Those were the achche din…

Two Dalit men were arrested on Thursday for asking permission to wave black flags during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Banaras Hindu University on 22 February, reports The Indian Express.

The two men have been charged with breaching the peace. The whatthefuckery is astounding — two men, meeting a magistrate to ask permission to protest, which is what the law requires them to do, breached the peace?

I was one of those who in August 2011 watched, entranced, as Arun Jaitley lit up the Rajya Sabha with a take-no-prisoners speech denouncing the arrogance of the Manmohan Singh government, and took a stand for the right of every citizen to protest, to dissent.

Watch, from 7.50 on — and follow along with the text, below:

You have unleashed a new political idiom against the critics of this government. On one hand you send ministers to receive Baba Ramdev, you formed a drafting committee with Anna Hazare and his team, and then in the middle of the night you unleash them with lathis. You follow the police power approach to solve a political problem.

What is the kind of idiom that we are seeing in the last few days? Political spokesmen are being used literally as hitmen. That is the new role they have put on. You pick up those crusading for probity in public life and unleash a series of political abuses on them. You start making allegations against them. Is that the level to which you have brought the level of political debate in this country? And then you stand up and cry before five editors with a sense of helplessness and say, these are compulsions of political alliances and coalitions, that I am unable to take action. Is that the answer you have to political corruption?

Smugness, Mr Prime Minister, which has become a character of this government, arrogance of power which has become a character of this government, is not the methodology by which corruption can be fought.

Power is not immortal. The more arrogant you are, the earlier it disappears. Please bear that in mind. And therefore, when the question which is to be posed today, the first question before you that the whole country is asking, and we in the opposition today ask you is, does the government have the political will to fight corruption? If you decide that the answer is in the affirmative, it is only then that you can get the confidence of the nation back.

The second question, and that is the question the entire opposition puts to you, the civil society is putting to you – they are not saying they will substitute this parliament and draft the laws. But then, all that they are saying and we are saying is, dissent… (interruptions)… all that they are saying is, and all that we are reaffirming is, they have a right to put their point of view across.

Members of civil society, or any citizens’ groups, or any citizen of this country, has the right to campaign for his views, he has the right to crusade for his views. We are entitled to tell him how much we agree with him and how much we cannot accommodate him. That is a part of the democratic discourse. But they have the right to put that viewpoint across, and as a part of that right to put their viewpoint across, they have a right to protest, they have a right to dissent. And it is this right to protest, and this right to dissent, which your government is trying to strangle, and we are all here to oppose that.

The points make themselves, so I’ll leave this here. Isn’t it strange, though, that what we oppose when we are out of power becomes the precise thing we morph into, when power finds us?

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3 thoughts on “Those were the achche din…

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