Using its brute majority in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Indian parliament, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi managed to pass the most reactionary and anti-people bill of our times. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019, was passed in the lower house with 287 votes in favour and eight against it. The current strength of the house is 543, in which the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has 353 seats of its own. Many opposition members walked out strategically to not oppose the passage of the bill through “no” votes.
Without any ambiguity, Home Minister Amit Shah, who is the closest confidante of Modi, told the parliament that this amendment, which gives the government the power to designate any individual as a terrorist, apart from organisations, will be used specifically to deal with “Urban Maoists”, a term interchangeably used with “Urban Naxals” (coined by the BJP’s sycophant semi-porn filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri) to denote the critics of the government and its fascist policies. Shah told the parliament that the act will be used against them who lend “ideological support” to the CPI(Maoist) from cities. This can be translated: the amended UAPA will be a draconian law that the Modi regime will use against all those leftwing, democratic and anti-fascist forces that are critical of the Modi regime, Hindutva fascism and the ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is the fountainhead of Hindutva fascism and the parental body of the BJP.
Originally introduced in 1969, the UAPA was amended in 2009 by the Congress party’s United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government with Dr Manmohan Singh at its helm. Then home minister P Chidambaram gave similar logics to amend the law and make it an undemocratic and tyrannical law to suppress leftwing movements against big corporate capital and feudal autocracy. The UAPA was amended to compensate the loss of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), enacted by the previous NDA government with BJP’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee at helm, which was later scrapped during the UPA reign to project a liberal and secular face of the reactionary Congress party, as the POTA was designed as an Islamophobic law and was used by the state to torment Muslims. The UAPA persecuted the Muslims, India’s largest minority community, equally as POTA, albeit with a secular tinge that’s quintessential of the Congress party.
The BJP has always criticised the Congress for scrapping the POTA and blamed the dissolution of the draconian law for all terrorist strikes that took place during the UPA’s reign between 2004 to 2014. Though many of the terror strikes were executed by the RSS-affiliated Abhinav Bharat, whose terror-accused leader Sadhvi Pragya Thakur is a BJP MP in the 17th Lok Sabha, the BJP loves to remain mum on the topic and cry foul whenever the issue of Hindutva terrorism and the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) subjugation to the diktats of the Modi regime to dilute the cases against Hindutva terrorists are raised.
The Modi regime pledged a strong anti-terror standpoint vis-a-vis the Congress party to woo jingoistic upper-caste Hindu support base of the RSS-BJP and rode to power on a high tide of anti-establishment waves in 2014. In 2019, being on retreat on all issues of prime importance like unemployment, farm crisis, major economic crisis, corruption, etc, Modi switched to jingoism once more; thanks to a militant attack on a paramilitary convoy in south Kashmir’s Pulwama on 14 February 2019 and the subsequent purported “surgical strike” at Balakote, Pakistan, whose fabricated optics were used to rake up xenophobia and chauvinism on a large-scale, Modi managed to sweep a landslide victory in the 17th Lok Sabha election.
Riding this jingoistic fervour of the upper-caste Hindu elites and urban middle class, the Modi regime emphasised on turning the NIA, an utmost Islamophobic and reactionary agency, into a neo-Gestapo. Following the RSS’s vision of establishing a Brahminical theocratic dictatorial state — the Hindu Rashtra — the BJP is keen to do away with the remnants of democracy and human rights in India to take the country back to the medieval era. The UAPA amendment will help Shah to combat those political forces that are opposing the government bitterly. The trade unions, peasant unions, employee unions, critical journalists, academicians, political activists, human rights activists, legal help providers and even social-media critics can be booked under the new provisions in the UAPA amendments, which will help the police to jail these voices and torture them for six months non-stop. Getting forceful confessions from any captive through macabre atrocities won’t be impossible for the police force that cares a lemon for human rights. As the judiciary has also lost its independence due to the dominance of Hindutva fascism and corporate tyranny, it’s unlikely that the victims of state repression will find any relief in the courts as well.
The UAPA amendment isn’t an isolated incident. It’s a part of a comprehensive conspiracy hatched by the RSS stalwarts in consultation with big foreign monopoly-finance capital and their Indian comprador lackeys. The UAPA amendments are taking place at a time when the Right to Information (RTI) Act is amended as well to control the flow of information sought by the people from the government. For more than a decade the RTI Act helped activists and journalists to get data and information about non-sensitive government activities from various departments. Now, by curtailing the RTI through its total control over the management of the system, the Modi regime has ensured that the flow of information is controlled and tampered with. The Forest Right Act (FRA), which is critical for the tribal people to claim ownership over their land, forests and rivers, is systematically changed to help big corporate houses to have more leeway in states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, etc. If these all amendments are seen by juxtaposing them together, it will throw a very threatening image for the people of the country.
Knowing well that due to its Brahminical hegemonist belief, the BJP is allergic to the concept of human rights or even the idea that all humans are born equal, it’s evident that Modi-Shah will continue introducing new laws to suppress people’s rights and freedom of speech. It’s also very much understood that the BJP and the RSS see the leftwing opposition, and not the ailing Congress party or the parliamentary left, as its principal enemy. The more the Modi regime faces resistance from the working class, the peasantry and the toiled people, the more ferociously it will attack the anti-fascist and progressive left forces by labelling them as “Urban Naxals” or Maoist sympathisers. Imprisonment, tortures and custodial deaths, including the cold-blooded “encounter killing” murders will become important weapons in the hands of the Modi regime to combat the massive people’s struggles, which will eventually grow in size and intensity due to the unapologetic pro-corporate policies of the government.
While many of the opposition members of parliament (MP) are passively objecting to the draconian character of the UAPA amendment bill and the NIA amendment bill, the latter allowing the obfuscate Hindutva Gestapo body to become a super-cop and violate the federal structure of the Indian Union to interfere directly into the law and order of states and even arrest people from any state without seeking approval from the local police, none of the MPs actually spoke in detail about the real economic drivers of these two bills. They didn’t tell why the consecutive UPA and NDA regimes are using the draconian law to unleash a reign of terror on those who are raising the voices of the underprivileged and marginalised?
The reason why the Modi regime is turning its spearhead towards the so-called “Maoist sympathisers” under the garb of combating “terrorism” through the amended UAPA and a bloated NIA is its desperation to stop the critical analysis of the Indian state’s dirty war against the tribal people of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, etc.
Since the formation of the states like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, numerous memorandums of understanding (MoU) were signed between the big corporate houses, both foreign and domestic, and the central and state governments to allow these companies unrestricted access to loot the rich mineral reserves beneath the soil in these states. While the tribal people, who have lived in these mineral-rich areas for thousands of years and have preserved the forests and followed a sustainable livelihood, resisted the government’s attempt to evict them from their land, villages and forests, the Indian state declared war against them. Since the last two decades, the people of mineral-rich, yet poverty-clad, states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, etc, have seen a fierce resistance struggle waged by tribal communities against the big corporations.
While the Modi regime was installed in 2014 by the big corporate houses with high hopes that it will end the tribal resistance and help the corporate houses win victory, which the Congress-led UPA couldn’t, much to the dismay of the corporate world, the NDA with Modi at its helm couldn’t make any difference at the real battleground where the tribal people have been resisting the world’s fourth-largest military power through their fierce struggle.
This inability of the Modi regime and the BJP in resolving the long-pending issue frustrated the mining corporations and they have given a last chance to the BJP to suppress the rebellion altogether using the brute military prowess. However, knowing how difficult and challenging is the task of ending tribal resistance, which is backed by the underground Maoist party, the Modi regime is trying to hit the soft targets first and on a larger scale to instil fear in the hearts of those who dare to question the government over its dirty war in favour of the big corporate houses.
After flirting with the concept of “anti-national” to vilify the left-democratic students and activists since the 2016 Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) fiasco, the Modi regime, following the guidance of the RSS, started using the “Urban Naxal” propaganda and arrested prominent activists after accusing them of abetting Maoist violence. The arrests of many prominent intellectuals, journalists, civil rights activists, lawyers, etc by the Pune Police in 2018 was the beginning of a series of such tyrannical steps taken by the government under the UAPA. A false case regarding the purported assassination of the prime minister was lodged by the police to project Modi as a victim of “left-wing hatred” and demonise the very activists who have been fighting for civil rights and the cause of the poor and the marginalised since years.
Shah’s rhetoric against the so-called “Urban Naxals” is a clear indication that the Modi regime will direct the amended UAPA and the bolstered NIA against critics. The state and the Modi regime will incarcerate and torture them who would call a spade – a spade. The BJP is desperate to show the big mining giants that though it can’t win them all the land, forests and rivers by vanquishing the tribal people overnight, it can appease them with the blood of civil rights activists, journalists, lawyers, and other critical intellectual voices who try to unite and awaken the poor and marginalised people. Shah is trying to appease the big corporate capital with a promise of a solution to the tribal resistance by ending criticism of the government at all spheres of public life.
Modi’s return to power in the midst of a gloomy economic situation is a sign that the global monopoly-finance capital and its lackeys — the Indian comprador and bureaucratic capital — are completely crisis-ridden, and the only way they can reverse the situation is by expanding the sphere of their loot and plunder. To ensure that the big capital can fill its own coffers and also drop the trickled down crumbs to the BJP’s coffers, the Modi regime is determined to evict the tribal people and the poor farmers from their forests and villages. This will require a total silence in the opposition sphere and a censored media. While the Modi regime has managed to achieve both ends, the non-parliamentary opposition, the worker-peasant movements, the struggles for upholding civil rights, human rights and accountability of the government to the people and not vice versa, will remain as thorns in the eyes of the Modi regime and its corporate masters. So, for the sake of the big capital, the whip will be cracked on the democratic voices quite often than before.
Moaning and repenting over the passage of the bills like the UAPA, FRA, RTI or NIA amendment will not help the cause of the people. It’s an ardent task to take the route of the streets through popular struggles against the Modi regime to thwart its attempts to muffle critical voices. The Congress party and other mainstream opposition parties, including the parliamentary left, who are or had been complicit in similar crimes, can’t be allies of the common people. It’s, therefore, the task of those very anti-fascist, democratic and progressive forces of the left, who are fighting at the grassroots to stop corporate loot and aggression, to politically equip the masses, awaken them, organise them and fight back against the Hindutva fascist regime. If the people fight back for democracy, then neither the BJP’s grip over the state machinery nor the RSS’s Hindu polarisation can stop them from bringing down the fascist enterprise erected by the Modi-Shah clique to divide and destroy India.