The BJP Government, within the first few months of its re-election, passed several legislations that are detrimental to Indian constitutional values and federal structure. India’s democracy has only weakened since the BJP’s coming to power, as they’ve relentlessly worked to consolidate power, weaken regional autonomy, and suppress dissent.
Here’s a list of 6 legislations passed in 2019 that mark the death of Indian democracy:
1. Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2019
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2019 (UAPA) is one of the most dangerous acts that threaten the democratic fabric of our nation. It gives the State unprecedented power to brand individuals as terrorist; a person can be designated a terrorist based on a mere suspicion of central authorities- guilty until proven innocent.
This law has been misused on several occasions; human rights activist and lawyer, Sudha Bharadwaj, along with 8 other activists, was arrested by Pune Police on arbitrary allegations of having Maoist links in 2018. Akhil Gogoi, peasant leader and RTI activist, is also in judicial custody right now on similar allegations. The UAPA has been used to slap baseless charges on those working for the most marginalised people, the dissenters, who want to realise the constitutional promise of India as the secular, socialist, sovereign, democratic republic as envisaged by our freedom fighters.
2. Abrogation of Article 370
In a completely undemocratic move, the State revoked J&K’s special status overnight through a presidential order. In an interview to The Caravan, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan said, “This order seeks to supersede a constitution—Jammu and Kashmir has a constitution devised by a constituent assembly. Therefore, Article 370 came into being [in 1950] while Jammu and Kashmir had not established its constitution. Article 370 was transitional only to the extent, and until, Jammu and Kashmir constitution came into place……… Jammu and Kashmir constitution [formed] by an independent Constituent Assembly is a fact—it is a legal fact, a spatial fact and a temporal fact. You cannot abolish it, as simple as that—it does not grow out of the [The presidential] order.”
Not only did the people of Jammu and Kashmir have no say in this decision, they were immediately put under an indefinite communication blockade and mass incarcerated after this decision was announced. Opposition leaders like Mehbooba Mufti and Farooq Abdullah were also put under house arrest. The internet blockade in the region continues even today. More than 4000 people have been detained in Kashmir since Aug 5, and hundreds injured from pellet injuries. Educational institutions were shut for months and the economy in the region has been in a slump since.
3. Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019
The Presidential order to revoke Article 370 was followed by Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which provided for the reorganisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh. J&K is the first state in Indian history to be converted into a union territory. Now, it will be directly under Central Government’s rule. To deprive Jammu and Kashmir of its statehood, with no dialogue with the people’s representatives is anything but democratic, and against the federal principles and terms stated in the Indian Constitution.
Modi argued that by turning J&K into two Union Territories, the residents of the erstwhile State would now enjoy every right that they had earlier been deprived of under the special status of the State. This hollowness and hypocrisy of this statement manner is obvious, in the back drop of the unprecedented restrictions on movement, communication and all political activity imposed in the region since August 5.
4. The Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019
The Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019, threatens the autonomy of Central Information Commission, by empowering the Central government to unilaterally decide the tenure, salary, allowances and other terms of service of Information Commissioners, both at the Centre and the States.
The RTI is central to empowering citizen’s access to power and decision-making, and to keep the misuse of State power in check. In the past, it has allowed for the cross-verification of the affidavits of powerful electoral candidates with official documents as certain Information Commissioners ruled in favour of disclosure – an undesirable thing for a Government that has criminals as legislators. It has been a threat to arbitrariness, privilege, and corrupt governance. However, with the new act, RTI officials have lost their independence, and under greater control of the Central Government, thereby, weakening India’s democratic institutions.
5. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019
On December 5, the Transgender Bill was made into a law after receiving President’s assent. The Bill, which was supposed to protect the rights of transgender people, was drafted and passed without the consultation of people from the trans community. As a result, assumptions were made based on stereotypes.
The law is explicitly transphobic and it violates several fundamental rights of trans people; it violates their right to self-determination that was guaranteed to them by the NALSA judgement. The bill requires trans people to be ‘certified’ by the district magistrate to have their identity recognised. Moreover, if a person is to change their preferred gender to male or female, they would need to show proof of SRS – this is a gross violation of their fundamental rights.
6. Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 aims to provide citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Christians, Buddhists and from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, who entered India, after fleeing religious persecution, on or before December 31, 2014. It categorically excludes Muslims, sidelining the fact that Muslims, like Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan, also face religious persecution. The act, when understood with the context of BJP’s plans to conduct nation wide NRC exercise, becomes a great concern for minorities in the country. In Assam, of the 19 lakh people that were initially declared illegal foreigners, all non-muslims are now shielded from being deemed so, based on the provisions of the act. Only Muslims, many of whom may have been wrongly identified as foreigners, will be sent to detention centres. This act enshrines religious discrimination in law, setting a dangerous precedent for future laws.
The State repression against anti-CAA protestors, involving entire lockdowns of states, mass incarceration of protestors, police firing on protestors, and internet shutdowns, perfectly shows how much the BJP values the constitutional principles this country was founded on. The BJP, through the course of its term, has time and again abused its power and gotten away with impunity. They’ve made a mockery of India’s democracy. One can only wonder what will be left of the world’s largest democracy by the end of 2024.
Featured Image Credits: freepressjournal.in