The growing dissent in Indian democracy is a reminder of the fact that people’s thinking, their ability to articulate themselves and struggle to fight injustice can never be replaced and that democratic cultures are only strengthened when people speak out for themselves. The way that activists from across the country have been arrested and the way the nation-state has not refrained from giving them objectionable tags like anti-nationalist, urban-Maoists etc. It is ironic that a democratic country like India is still uncomfortable with those who raise dissenting voices and ask difficult questions. The irony of the matter is also that those who try to speak for the rights of the Dalits, the Adivasis and minorities are often seen with suspicion and are victims of state appropriated targeting. We all know the unprecedented way in which land resource, forests, coal, minerals and several natural endowments are ceaselessly used without taking into consideration the local community. Forest people depend on the forests for their livelihoods; the fishing community depends on ocean for their bread and butter, local villagers depend on resources locally available to sustain themselves and yet they are never made part of the debates and developments surrounding natural resources. The way that natural resources are utilised and local communities’ are not part of the discourse means that the nation-state is uncomfortable with the deprived community. The individuals who are being seen as anti-national are often people who work with the local communities, speak for their rights and give them a better future. It is time to take into account the significance of dissent in the life of democratic societies. I am happy that you covered the protest and brought to the limelight the significance of issues of this kind.
- Suresh Chatterjee / Shillong
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