Women’s groups, LGBTQIA communities and human rights organisations are organising a day of resistance on September 5, 2020 to safeguard the Indian Constitution and its values. The Hum agar uthhe nahin toh… campaign is aimed at uniting voices against the targeted attacks on the Constitutional rights of the people of India.
India’s democracy and Constitution are facing an unprecedented crisis. The last few years have seen a collapse of democratic institutions in the country. The independence of the judiciary and other institutions of oversight has come under a serious cloud and the functioning of the Parliament has been gravely compromised. The Government has institutionalised corruption and lack of transparency in election funding with the system of Electoral Bonds, which allows corporations to surreptitiously divert black money to the coffers of the ruling party. The dilution of the Right to Information Act has hit at the fundamental democratic right of citizens to question the government and hold it accountable.
The growth of fascist and neo-liberal forces in the country, and the resulting rise in violence in society, has deeply impacted the lives of women and members of the LGBTQIA communities. Attacks on religious minorities have created an atmosphere of fear and insecurity. The country has witnessed a systematic attempt to spread communal hatred and divide people on religious lines. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) pushed through Parliament by the government, together with the NRC and NPR, destroys the secular fabric of India’s Constitution by making religion a basis for giving Indian citizenship. People all over India rose up in a peaceful and unique, women led movement to protect the Constitution. Unfortunately, targeted communal violence backed by the ruling party was unleashed in response to the movement. Instead of arresting leaders who made hate speeches inciting violence, the women and people who worked for unity, peace and the Constitution are being arrested and incarcerated.
In August, 2019, the Government assaulted India’s Constitution and federalism by abrogating Article 370 and destroying the statehood of Jammu & Kashmir. The internet has not been restored even one year on; there is a complete clampdown on speech and democracy, and Kashmiri political prisoners are incarcerated in jails all over India without trial, and even former Chief Ministers are being held in house arrest. More recently, the Government has amended the region’s domicile law.
The last few years, have witnessed a frontal attack on the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution – the right to dress, speak, write, eat and choose one’s religion– which has impacted women and the LGBTQIA communities disproportionately.
Voices of dissent have been systematically silenced and labelled anti-national. Activists, journalists and academics engaged in various movements are languishing in jails, without access to the legal provision of bail; and a woman like Gauri Lankesh has had to pay with her life for exercising the fundamental right to speech and expression. The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (2019) has been Amended to implicate dissenters and arrest them.
There has been a steady deterioration in the rule of law with alarming cases of police excesses, including custodial deaths.
Neo-liberal economic policies and growing crony capitalism have adversely impacted women in general, but especially those who belong to the Dalit, Adivasi and other marginalised communities. Their fragile economic base has been devastated.
The COVID 19 crisis has further exposed the apathetic and anti-poor nature of the current regime. The unplanned and harsh lockdown imposed to combat the pandemic resulted in economic devastation. The lockdown of industries and many services meant joblessness, no habitation and no earnings and therefore hunger which led to the large-scale migration of workers from cities to their homes in rural India; and to the destitution for millions of the working poor in the country. What was finally offered to the migrants in terms of food distribution and transportation came too late and was nowhere near what was required. There were heart-rending reports and images of migrants walking for 700, 800 kms, sometimes carrying children, occasionally getting food, and many getting killed in road accidents in overcrowded trucks and other ways during their journey. India’s economy was already struggling to recover from the demonetisation disaster, which had resulted in the worst unemployment in 45 years. The lockdown has pushed this crisis of joblessness to catastrophic proportions. Informal sector workers, a large section of whom are women, have had their livelihood destroyed. Sex workers, vulnerable even in “normal” times, now face disaster. Micro Finance Institutions are forcibly extorting repayment of loans from women SHG members during the pandemic. The crisis has exposed the dismal state of the country’s public health system.
The lockdown has been turned into an opportunity to dilute and destroy laws protecting hard won workers’ rights. At a time when the pandemic prevents people from protesting in large numbers, the Government is busy privatising public sector units that belong to India’s people, and seeking to destroy the Environmental Impact Assessment processes thereby facilitating plunder of our rivers, forests and land and at the same time proposing adverse changes to agrarian policies.
The New Education Policy is a unilateral drive to destroy the Indian education system. It seeks to ensure greater centralisation, communalisation and commercialisation of the education system. This would especially have a negative impact on the education of the poorer sections of society.
Gender based violence and caste-based atrocities against Dalits have risen sharply during the lockdown. Violence against women is increasing with impunity and instead of ensuring proper budgetary allocation and strict implementation of existing laws to prevent crimes, the central government is setting up a new Task Force to hoodwink women. Regressive laws like the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act have adversely impacted the rights of Transgender persons. There are very few provisions in place to protect the safety and rights of the entire LGBTQIA community, added to which the government remains silent and does not control the use of questionable “conversion” therapies that are followed even in medical establishments.
There have also been several moves to dilute SC/ST/OBC reservations, the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and laws to protect women in the name of mitigating COVID19 showing the antiwomen attitude of the central government.
. Women and LGBTQIA persons have been at the forefront of the movement to save India’s Constitution. Today, again, we are here with a wake-up call to the people of India: stand up, speak up against the onslaught on peoples’ rights.
To join the Hum agar uthhe nahin toh… “if we do not rise” campaign, you may undertake any of the following activities related to the issues mentioned above:
● Make videos of 2-5 minutes and share with us and on social media platforms
● Do Facebook lives
● Create posters, animation, memes, songs and performances for circulation on the social media
● While observing physical distancing norms, gather in small groups of 5-10 people with placards and post pictures on social media
● Give memoranda to local authorities
Let us unite and come together to defend our Constitution and our democracy. Let us stand up for each and every citizen who is victimised for speaking the truth and defending the vulnerable. We invite you to be co-travellers in this journey.
Bol, ye thora waqt bahut hai,
Jism o zabaan ki maut se pahle;
Bol, ke sach zinda hai ab tak –
Bol, jo kuchh kahna hai kah-le!
Speak this little time is plenty
Before the death of body and tongue
Speak, for the truth is still alive
Speak, say whatever is to be said