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Securing Civil Society - Activists' Arrest

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August 30, 2018

What is the issue?

  • The Pune Police raided rights activists and academicians across the country and arrested five top activists, allegedly for Maoist links.
  • The arrests have come as the latest blow inflicted on civil society for arbitrary reasons.

What are the recent developments?

  • In a democracy, the individual transits from subject to citizen.
  • But the modern democratic state is armed with technologies of surveillance and control.
  • With this, it had come to possess extraordinary power.
  • In effect, rights-bearing citizen of the democratic state has become more vulnerable.
  • A democratic state has started to terrorise, kill and drill fear in the mind of the body politic.
  • The other dominant institution, the market, is largely amoral.
  • It is increasingly becoming indifferent to human suffering.
  • It cares little for citizens exploited by the state and by its own need for resources, labour, and profit.

How did the civil society evolve?

  • In the aftermath of the Emergency (1975-77), civil liberties movement made a strong appearance.
  • The movement eventually developed into a human rights movement.
  • It took on a significant task of protecting the fundamental right to life and liberty.
  • These two rights lie at the core of other rights which are critical for human beings.
  • It incorporates the right not to be tortured or killed, right not to be arrested and imprisoned without due cause, etc.
  • Civil society is now a more plural sphere with all manners of associations.
  • It ranges from football clubs to reading groups to film fan societies.

How significant is the civil society?

  • Society - Civil liberty and/or human rights activists are lawyers, academics, journalists and public minded citizens of India.
  • It is the human concern for the poor and the vulnerable that works as their driving force.
  • Civil society activists are instrumental in protecting the overall moral conscience of the society.
  • Rights - Human rights groups have become the custodian of the Constitution's Fundamental Rights.
  • They have investigated cases of
  1. arbitrary imprisonment
  2. custodial deaths
  3. deadly encounters
  4. coercion of citizens speaking up against the state or dominant groups
  • These organisations have documented the causes and triggers of communal and caste violence.
  • They have protected the rights of vulnerable sections of people, the Adivasis, Dalits and Muslims.
  • Check - A vibrant civil society helps citizens access the centres of power and privilege.
  • It stands between the individual, and the omnipresent and omnipotent state.
  • It has the capacity to challenge the brute power of the state.
  • Petitions, protests, dharnas and ultimately judicial activism are instrumental in achieving their goals.

Why is civil society crucial now?

  • Over 10 years ago, civil society spoke for the right to food, employment, education, information and land.
  • Today, few organisations demand the right not to be lynched and struggle for right to life and liberty.
  • Governments are starting to repress civil societies that are in clash with their ideology.
  • Right wing organisations are seeking to dominate the space between the individual, market and state.
  • With these having serious consequences, the civil society's role is more crucial for democracy now than ever before.


Source: The Hindu

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