The Cost of Dissent

by the Editor: Siddharth Sehgal

Dhritrashtra, the blind king in the epic Mahabharata, is widely believed to be a king who in his ‘putra-moha’ (excessive love for his son) unfairly treated Pandava brothers. He did not return their (Pandava’s) kingdom, failed to keep his wicked son in check and did not intervene when queen Draupadi was being disrobed in the Kuru court. He lost all his sons, grandsons in the Kurukshetra war as a result but there was one redeeming quality in him that I believe Indian politicians, in general, should emulate is that he never arrested his sharpest and most vehement critic, ‘Vidura’. There were no ED or CBI raids against the wise minister for criticizing his king. Dhritrashtra for all his faults had the guts to hear the truth which is a quality our leaders, be it in the past or present, unfortunately, do not possess.

In the Toolkit case, the arrest of activist Disha Ravi is one of several instances where the current government is going out of its way to silence or punish any criticism or dissent. Why would an environmental activist from Bangalore support Khalistan? Does disagreeing with the government on climate issues or criticizing its environmental policies make someone a secessionist? Did she supported or incite violence in her campaign? Now investigating agencies will try to come up with all sorts of excuses and arguments to prove Disha’s crime but the broader message being sent here, and perceived, is that anyone who will criticize Prime Minister, Home Minister or question their policies, can and will be silenced.

Is it a crime to question the price rise in Petrol? Does questioning farm or environmental laws make someone a traitor? Does a negative economic rate signify ‘achee din’ or Good Days? I voted for PM Modi in 2019, I supported CAA, NRC, I supported the abrogation of article 370 in Kashmir but the way things are going now is not what I hoped for. The current government is following the footsteps of the very people it used to criticize. Rather than focusing on growth, development, and inclusion, the government is busy looking for conspiracies and enemies. We are turning into a state where disagreements are not tolerated anymore. Whatever two people in power decide is right and everyone else is wrong, all wrongs were the fault of past governments and all rights are because of the current government.

The electoral success of the ruling Party has made them arrogant and turn away from the very people who voted for them. Arrogance in politics is a costly affair but then again speaking truth to power comes at a very heavy cost these days in India.

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