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Anti-drug laws to farm laws to UAPA: Are liberals undermining the Indian state by calling everything ‘draconian’?

Author: Abhishek Banerjee
Publication: Opindia.com
Date: October 24, 2021
URL:       https://www.opindia.com/2021/10/drugs-uapa-shah-rukh-khan-aryan-draconian-caa-nrc-farm-law/

You can disagree with this or that provision in some law, but you can't miss the pattern of exaggeration here.

Here for example is Shekhar Gupta, writing today in ThePrint:

“It is so unique, draconian, impractical, ineffective, exploitative and prone to misuse that to use the familiar description for laws would be an insult to the ass.“

So many adjectives in one sentence. What would make a veteran journalist such as Shekhar Gupta to abandon all the basic rules of good writing, not to mention those of decency?

Shekhar Gupta is writing here about the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) act. A law which has been around since 1985 but whose name most Indians would never have heard of until last month. Who knew that this law has always been such an existential threat to the Republic? And therefore, all of a sudden, it is time for all of us to panic. The headline of Shekhar’s article is no less alarmist: NDPS is a weapon vengeful state could use on you or your kids.

Did somebody say draconian law? Have you noticed how every law is ‘draconian’ these days? Everything is draconian, everything is genocide.

Consider this. There is the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, or UAPA. Since 2014, there has been no end to the laments about just how draconian this law is. Which is weird, because public records show that it was enacted all the way in 1967.

What about the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)? Draconian. What about the National Register of Citizens (NRC), first promised by Rajiv Gandhi as part of the Assam Accord? Also draconian. What about the three new agricultural laws passed by the Modi government? All draconian.

There have been anti-cow slaughter laws in many Indian states since the 1950s. But what about cow protection laws enacted by BJP governments in some states? All draconian. The first anti-conversion laws in India appeared in the 1960s. But if a BJP government enacts any such law today, it is draconian.

You can disagree with this or that provision in some law, but you can’t miss the pattern of exaggeration here. The 2002 riots in Gujarat were among the few in India to be ever described as a ‘genocide’ or a ‘pogrom.’ Did anyone refer to what happened under Rajiv Gandhi as a pogrom? Yes they did, you are probably thinking. That is because you are probably thinking only about the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. Did they ever talk about the Bhagalpur riots of 1989? Some 1000 people perished in those riots. And unlike the Gujarat riots, nobody knows exactly how many. There has never been a single conviction and nobody knows the name of the Chief Minister of Bihar under whom those riots happened.

Even to this day, all media descriptions of the Gujarat riots deliberately leave out the mention of the Godhra carnage. Or worse, they plant conspiracy theories about who was behind the carnage, despite the fact that the culprits have been definitively convicted by the High Court years ago.

Why? Because acknowledging the Godhra carnage would go against the narrative they want. Compare to “farmer leader” Rakesh Tikait sitting at the Press Club some days ago, coolly dismissing the lynching of 3 BJP workers at Lakhimpur Kheri as a natural reaction. The Samyukt Kisan Morcha then proceeded to suspend Yogendra Yadav for a month because he dared to visit the family of one of the BJP workers who had been lynched. Wonder who is draconian here, and who are the humanitarians.

The exaggerations hit an all time high last year, when liberals demanded foreign intervention against the Indian government for using water cannons to push back “farmer protesters” from the barricades. In fact, they routinely use water cannons in democratic countries around the world. They are used every week in India somewhere or the other. But in the hands of Modi government, the water cannon was suddenly an instrument for violating human rights.

You can argue about whether the state should be using water cannons. You can argue about whether we need a law such as UAPA. But you cannot miss the fact that our ‘civil society’ began making an issue out of this only after 2014.

And don’t forget the judicial system. Every common person in India knows that you cannot commit contempt of court. But that’s only because they are common people who have to stay within their limits. All of a sudden, you can pick up any newspaper or turn on any TV channel to see that contempt of court is rampant. Why? Because the most privileged in our country are not getting bail on time, preferably over the phone. As much as 67 percent of India’s prison population consists of under-trials. There are 4.5 crore cases pending in Indian courts. The Indian judicial system is a mess. But now it is okay to say that. What changed?

You have to suspect whether the real problem here is that liberals are having difficulty conceding the legitimacy of the Indian state, ever since the people chose Narendra Modi. And quite literally so. Soon after the 2014 election, you might remember a wave of liberal outrage against our first past the post voting system. How dare Modi come to power with 31% of the vote? What about the other 69%? After 2019, how dare Modi form a government with 38% of the vote? What about the other 62%?

Now, Modi did not choose our voting system. Modi did not make Sonia Gandhi come to power in 2004 with a mere 26% of the vote. In fact, Modi’s 31% in 2014 is the highest for any ruling party since 1991. Since its birth, the Indian Republic has used the first past the post voting system. Three generations of the Nehru dynasty have won the PM post and have been awarded Bharat Ratnas under this system. But that was different then, because it wasn’t Modi. Because it is BJP & Modi now, suddenly it is all bad.

It is all bad. The anti-terror laws, the anti-drug laws, the citizenship laws, the agricultural laws, everything. The first past the post voting system is bad. And water cannons are a human rights violation.

This pattern of undermining the Indian state extends beyond drug offenses, sedition, or CAA or NRC. What about someone who was convicted in the Mumbai serial blasts of 1993? Do you remember the headline “And they hanged Yakub“?

What is the end goal here, if I may so ask. If you reject everything from anti-drug laws to the voting system to the conviction of terrorists by the Supreme Court, what is left? Are you advocating for anarchy? Please clarify this. Because I assure you that it is not funny at all.


- Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or may not be an Associate Professor at IISc Bangalore. He is the author of Operation Johar - A Love Story, a novel on the pain of left wing terror in Jharkhand

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