Defend Freedom of Expression, Oppose Politics of Hurt Sentiments
ATTACK ON AAP OFFICE OVER PRASHANT BHUSHAN’S REMARK IS SHAMEFUL AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL
New Delhi. New Socialist Initiative, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Mission Bhartiyam condemned attack on AAP Headquarters.
New Socialist Initiative condemned the attack on the headquarters of AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) office at Kaushambi, Ghaziabad by vigilantes of the Hindutva Brigade and demands stern action against the culprits. Given the inordinate delay by the police in reaching the place and nabbing the hooligans in the case of an emergent political party and high-profile politicians, one can only imagine the safety and security of common citizen under such dispensation.
NSI said, “It is distressing that each time any individual or group has expressed views on the violation of human rights by Armed Forces protected by the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, frenzied jingoism by the rightwing forces as well as by the print and electronic media turn to the rhetoric of hurt sentiments. It is equally distressing that the Aam Aadmi Party too succumbed to such jingoism, found it necessary to distance itself from Prashant Bhushan and turned the question of human rights violation by the armed forces into a question of national integrity.
Demanding deeper investigation into the real masterminds of this attack New Socialist Initiative also urges every peace and justice loving person to raise its voice over growing attacks on freedom of expression so that voices of majoritarianism, intolerance and bigotry be put on the defensive.
It has been widely reported that on 8th January 2014 the Hindu Raksha Dal attacked and vandalized the Aam Aadmi Party office in Kaushambi (Uttar Pradesh), protesting the comments made by AAP leader and Supreme Court Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan on the presence of the Armed Forces in Kashmir. However, this form of hooligan organized violence and vandalism in the name of hurt sentiments is not new to us. Over the years we have been witness to this well established pattern of violence against anyone who has dared to make a statement about the brutality and impunity of the Armed Forces, particularly where the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is implemented as in Kashmir and the Northeast, as well as their presence in other parts like Central India. People have been booked under false cases, beaten and threatened. Whether it was the same Prashant Bhushan who was badly beaten up by a fanatic organization or the Bajrang Dal cadre chasing ndown and attacking those protesting the unjust hanging of Afzal Guru at Jantar Mantar in broad daylight and under the full protection of the police, or the vandalism at the screening of Sanjay Kak’s documentary, Jashn-e-Azadi, in Hyderabad, or the hooliganism of the BJP’s student wing ABVP against the rally demanding a repeal of the AFSPA in Delhi University, the message is always loud and clear: dudh mangoge kheer denge, Kashmir mangoge cheer denge. This time too it was said by Hindu Raksha Dal as they staged a protest against “AAP’s stand” on Kashmir. The attackers said that Hindus are hurt because of Prashant Bhushan’s statement on Kashmir which led them to stage a protest outside the party office and engage in vandalism.
Aam Aadmi party, ironically, had already rebutted Prashant Bhushan’s statement and in response clarified that Kashmir is an integral part of India, that the presence of the Armed Forces was a question of national security, that there was no question of a referendum on this issue and that Prashant Bhushan’s statement in no way reflected the position of the party.
As far as the attack by Hindu Raksha dal is concerned, it is very clear that the attack was an attack on all those who stand against the impunity the Armed Forces enjoy under draconian laws like the AFSPA. It was an attack to shut all those voices that stand for de-militarization. We know that such demands have not only been raised by Kashmiris but by various movements in the Northeast and in Central India. We consider these voices of resistance and dissent a fundamental core of any democracy.”
Subhash Gatade, senior leader of NSI and well-known journalist and activist said, “The attack by Hindu Raksha Dal is an attack on the basic idea and values of any democratic society. It is not surprising that while both Congress and BJP formally condemned the attack they are not against the views that Hindu Raksha Dal has aired. We are disappointed that AAP too has not shown the courage to stand apart on this matter. Arvind Kejriwal was quick to clarify that AAP considered Kashmir an integral part of India. Why is it that every time a statement is made on the large-scale brutalities meted out to the people of Kashmir by the Armed Forces, the debate is hijacked as one of national integrity? If Kashmir is an integral part of India, does that make it OK to go on inflicting violence on the local people, its own citizens with complete impunity? Thousands of people have been murdered, raped and thousand more imprisoned and the rest live in constant state of fear and unfreedom. A response to this issue by evoking the jingoism of national integrity is to consciously shy away from the real question at hand – the trigger- happy Armed Forces in Kashmir that have consistently stripped the people of Kashmir of their fundamental right to a life of dignity and freedom.”
“It was just a couple of years ago when thousands were found in many mass graves across Kashmir, thanks to the intervention of the Jammu-Kashmir Human Rights Commission. Did they themselves decide to die together or was it the ISI that came inside, killed people and put them together in those graves? The truth is known to the people in those regions where armed forces are ‘safeguarding’ the nation. Each time someone has tried to raise the issue; they have been met with organized violence and the politics of vandalism of the Hindu Right. We are in agreement with all those opposing the view that such matters may be resolved by way of a referendum but for the opposite reasons. The issue of Armed Forces cannot be made subject to the referendum. A referendum cannot be conducted on something that is a natural right. Human Rights are not a matter of referendum. It is not a choice. The Constitution does not allow or require this right to be decided by referendum. The right to live with dignity and freedom must be considered as natural right of human beings which even the Constitution must protect. A Constitution or a referendum hence, cannot decide to evoke something that curtails the life world of human freedom. We believe that AFSPA and such other draconian laws should be immediately repealed and the guilty be punished. Such laws cannot be subjected to the will of the majority, be it in Kashmir, the northeast or in the rest of India. We believe that human rights cannot be violated in the name of national integrity. And, we condemn all violence perpetrated in the name of hurt sentiments. The essence of democracy is not just the will of majority but also the right to dissent against this will”, said NSI.
N.D.Pancholi, President of PUCL (Delhi) said, “AAP party had clarified that the remarks made by Prashant Bhushan were made by him in his individual capacity and the party did not agree with the same, but strange enough, and in spite of the above clarification, the hoodlums targeted its office! One may agree or disagree with the opinion of a fellow citizen on crucial public issues, but in a democracy every one is entitled to express himself in a peaceful manner. Dissent, discussions and debates are the hallmark of a vibrant democracy and any attempt to silence opposite view can have only deleterious effect on it. Such anti-social elements who led the attack on the AAP office must be strictly dealt with in accordance with law”.
PUCL strongly condemned the attack on AAP office and appealed to the people to raise their voice against such elements and organizations who indulged in criminal violence at AAP office.
Mission Bhartiyam, a registered group of students and young professionals working in the fields of peace & harmony, human rights and environment, also condemned the attack on the office of Aam Aadmi Party in Kaushambi (Ghaziabad) on 8th January 2013.
Ravi Nitesh of Mission Bhartiyam said, “Following the remark by AAP leader Prashant Bhushan that a referendum should be held in Kashmir regarding the army deployment that has devastated civilian life in the valley, about 40 people from a group known as Hindu Raksha Dal had attacked the AAP office. This attack happened even when the AAP leader and CM of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, had distanced himself from his remark saying that the statement is Prashant Bhushan’s personal view and that the party does not endorse it.”
“We consider the attack to be against the constitutional right to Freedom of Expression. According to the Constitution of India, every citizen is entitled to freedom of thought and expression. In Compliance with the Constitution and the democratic values that we hold so dear, Prashant Bhushan had shared his opinion. His opinion could be subjected to either approval or rejection in the same democratic manner. We condemn this violence as a violation of the constitution and our faith in democracy.
This attack by Hindu nationalists group is not the first incident. In the past, Hindu nationalist groups have reacted in the same manner on several other issues. While Prashant Bhushan’s statement may not be considered ‘right’ by many people, this attack should not be considered as “right” or as a “reaction”. Doing so, we would only encourage these fanatic groups. All forms of violence should be condemned.
We condemn this act and appeal that action should be taken against the attackers. We believe in democratic values” said Mission Bhartiyam.