Constitutional Institutions–Current Status & Role in Indian Democracy, 19 Sept 2020

Indian Americans Forum conducted a zoom conference call on the topic of “Constitutional Institutions–Current Status & Role in Indian Democracy” moderated by Dr Mohammed Jameel and Motika Anand. The speakers were Eminent Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan and Arfa Khanum Sherwani Editor of The Wire. Panellists on the forum included Zaheeruddin Ali Khan Editor of Siasat and Rajiv Tyagi former fighter Pilot Indian Air Force.

Speaking on this Occasion, Arfa Khanum Editor Wire drew a sharp contrast between the early months of 2020 and the current situation in India which she described as bleak. There was hope and “light at the end of the tunnel” for the future of India’s secular democracy when marginalized Muslim women emerged as empowered during their 100 days campaign against the NRC/CAA in collaboration with so many allies—believers of secularism, liberals and students. They trusted the constitution. However, there was an element of naiveté to expect that the government would not use the instruments of state to crack down and that there would not be any consequences and repercussions. Now this very vindictive government has targeted these young activists and scholars including Umar Khalid under UAPA. Arfa Khanum reminded the forum to pragmatically come to the centre so that a viable and constructive strategy could be worked out among all the progressive forces. She also reminded us to take cognizance of Baba Ambedkar’s slogan, “Educate, Organize & Agitate,” as a constructive path forward.

Prashant Bhushan Supreme Court Lawyer speaking on occasion stressed that there had been a wholesale attack on institutions like electoral bonds without regulations and controls, the Rafale jet contract in which, for the first time in 70 years, CAG removed the pricing, the offset contracts were given to Anil Ambani, Lokpal was not appointed at first; when appointed a very incompetent person was nominated to head it. The institutions that have been put in place to protect democracy—police, investigative agencies, Lok Pal, media are also compromised. Journalists and activists are being harassed; mainstream media has collapsed except few. Bhushan also lamented the growing attack on scientific temper, critical thinking and civilization itself. He also touched on how the government had cracked down on the activists of the anti-CAA/NRC movement and false cases in the Bhima Koregoan case. Bhushan brought attention to Justice AP Shah’s recent Justice Suresh Memorial Lecture, which focused on the attack on institutions, and particularly the judiciary which has been created to protect the constitution and constitutional values.

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Zaheeruddin Ali Khan Editor Siasat, who was a Panelist on this call, agreed that social media was demonstrating the change in public opinion. He pointed out that even investors were losing interest in India as an attractive investment destination. Software companies are also faring poorly. There was growing recognition that government had failed very badly. A recent article in Sahara…noted that the party had tried to Talibanize to consolidate the Hindu vote. He expressed hope that Modi government came with social media and would go with growing disapproval in social media.

Rajiv Tyagi Former Indian Air force Pilot was also present as a panellist contrasted India’s political culture of tolerance and fatalism with a European country such as France where the people would already have come out in revolt against such an unconstitutional government. He also expressed concerns about the RSS re-emerging from time to time as a vehicle of hate and criminal activity. “After this dreaded night is over and daylight comes back to India” it is necessary for Indians to introspect and “start a conversation” about what we are going to do to “armour our Constitution” so that constitutional democracy can never be weakened again.

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Members of IAF: Dr.Rehan Khan suggested that just as in the US anti-abortion was renamed pro-life to give it a positive tone, in the same way, anti-CAA/NRC should similarly be called pro-democracy movement. Motika Anand suggested to look into electoral reforms and brought about the need to go back to the paper ballot. Dr Smita Swarup mentioned that at this critical juncture a united opposition was imperative (including Congress party) for the next election.

Dr Jameel at the end gave a conclusion statement and emphasized that the independent media should take steps to change the narrative away from sensational non-issues to critical issues of importance such as jobs, economy etc. Pressure should be mounted to enact Electronic Media Regulatory authority (EMRA) a statutory body which will ban fictional stories aimed at misguiding public opinion and lauded the efforts of Arfa Khanum in projecting the correct version of news and Mr Prashant Bhushan for his continued stance against injustices and standing with weak

Key Members Present were Mr Ans Ahmed, Ms Farah Laman , Narsing Mamindla , Ramakrishna Jalla , Phani Reddy, Suresh Ediga, Javed Mirza ,RTI activist Lokesh Batra,Panna Batra and from UK Zoya Mahveen and From Middle East Syed Afzal and from Inidas Indian Americsans forum mebers Samar Ayyalath Abdul Raheem Advocate ,Raoof Lala ,Mujahid,Waseem Shahid Shaikh,Chand Shaikh ,Syed Omar ,Abdul Hameed and others .

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