17 August 2011

Anna Hazare's Arrest Restricts Dissent And Democratic Space

Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity condemns the arbitrary and undemocratic arrest of 1,300 activists in Delhi. This arrest is one more step in shrinking the space for democratic, peaceful dissent in our country. The everyday experience of our members (who are mainly rural workers), with the administration is that whenever they fight for their entitlements they meet with, at best, apathy and, at worst, repression.

Questioning corruption and demanding entitlements is dangerous at the grassroots level, where our members often face violent attacks when they raise such issues. The local police and administration actively collude or are passive bystanders when these attacks take place. In the arrest of Anna Hazare and that of 1,300 others, we see only an echo of our own micro, grassroots experiences.

In addition, we have seen both in Kolkata and in Delhi, a shrinking of the public spaces where protests are “allowed”. While the Jantar Mantar in Delhi is no longer freely available, with staying at night prohibited, in Kolkata, popular places of protests like Sealdah Station are no longer available. The latest attack has been on the Metro Channel, where the space for gatherings has been highly restricted. There have even been statements by important political figures in Bengal threatening to ban strikes and bandhs.
We condemn all such attacks on the right to peaceful protest by Governments in power and call upon all citizens to join us in our protest.

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