Toolkit and sedition: Gainers and losers of controversies

Sep 26, 2022

One may argue that the government has taken a hasty decision of arresting the environmental activists and allege the government for distracting public attention from farmers’ strike. While the action rewarded the antagonists with a chance for gaining popularity, the protagonists seem to have lost a manageable battle.

Often aggressive government action, sans wisdom, breaks out unintended and undesirable consequences. Some actions draw not only reactions but also multiple actions, which breed new heroes. The arrest of some new names like Disha Ravi, who is said to be an environmental activist, for sedition made them steal the media limelight. The Toolkit was a tool for someone to spring into action, making them action heroes.When people spend crores of rupees to see their name printed in the media, some are lucky enough to get it free of cost. Call it, for positive or negative reasons. After sometimes, in a democratic society, where a legal battle is lengthy and the bailout is an easily available panacea, sedition becomes patriotism. Whatever be the reason and how so ever be the seriousness of the allegations, until there are people to support, the arrest is only a boost to the promotion into the next level. No one knew or heard of Disha Ravi, Deep Sidhu, Deep Kaur or Nikita Jacob until they were arrested. Many people might not have heard the names before their arrest.

What message does one get from the arrest of 22-year old Disha Ravi? Overnight, she has become a celebrity. Before the arrest, she was known only among a group of environmentalists. Her sudden arrest, be it for right or wrong reason, provided her with a good opportunity to spring on a bigger stage. On the other side, what does the government gain out of the dramatic arrest? Isn’t an image crisis? Yes. That is the reason, the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah has been forced to give an interview to leading news channels, which he otherwise rarely does. That has come up as his attempt to repair the image crisis which the government has been suffering from after the onset of the so-called farmers’ strike, which enjoys the support of cross-border activists. The antagonists of the government have begun to swarm around the strike to buyout the space of opposition that remains empty.

Often, it seemed, the government’s super-majority hardened its hold giving no respect to the opponents’ cry, much against the democratic spirit inherent in the Indian polity. For it, image is not an issue sometimes, as it seems to know how to win elections and how to systematically disintegrate its adversaries. Killing every rebel voice crying it sedition is undemocratic, though I strongly argue for stringent punishment to those who indulge in sedition.

Sometimes, the government actions give room to suspect whether the charge of sedition is a trickery for stealing away the public attention from the on-going agitation in the name of the Farm Bill or for something else. Most farmers know farm bills have nothing in them to oppose, barring some harms for a section. A strike without substance will naturally die down after a few days. Then, why should the government be unreasonably so much obsessed with the strike that has forced it find a way to divert public attention and fill in media primetime with another news? If that is not the reason, one will have to admit that the government with concentrated political power is riding high on the strength of its full majority. That changes its face to become more arrogant if the arrest is proven wrong. High priests of democracy gather one more reason to call it fascism. A probe on sedition is going on. I am not prejudicial in my view. While sedition is a despicable action, all environmental activities are saintly works. The misuse of both the terms is only a foul game, nasty betrayal.

Tool-kit may be dangerous with unscrupulous elements hand-in-gloves. In social media when all fouls become viral in no time, the Toolkit has more than enough lethality in it. Neither Disha nor Thunberg, being environmental activists, shouldn’t have crossed their action borders if they were serious about their core missions. What they have reaped for crossing their borders is only a bagful of overnight fame. What the government has tried to gain is only a distraction of public attention, but an untimely action for undesirable results.

The Prime Minister has called the agitators andolanjeevis. Day-by-day they are getting tired and looking to board an early flight to return home. A surgical strike on them was not necessary. They are getting ready to dismantle their machine installed in fools’ paradise as they have started coming to their sense. They have already lost all chances to save their skins and an immediate opportunity to celebrate over the Supreme Court’s decision to keep it on hold, whatever be the predictable results of the court order. But the government has set the dry-grass called farmer’s agitation on fire again by the arrest, giving fuel to the rebel voices. The farmers strike is now turning into many foul plays.

The arrest would allure more youngsters not necessarily to the environmental activities. I am not still sure whether the environmental activists’ involvement in the tool-kit was deliberate or accidental. Let us not risk a guess. I am confused about the government’s aims and how the activists’ principle goes with the controversial Toolkit. Every controversy leaves behind gainers and losers. But antagonists rarely win like the present surprise winning.