Close to the centenary of Jallianwala Bagh massacre, the trigger happy police in the world’s so-called largest democracy killed 11 protesters.
The police violence on May 22 followed months of peaceful agitation by civil society groups against a controversial copper plant in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The Sterlite plant operated by Vedanta group that is already infamous for displacing tribal people from mineral rich areas, has caused massive harm to the environment and human lives in the region. The local population has been pressing upon the government to shut the plant, which enjoys the backing of almost all the big political parties that survive on corporate donations.
The survivors of police firing believe that those in uniform acted at the behest of the influential plant and used excessive force to create fear and to suppress the demonstrators who were practising passive resistance. The survivors argue that other means to disperse the crowd, such as firing tear gas shells or water cannons, could have been easily used to avoid these deaths.
This isn’t the first time that the Indian establishment’s role as a mercenary of the rich and influential has come to light. In 1984, following a gas leak at the Union Carbide insecticide plant in Bhopal, the government let the company CEO Warren Anderson escape to the U.S. where he died without being tried in India for the deaths that the accident caused.
There were other occasions too where the police and the administration colluded with rich investors in cases of industrial disasters and to deal with labour unrest. Though political parties of all stripes lack the will to make the big corporations accountable, it's even worse under the current right-wing and staunchly pro-business government led by Narendra Modi. The industrial houses enjoy not only impunity, but also immunity in any adverse situation.
The extra-judicial killings of political activists by the police is another story. Those involved are often honoured with out-of-turn promotions and gallantry awards in the name of peace and progress. So much so, the use of sexual violence by the police and security forces is either conveniently overlooked or gets legitimacy by hawkish politicians who are eager to sell their image by invoking threats to national security, both real and perceived.
It’s a shame that all this is happening in post-British India where people can elect their own representatives. Almost 100 years ago—on April 13, 1919—the British army fired indiscriminately at peaceful demonstrators who had assembled at a public park called Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. It left more than 300 people dead.
The assembly had been called to protest against the repressive laws and the arrests of several leaders of the civil disobedience movement that was started to obtain the freedom of India from British occupation.
Those who died in the massacre must be rolling in their graves over what happened in Tamil Nadu.
Was this the freedom they were asking for? An absolute freedom for the rich at the cost of the liberty of ordinary people who continue to fight for a dignified and healthy life?
The Indian leadership has lost its moral right to even talk about Jallianwala Bagh and curse the British, if this is what the country has chosen to become: a tyrannical state in the garb of democracy.
Radical Desi has organized a rally against the killings of protesters in Tamil Nadu at Holland Park in Surrey on Saturday (May 26) at 6 p.m.