The Bombay High Court shall decide the anticipatory bail of the country’s one of the top most academic and activist Anand Teltumbde in a day or two. But his arrest at 3.30 a.m. in the morning on the February 2, this month and his release that very day despite the SC giving him four weeks time to obtain regular bail should not shock us, if we look at what Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand have been facing for the last nearly four and half years.
Currently both of them see the light of liberty due to the mercy of the Gujarat High Court’s anticipatory bail. Enough has been written over the sheer absurdity of the cases Teesta, her husband and the NGO has been facing for a long time now. It is now clear that the charges against Anand Teltumbde are as farcical, brought about to silence any dissent in society. In fact Teltumbde’s activism needs to be celebrated!
With about 100 days left for general elections, the Delhi Police filed a charge sheet against the former JNSU President Kanhaiya Kumar in a sedition case of 2016 for allegedly using anti India slogans in an event at the JNU campus on Feb 9, 2016. The Delhi police must have ignored the Supreme Court’s ruling in a matter from Punjab that raising of pro-Khalistan slogans does not amount to sedition.
Four and half years back, the Narendra Modi regime began his innings with the hounding of Priya Pillai of the Green Peace Foundation. At that time the country looked the other way as the citizenry was looking at the start of so called developmental agenda. Since then students, activists who have been raising their voice against any injustice and/or politics of communalism and hate have been at the receiving end.
As I pen this piece, Robert Vadra is being questioned by the Enforcement Directorate and the police chief of West Bengal is interrogated in Shillong by the CBI. The use of ED, IB and CBI has been the order of the day. But the important feature of the current enthusiasm of the investigating agencies is the last minute desperation. The day to day interrogation of Robert Vadra and the West Bengal Police chief appears to be the election campaign of the ruling party, as the ruling party finds building hate is not enough to ensure victory in 2019.
On the eve of the announcement of BSP and SP alliance, Akhilesh Yadav saw the CBI moving in against him in a 12-year-old in sand mining case. DK Shiva Kumar, the Karnataka Congress strongman, has been facing the IT raids from the time he has been providing a cover to the Congressmen from being poached. Even Chandrababa Naidu faced the heat after he severed ties with the BJP. And of course Mayawati is perenially under the scrutiny of the ED. None of the cases are new for the investigative agencies to show the unwarranted zeal, 90 days before the general elections.
The fact of the matter is there is no intention of fast investigation or speedy trial as the investigation agencies are clearly using these cases and investigations only as a device of coercion to keep regional leaders and parties at the mercy of the ruling party.
The anti-corruption campaign in West Bengal chit fund scam looks shallow when we see the protection Mukul Roy and the Dy CM of Assam Hemant Sarma, the two main accused in the Sharada Scam, get after they found safe haven in BJP. Both the CBI and the ED are known to let off Reddy brothers in the illegal mining export case. When did you last hear that the ED, CBI or tax authorities are pursing the cases against Narayan Rane of Maharashtra? It is examples of this nature that make the tirade against corruption to lose its sheen and the entire corruption crusade becomes an instrument of vindictive politics.
In 2011 when Ana Hazare launched his agitation to give the country a Lokpal, it was thought the time for and effective anti corruption mechanism has come. The present prime minister promised a Lokpal in 100 days. Four and half years have passed without the accountability mechanism. And the PM has the audacity to talk of providing a corruption-free governance.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta has rightly summed up ‘the more authoritarian a regime gets, the more anti-corruption works as a tool for consolidating power. Some of those being targeted have something to answer for but that is merely an incidental effect of trying to consolidate power... a signal of authoritarian control, to scare of the opponents’. The use of ED, IB and CBI against State leaders has made the regional satraps wary of inductive politics.
The Congress was accused of creating a caged parrot of the CBI. No ruling party has used CBI, ED and Income tax Authorities so ruthlessly as the current government which has only pivoted the opposition to come together. What can be expected when a DIG at the CBI (MK Sinha) describes it as ‘Centre for Bogus Investigation’ and ED as ‘Extortionate Directorate’ in an affidavit before the Supreme Court?
Whether it is arrest of Anand Teltumbde or hounding of Kanhaiya require a rise in anger and protest. It has to be met with disgust and condemnation. The alliance of the ruling party with CBI, IB and ED must end. Blunt use of investigative agencies as a coercive tool against political opponents as electoral campaign or in stealing mandates cannot be complimented as smart politics!
(The writer is practising advocate, senior faculty in law and political analyst)