New Delhi, Dec 1 (PTI) Dissent is normal to any civilisation and it cannot be equated to “terrorism”, noted historian Romila Thapar said Saturday, expressing concern over attacks on those fighting for the rights of the underprivileged.
Speaking at a public discussion ‘Dissent and Democracy’, Thapar, one of the five petitioners in Bhima-Koregaon case, said, “Suppression of dissent is not a new development, but it has become more frequent of late.”
Joining the debate Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan and veteran journalist N Ram expressed disappointment over the higher judiciary’s decisions in cases where activists fighting for the rights of people were charged under laws like the National Security Act, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
“Dissent is normal to civilisation and it can not be equated to terrorism. It is now being denied by weakening the democratic institutions,” Thapar commented.
Ram criticised the media over its attitude in matters of dissent against the government and laid emphasis on an awareness campaign to show the linkage between the “right to dissent” and the “right to freedom of speech”.
Speakers of the event also pointed at branding of “dissenters” opposing the present regime in the country as “urban naxals”.
“The government and ruling party is attacking activists of various kinds precisely because they are able to expose the hollow claims of the regime,” noted rights activist Aruna Roy said.
Scholar Anirban Bhattacharya said that those in power have a “three D strategy – divide, divert and demonise”.
“Usage of words like urban naxal and anti-national has a toxic effect on the society that need to be challenged,” he said.
Journalist Bhasha Singh, academician Zoya Hasan, lawyer Vrinda Grover also addressed the gathering.
Currently the aim is to delegitimise dissent and disenfranchise the minorities and vulnerable groups paving way for a majoritarian state, Hasan said. PTI VIT