After repeated appeals by the chair and other members of the audience, the meeting could proceed. Later, the ABVP filed a FIR complaining that “Seema Mustafa and Roushan Illahi sang anti-national songs and raised anti-national slogans.” Amnesty as the organizer of the program has also been named in the FIR.

Amnesty International has issued a statement rebutting the claims made by ABVP. “Merely organizing an event to defend constitutional values is now being branded ‘anti-India’ and criminalized,” Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty International India said in a statement . He added, “The filing of a complaint against us now, and the registration of a case of sedition, shows a lack of belief in fundamental rights and freedoms in India.”

Eminent journalist Seema Mustafa has raised questions on the FIR and case against her. In an article titled ‘Sedition? Really?’ , she wrote, “So where is the sedition, except in the minds of those who play dangerous political games. As for the obviously mischievous FIR that has sections of the media frenetic, the part that is actually amusing is of me singing songs! At least someone has upheld a talent that all who know me insist I do not have, even if that someone is the RSS/BJP. As for speeches against the soldiers, that would be like attacking my own father who was an officer of the Army. I don’t think I need to even counter this fiction of a prejudiced mind.” She pointed at sad state of affairs under current regime where FIR’s are being used to silence voices. She wrote, “FIRs today are intended to intimidate, threaten, harass with filth and lies from bigoted minds. Of course decent persons do not like to be dragged to police stations and to the courts, but in an environment where the effort is to divide through a propaganda of lies and hate Gandhi was spot on when he said, “A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave."

Outlook had recently carried a 11,350 word story by Neha on the trafficking of 31 young tribal girls by the Sangh Parivar outfits. The RSS-BJP response was to file an FIR is against Indranil Roy (Publisher), Krishna Prasad (Editor) of Outlook and Neha Dixit, the journalist and writer of the story. The complainants are Bijon Mahajan (BJP spokesperson and Gauhati High Court advocate), Mominul Awwal (BJP Minority Cell) and Subhash Chandra Kayal (Assistant Solicitor General).

Instead of launching an investigation into the trafficking, the police has chosen to act on a complaint against those who exposed the crime. The strategy is quite clear: attacking the integrity and motivations of Dixit rather than countering the facts of the story, which was based on three months of field work. Outlook also published a follow-up piece where Dixit reiterates that she is calling for her facts to be countered by facts.

The journalist has also been facing vulgar remarks of the right wing trolls on her social media accounts.

The Delhi Union of Journalists as well as New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned this police intimidation tactic against the journalists. Kafila, has initiated a signature campaign condemning attack on the journalist and press freedom. The statement had been endorsed by more than 100 activists, journalists and scholars.

The RSS and BJP are getting isolated day by day due to their anti-people policies. The frenzy around Modi’s ‘Achhe Din’ is evaporating. Their answer is trying to muzzle democratic voices. The instrument is filing cases in different parts of the country and legal harassment of those who the RSS would like to silence. It is the same instrument that was used by the RSS against MF Hussain, one of our most illustrious painters. It is the same tactics used to criminalise the critics of Chattisgarh government’s attempts to silence the press. This is lawfare: use of law to harass those who the right wing would like to silence. Unfortunately, the courts have yet to take a stand on such a misuse of law.

One by one, the most outspoken and critical voices in the media, civil society and defenders of human rights are being attacked. This is the time for resistance and solidarity; it’s time to break the silence.