June 12, 2011

On lathi charging

What happens when the police wade into people staging some kind of protest or demonstration, waving their lathis? We all heard about one such police advance from the Ramlila grounds in Delhi: but what happened to the people at the receiving end of the police action?

This piece I wrote for Kafila might give you some idea: On Lathi-charging a satyagraha.


Vincent said...

Ah, so it took you 60 comments before you finally realized that it is an issue of free-speech and police brutality more than anything else! Better late than never even if your natural tendency is to ignore such issues and focus on attacking Hindus.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Ah the man moves here and pretends there are 60 comments even though his is the first.

In the months leading up to this June 4 fast, I never once heard Baba R or any supporters saying it was a fast for the freedom of speech. Not once.

Now that the whole thing has fizzled and more people are waking up to the kind of person this is, there's suddenly a whole lot of noise being made about freedom of speech.

Garden path, of course.

Vincent said...

I am sure you are intelligent enough to understand that I meant 60 comments in the other thread that made you start this one.

The fast was against corruption. So now you are claiming that since he did not announce that it was a fast for the rights to free-speech, suppressing his rights to freedom of expression is not really a suppression of his freedom of expression? Really, Dilip, you are stretching things quite a bit.

How is it that a brutal suppression of ones views is not a suppression of one's views unless the person who expresses those views had stated in advance that the views are intended to demand the freedom of expression?

This is a dangerous position you take and your position would also justify Indira Gandhi's Emergency and the censorship during that period.

Vincent said...

What I find funny is that you have clearly been led down the Garden Path by corrupt politicians whom you defend. Any opposition to their corruption is not tolerated by you because they have led you down a Garden Path and you think that all their actions benefit the society.

Jai_C said...

Dilip, all,

Pardon me for jumping in here; was as late to the main show (of this agitation) as I am to this thread.

Its a little unusual to find Dilip insisting that expressions of free speech should declare themselves to be exercises in free speech apriori. I dont think anybody whether MFH or Taslima should have to make qualifying statements before, during, or even after the expression.

Free speech just *is*.
simply and purely is free.

2. To comment on Dilip's posts on the Baba:
I'm sorry but I couldnt work up enough interest in the Baba's antics, to feel it deserved anything more than the pungent tweet I saw from Annie Z, noting he could come up with an asana to cure corruption just like AIDS, gays, cancer etc.

More interesting was to wonder why the govt reacted the way it did.

3. An unusual insight on the UPA govt's decision to score a self-goal by lathicharging a peaceful assembly is found on some right wing spaces:

The theory is that a deliberate halo is sought to be created around Ramdev, a buffoonish character with enough problems in his closet, even at some cost to UPA image.

The idea is this will offset and dilute Anna H* and pay off in the long run.

Its an interesting theory and appealed to me since I couldnt find any reason they decided to strike. It compares favorably to the other theory I saw about the govt trying to induce fear in one community or the other.

* I have problems with Anna H and have read that this gent used to belt-whip people to comply with his rules in Ralegaon Siddi, but that is probably a separate topic.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Dilip insisting that expressions of free speech should declare themselves to be exercises in free speech apriori.

I insisted this? Please let me know where?

The first I heard about this fast, it was about making corruption a capital offence, about bringing back black money stored abroad. When fast turned into fiasco, to save some face Baba R and his supporters began saying no, this was about freedom of speech (because of the police brutality at the Ramlila ground).

Which prompts curmudgeons like me to ask, well, if the Baba was so concerned about freedom of speech, why didn't he stand up for his beliefs and speech that night? Why did he instead run away in a disguise?

This man and his supporters know nothing about freedom of speech. It is just a phrase to spout.

Jai_C said...

Hi Dilip,

As already confessed, i'm way behind the news cycle on this agitation, esp the Ramdev version. Whatever he said is by itself, free speech - without getting into the contents which could have been about corruption or HIV or anything else. It didnt become free speech after the police crackdown. Its not about when or even whether he decided to tag it as an exercise in free speech.

Doing my requisite reading on this, an interesting poat from Santosh Desai link Hope its okay to place the link and a few excerpts here:

I agree with much of what he says, esp:
"...The most significant action taken in the last few weeks is not the fast-unto-death but the state’s response in dealing with it. ..."

I disagree with:
"...The sly manipulation of media, which uncritically follows the state’s lead in attacking those it wishes to target..."

I dont think media is that gullible.

But most powerful to me, were his concluding paragraphs. Talking about how the system reacts to outsiders challenging it:

"...[it] hopes to do so by implicating the outsider in the existing system. By attributing motives and imputing affiliations, the outsider is located within a familiar landscape and becomes subject to the same implicit rules of give-and-take..."

"...To reject change because of its admittedly bizarre outward appearance is to miss its deeper significance..."

PS: I factor this against my deep disquiet with the powers and sweep for a LokPal that the "change agents" propose. But it hardly matters to me what the agent wore at any point in time, or even if he wore anything at all.

I will probably surface again in a week or so with some comment. Thanks for reading.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Once more: it was only after the fast at Ramlila fizzled out, after Baba R was shown to have made a commitment to end it without his followers' knowledge, after his financial stuff started coming to light, after the police brutalities -- after all this, the Baba and his supporters began saying this was a fast about free speech.

There's no question, they are entitled to free speech, and I fully support it.

But I am not a fan of flip-floppers.

Dilip D'Souza said...

It's also only after everything I mentioned in the previous comments that the Baba's supporters -- like the one on this page -- began shouting that the police assault and the whole treatment of the Baba was an assault on Hindus.

Until then, of course, this was the nation rising up against corruption. (Why didn't they ever say this was Hindus rising up against corruption?). But now anyone sceptical of the Baba has, and I quote, "a focus on attacking Hindus".

Forgive me if I cannot take these guys seriously.

Mayank said...

Dilip, i always come and read what you and others have to say on your blog. Rarely do i comment - I don't have the gift of gab to articulate or put forth logical arguments. I am not a follower of Baba, neither of Anna Hazare. But as someone who sits on the sidelines, yet hope for change, i miss why people in general and media in particular are so focused on who is standing up and what their methods are. In the process forgetting the main cause. Weren't there different ideologies and means to achieve the independence. Satyagrah, Diplomacy, even militancy. None to my mind would have got results alone.

Shouldn't more focus be put on what this state, the elected government is doing and not doing. We deserve a more accountable government, but in last one month or so all we have heard from this govt is RSS agents, unelected tyrants, undemocratic processes and so on. And what I get disillusioned by is, Why is no media or groups other than IAC or for that matter even BRD standing up. I am sure this country has more clean, learned, educated people who have means & charisma & most importantly courage to stand up against what is not right. Why wouldn't writers like you talk about the core issue more often rather than on other not so important things viz half clad baba, his running away etc etc.

As I said, am just another grain the sand, who for once believed that I will be part of historical change, sadly a hope that is dwindling every passing day. I and am sure many other common citizens of this country have a choice to make - between this state and its stand and those who stand for anti corruption. Is this decision NOT simple enough.

Dilip D'Souza said...


To begin with, of course we must expect an unresponsive govt to brand its critics agents and so forth. That's part of the battle.

To continue, why would you think "writers like me" are not concerned about corruption to the extent that you ask why we don't talk about it more often? I've written plenty of times about corruption (Kalpnath Rai, Jayalalitha, Adarsh, Sukh Ram, Narasimha Rao, coffin scam, fodder scam, St Kitts, Jain diaries, Bangaru Laxman, CWG, etc). I can name plenty of other journalists/writers who have also done so (P Sainath, Shivam Vij, Ramachandra Guha, etc).

Is it only when Baba goes on a fast that this becomes an issue?

I said nothing about the Baba until his post-fast behaviour showed me (and the world) exactly what this movement he claimed to be spearheading was made of: his running away, the morphing of the police brutality into an attack on Hindus, the stuff about his finances.

There are times when the person does matter. I don't think people made of straw can lead us out of the mess we are in. To put this in perspective, suppose Bangaru Laxman and Suresh Kalmadi (to pick two random names) went on a fast against corruption. Would you join their effort? I would not.

Similarly, I don't believe Baba R has the substance to lead a fight against corruption. I say this after watching him run away, reading about the way he revealed his finances (not least, his mention that we can get the details via RTI), watching the company he keeps, and more.

The choice each of us has to make is indeed simple. Let me state it as I see it. As much as it is about confronting a corrupt government, it has to do with each of our personal lives. Do we stand for values and ethics? Then we need to see injustice for what it is; we need to shun the bribe-taker and the bribe-giver as well as the people who turn us against each other; we need to follow the laws, whether about sales tax or about jumping red lights or about bribes. There's more, but I hope you get the picture.

If we don't want or cannot do those things, we are part of the edifice that is corruption. That's the choice.

Jai_C said...


I didnt find much else on this topic that sufficiently engaged my attention, other than Bhagwad J Park's brief note about addressing the issue rather than the person raising the issue.

In conclusion this is what I have to state:

I take very seriously what you have to say. I also believe that change or progress will only happen incrementally, from and through some flawed people gradually changing the system to better itself in maybe a decade or two. I certainly dont expect paragons that we can all look up to, leading the charge.

You are welcome to make of the baba's antics what you will. I am happy that the govt is being put on the spot. The churn is good even if the LokPal isnt something I am comfortable with.


Vincent said...

if the Baba was so concerned about freedom of speech, why didn't he stand up for his beliefs and speech that night? Why did he instead run away in a disguise?

So now your claim is that no person who runs away is worried about his or her freedom being taken away! That is something! In fact, the very reason they run away is to not give a chance to an almost infinitely powerful state to take away their freedoms.

Where did you get the idea that if someone runs away in fear, it proves that they do not mind their freedoms being taken away?

That is one point. The bigger point is the apathy from Indian writers like you who don't find it a serious problem when the government uses violence to attack protesters.

Your support or opposition is not based on ideas like freedom, but on loyalty to one group or the other. In this case, you do not care one bit about this grievous assault because you see Hindus as the "other" while you saw the protesters against the construction of the Narmada Dam as your team.

That is why you keep refusing to even admit that it was a violation of Baba Ramdev's free speech rights.

Vincent said...

after all this, the Baba and his supporters began saying this was a fast about free speech.

You are losing it, Dilip. No one made that claim. It was a fast against corruption in the government. The attack on the protesters was a violation of their freedom of expression.

Why is this difficult for you to concede? Surely, you have the intellect to comprehend these simple points.