During the symposium 'Science and Diplomacy for Peace and Security: the CTBT@20' from 25 January to 4 February 2016 at the Vienna International Centre in Austria, IDN-InDepthNews (IDN), flagship ofthe International Press Syndicate (INPS), interviewed Dr. Lassia Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). The interview focuses on what the CTBT is about, why it has not yet entered into force, and what the CTBTO is doing to overcome hurdles on way to its becoming a de jure global treaty.

- Photo: 2020

Lives of the Marginalized Don’t Seem to Matter in India

Viewpoint by Dr Ram Puniyani

This article is the 11th in a series of joint productions of South Asian Outlook and IDN-InDepthNews, the flagship of the International Press Syndicate. The writer is a former professor of biomedical engineering and former senior medical officer affiliated with the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (now Mumbai).

NEW DELHI (IDN) – In Minneapolis, the African American George Floyd lost his life as the white policeman, Derek Chauvin, caught hold of him and put his knee on his neck. This is a technique developed by the Israeli police. For nine long minutes, the knee of the white policeman was on the neck of George, who kept shouting, “I can’t breathe”.

Following this gruesome murder, America erupted with protests, ‘Black lives matter’. The protestors were not just African Americans but also a large section of whites. Within the U.S., one police chief apologized for this act. This aroused interest in different parts of the world.

The act was the outcome of the remnants of the racial hatred against blacks by the whites. It is the hatred and the perceptions which are the roots of such acts of violence. Interestingly, the origins of democracy in the U.S. are so deep that even the police apologized, the nation, whites and blacks, stood up as a collective against this violence.

The U.S. is not the only country where the brutal acts of violence torment the marginalized sections of society. In India, Dalits, minorities and Adivasis are regular victims of abuse. But the reaction is very different. We have witnessed the case of Tabrez Ansari, who was tied to the pole by the mob and beaten ruthlessly. At the police station, they took ample time to take him to hospital, and Tabrez died.

Mohsin Sheikh, a Pune techie, was murdered by Hindu Rashtra Sena mob, the day Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in  2014. As a video on social media evidenced, Shambhulal Regar killed Afrazul.

Regar believed that Muslims are indulging in love with Jihad, so he deserves such a fate. Mohammad Akhlaq is one among many names who were mob lynched on the issue of beef. The list can fill pages after pages.

Recently, a young Dalit boy was shot dead for the crime of entering a temple. In Una, four Dalits were stripped above the waist line and beaten mercilessly. Commenting, Union Minister Ramvilas Paswan said that it was a minor incident. Again, the list of atrocities against Dalits is long enough. The question is what Paswan is saying is the typical response to such gruesome murders and tortures. In the U.S., the loss of one black life created a democratic and humane response.

In India, there is a general silence in response to these atrocities. Sometimes after a gap of time, the Prime Minister would say: “Mother Bharati has lost a son”. Most of the time, the blame goes to the victim. Some social groups raise their voice in some fora, but by and large, the deafening silence from the country is the norm.

India is regarded as the world’s largest democracy. Democracy is the rule of law, in which injustices are opposed. In America, though the present President Trump is an insensitive person, its institutions and processes of democratic articulation are strong.

The institutions are deep-rooted, and though prejudices may be guiding the actions of some of the officers like the killer of George, there are also police officers who can tell their President to shut up if he has nothing meaningful to say on the issue. The prejudices against Blacks may be prevalent and deep-seated. But there are large sections of society, who act on the principles of ‘Black lives matter’. Also, there are large sections of the vocal population who can protest the violation of basic norms of democracy and humanism.

In India, by contrast, there are multiple reasons as to why the lives of Tabrez Ansari, Mohammad Akhlaq, Una Dalit victims and their likes don’t matter. Though we claim that we are a democracy, neglect of injustice is on the rise. The propaganda against the marginalized people has become so vicious during the last few decades that any violence against them has become sort of a new normal.

The large sections of the population, though upset by such brutalities, is also fed the strong dose of biases against the victims. The communal forces have a great influence on large sections of the traditional media and social media, which generates hate against the disadvantaged groups. The response, therefore, is muted, if at all.

Democracy is a dynamic process; it’s not a fixed entity. Decades ago, workers and Dalits could protest for their rights. Now even if peasants make loud protests, dominant media presents these as blocking of traffic! The erosion of democratic roots is the way the criticism of the ruling dispensation is branded as anti-national.

Our institutions have steadily eroded, and those coming to the rescue of the marginalized sections have meanwhile become inconceivable. The outreach of communal, divisive ideology, the ideology which looks down on minorities, Dalits and Adivasis has risen by leaps and bounds.

The democracy in India is becoming a hollow shell; the rule of law an ideology, which does not have faith in the Indian Constitution, which shuns pluralism and diversity of this country, and is more concerned for the privileges of the upper caste, wealthy and affluent.

The root cause is the fragile democracy. It was on the way to becoming resilient. But from the 1980s onward, as emotive issues took the upper hand, the strength of democracy started dwindling. Subsequently, the murders of the types of George Floyd, seem to become a norm.

American democracy has healthy roots. So is its ability to protect the democratic institutions, which is not the case in India, where protests of the type witnessed after George Floyd’s murder would be unthinkable, at least at present. [IDN-InDepthNews, 29 June 2020]

Photo: Police personnel dispersing an activist in a protest demonstration of the marginalized group of the Dalit in Varanasi, India. Credit: PTI. Source: The Print. Credit: PTI. Source: The Print

IDN is flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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