Democracy is not limited to mere voting rights. A huge challenge in front of democracy lies in providing opportunity to every voice in the process of decision making. A democracy can be healthy only if there is sanctity for the freedom of expression of difference, disagreement and dissent. Today across the world there is a wider acceptance of democracy as the best form of governance because of the assumption that citizens in a democracy has the right to dissent freely and without being victimized.
In fact, the history of progress of mankind is a history of informed dissent; much of creative activity of high quality in all areas of human endeavour at any given time has been a reflection of such dissent https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/The-importance-of-dissent-in-democracy/article11640706.ece.
Of late, we seem to live in a state of unhealthy democracy where no dissent is being allowed. Across the country, there has been a growing trend where every criticism of the government is trolled, termed as Anti National, or even retaliated with vicious use of power.
In the name of National Interest, Public Order authorities have been leaving no stones unturned to silence any sort of remonstration https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/12/13/dissent-anti-national-modis-india.
As a citizen, the sequence of events of clamping down on the Anti CAA Protestors and the other social activists make me feel that this political dispensation believes in crushing down all the voices which are not in alignment with their ideology.
The ultimate danger of such kind of political action is that it will lead to an autocratic state
The biggest democracy of the world whose foundation is laid on the principles and ideals of liberty, secularism, socialism and democracy today seem to be standing on a contrary.
Today we are witnessing that in order to criminalise political dissent the public intellectuals, artists, student leaders, journalists are being targeted. Many belonging to the mentioned categories today are in jail under sedition charges. These actions of curbing not only exposes the present political dispensations autocracy but also its political incapacity to handle disagreement and dissent
There is a clear pattern and indication that this political dispensation wants to curtail all voices that that are against their stand. Today, it appears as if criticism and opposition to the government is opposition against the nation and its certain section of people.
The recent Case in Assam
Akhil Gogoi needs no introduction. The anti CAA activist, human rights defender, leader of the peasants and many term him has the voice of the voiceless has been in prison for last 11 months. Time and again there has been protests both on the roads and social media demanding his release. Post COVID, his supporters have raised their demands mostly through wide spread social media protests. Recently, the Guwahati Police detained four artists for painting a graffiti of activist Akhil Gogoi on the wall of a bridge in the Guwahati city https://scroll.in/latest/979012/four-artists-detained-for-painting-activist-akhil-gogois-graffiti-in-guwahati. The artists who were detained and later made to erase their work belonged to a collective called Anga Arts. The artists had mentioned that the graffiti of Akhil Gogoi which showed Akhil Gogoi being taken away by the Police was simply an expression of what they saw. The mentioned that they paint what they see, which means that they paint the facts. Police while detaining them mentioned that they cannot paint such graffiti since Akhil Gogoi is imprisoned.
Where are we heading?
Today we are living in Assam at times when even a graffiti creates fear among the ruling dispensation. Even an act of dissent through art makes them fear of losing their hold. This is not simply misuse of power. This is an attempt to create fear among all dissenters, among all those voices which strongly condemn their acts which are anti people. This regime has forgotten that the history of mankind is a history of informed dissent, much of creative activity of high quality in all areas of human endeavour at any given time has been reflection of such dissent. It is right that time that believers of secularism, democracy and liberal ideas join hands and raise their voices. In the near future, we might be heading towards times when dissent could be rewarded with severe punishments. We are heading towards times when creative modes in addressing issues of inequality and justice could be curbed down completely. There is a growing fear that right to dissent: one of the core principles of democracy is in danger. The safety valve of democracy is in danger today. We cannot afford to be in a situation where legitimate dissent is trampled by executive action. We have to realise that dissent is the quintessential part of democracy.
BY- Aniruddha Bora