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Respite To Pro-Ultra Forces; A Jolt To System

In the light of the recent observations by the Supreme Court and Jharkhand High Court as well, authorities concerned in the Government have been left with no option but to exercise corrective measures – ostensibly to survive the eventual wrath of the courts in particular

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The spate of legal jolts suffered by the Governments at the Centre and in Jharkhand as well is believed to have been prompted by the inept handling of the situation by authorities concerned.

The abortive attempts made by the Government to consolidate its grip over anti-establishment forces across the country have boomeranged. The Governments at the Centre and in the State have not only failed to justify their decisions in the courts of law, but they have been accused of subversion of set practices that are meant to enforce laws.

In the light of the recent observations by the Supreme Court and Jharkhand High Court as well, authorities concerned in the Government have been left with no option but to exercise corrective measures – ostensibly to survive the eventual wrath of the courts in particular. If well-placed sources in the Government at the Centre and in Jharkhand are to be believed, senior officials at the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the state police headquarters in Jharkhand have been drafted to review the decision in the light of the courts’ order. 

Commuting the jail-term of the alleged sympathisers to house-arrest and making terse comments like ‘Dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If dissent is not allowed, then the pressure cooker will burst’, the Supreme Court has been articulate enough in getting its views across against the Government’s arbitrary role. More, the police failed to produce incriminating documents pertaining to their claim about conspiracy to kill the Prime Minister. At the same time, the Jharkhand High Court has dealt a major blow to the State Government while setting aside the ban-order against the Popular Front of India (PFI). The outfit is alleged to be an extremist and militant Islamic fundamentalist organisation in India and the Jharkhand Government had banned its operations in the State.

The State home department had declared the PFI an illegal organisation and reprimanded people for donating to the outfit or even become its member. Acting upon the petition against the decision, the High Court, however, quashed the State Government’s order. The Court found procedural lapses on the part of the Government while taking the decision. In its judgement, the court said that mind was not applied while executing the law.

It is learnt that in the backdrop of intelligence inputs about the possible savage attacks by ultras on the life of none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the way Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated, simultaneous raids were carried out in Maharashtra, Delhi, Goa, Telangana and Jharkhand against a section of pro-Naxal activists. Intelligence agencies claimed that during raids in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon protests in Pune, they stumbled across incriminating documents that had details about a conspiracy to assassinate the PM. The Bhima-Koregaon protest is alleged to have received the support of Naxal outfits.

Incidentally, apart from five activists arrested from different parts of the country, residential and official premises of a Christian priest, Father Stan Swamy, in Jharkhand were also raided during the nationwide anti-Naxal operations. He was accused of having a link with Naxals and playing a major role in Bhima-Koregaon protest rally that led to a fierce clash between upper and lower casts of Maharashtra. Since the police is said to have found nothing incriminating from his possession, he was not arrested.

This was, however, not the first police action against the priest. His name figures in the FIR lodged against 20 persons in connection with recent tribal unrest in Khunti district of Jharkhand. Father Swamy has been charged for sedition and for instigating locals against the Government’s alleged move to confiscate tribal lands in the garb of development. The state police headquarters has, however, sought a detailed report from the Khunti police regarding the evidence for slapping sedition charges against the priest.

Meanwhile, the priest claimed immunity from the charges of anti-national activities with contending that he had merely questioned the Non-implementation of the 5th Schedule of the Constitution, ignorance of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act [PESA],1996, the silence of the government on Samatha Judgment, 1997 of the Supreme Court [Civil Appeal Nos:4601-2 of 1997] which came as a huge relief to the Adivasi communities in Scheduled Areas, the half-hearted action of govt on Forest Rights Act, 2006: [Act of Parliament No:2 of 2007] etc. He said that if this made him a ‘Desh Drohi’ ( anti-national), then so be it.

Significantly, neither the Jharkhand Police nor the intelligence agencies have records of criminal antecedents against the priest so far. But, sources privy to the priest apprehended that he might be implicated in false cases to vindicate the Government’s decision.

The Government is believed to have suffered a loss of face in the court of law owing to flaws in its strategic move. While the FIR lodged in Bhima-Koregaon incident on 8 January 2018 neither contained the names of the five activists arrested on 28 August 2018, nor did it slap charges under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967, in the Jharkhand High Court, the State Government failed to establish PFI’s link to Islamic fundamentalist organisations. More, the past bears testimony to the fact that intelligence inputs had been used to identify and strike specific hideouts of ultras. But unlike on previous occasions, the idea to conduct simultaneous raids by Pune police at premises of sympathisers to ultras in eight different places of five States of the country is incomprehensible to many. Consequently, speculations are rife that the Government had ulterior motives too to carry out the raids and arrest the five suspects from different sections of the society. Incidentally, none of the suspects are hardcore Naxalites and include the Christian priest, journalists, writers, and lawyers instead.

As such, while the raid at the premises of Father Stan Swamy in Jharkhand sparked off speculation that it was prompted by the worst-ever mutual-distrust between the BJP-led Government in the State and its bete noire, the Christian missionaries, the actions against journalists and lawyers were viewed by their respective fraternities as a move to caution them against their anti-establishment stance.

To top it all, even if it is believed that the recent raids were aimed at displaying the implicit strength by the Government with the  avowed objective to take on its adversaries, the subsequent legal developments do not augur well for the system in general; legal sanctions to the Government’s decision will amount to the virtual subversion of the system while the decision to clip the wings of the Government will encourage ultra-left outfits to rule the roost in the system. 

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