A Note of Dissent

JNU case: We've forgotten the lessons of Germany 1933 and India 1975

It is important to appreciate how quickly civilised nations can sink to evil.

On the night of February 27, 1933, four weeks after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor, the Reichstag building housing the German Parliament caught fire. Marinus van der Lubbe, a mentally challenged, unemployed Dutch bricklayer and Communist was arrested and tried for arson and attempting to overthrow the government. Found guilty, he was executed. Claiming it to be a Communist plot, Hitler got the 86-year old president, Paul von Hindenburg, to sign the Reichstag Fire Decree. It suspended habeas corpus (a writ deployed to release a prisoner from unlawful detention), freedom of expression and of the press, the right of free association and public assembly. It also allowed the State to open citizens’ letters and tap their telephones.

Then came the Enabling Act of 1933 which gave Hitler the authority to pass any law without going through the Reichstag. It was, in Hitler’s words, necessary “to carry out the political and moral cleansing of our public life”. Thereafter, anyone who remotely opposed the National Socialist credo was fit for arrest, forced deportation, torture and extermination. As for the Jews, since Hitler and the Nazis believed that they were rat-like sub-humans, they were rounded up, lynched, their properties destroyed, businesses confiscated and they were finally herded to extermination camps like Auschwitz, Dachau, Sobibor and Treblinka.

The horror in Germany happened because it was allowed to by its people. Hitler and the Nazis enjoyed the silent, vocal and often boorish assent of most Germans. In the name of a “strong nation”, citizens overlooked everything.

Emergency nightmare

We too had our dictatorship: the Emergency. Three events put an end to 28 continuous years of democracy. The first was a major railway strike organised by George Fernandes, which the government brutally suppressed. The second was the huge anti-Indira Gandhi rallies organised by Opposition leader Jayaprakash Narayan who called for a non-violent “total revolution”, attended by tens of thousands of people, and the third was a ruling on June 24, 1975, by the Supreme Court’s Justice Krishna Iyer that granted a “conditional stay” on an earlier Allahabad High Court judgement. The high court had found the prime minister guilty of misusing government machinery for her election. It declared her election to Parliament void, and barred her from contesting elections for six years. Hearing her appeal, the Supreme Court allowed Gandhi to continue as the prime minister but barred her from participating in Parliament debates or voting, and referred the matter to a larger bench of the court.

The next day, armed with questionable legal justification provided by Siddhartha Shankar Ray, who was West Bengal chief minister at the time, Indira Gandhi asked President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to declare a state of internal emergency. Which he did.

That night, a deliberate power cut in Delhi prevented newspapers from publishing the next day. The police fanned out to arrest opposition leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Vijayaraje Scindia, LK Advani, Jayaprakash Narayan, Acharya Kripalani, Morarji Desai and hundreds of others, including a student leader called Arun Jaitley. Several thousands were arrested and incarcerated till early 1977 without any legal recourse. Civil rights and liberties were suspended, the media was severely censored, the Maintenance of Internal Security Act or MISA was further strengthened to allow indefinite preventive detention, search and seizure without warrants, and wiretapping to destroy political dissent. The Supreme Court, under Indira Gandhi’s nominee Chief Justice AN Ray, upheld the power of the State to detain anyone without the need to give reasons, effectively depriving citizens from the right of habeas corpus.

Led by Sanjay Gandhi, goons and cops took over. This period saw thousands of forced sterilisations, slum clearances under the gun, indiscriminate arrests and police beatings. The Youth Congress ran amok, presiding over a jungle raj where Sanjay Gandhi’s real and imaginary wishes were every Congress thug’s command. It was a 21-month long nightmare. Bereft of public protest – since all those who could dissent were in jail – the Emergency was either silently accepted or loudly cheered.

Universities as areas of dissent

Now consider the Jawaharlal Nehru University case. I don’t know of any university of repute that hasn’t thrived on academics amidst a milieu of counter-culture and dissent. Not Calcutta University. Not Delhi. Not the Sorbonne. Not Berlin or Heidelberg. Not Oxford or Cambridge. Not London. Not Berkeley. Not Kent State. Not Chicago. Not even Harvard. I have studied and taught in some of these places and know what I am writing.

Assuming that pro-Afzal Guru and anti-India statements were made, do these constitute sedition? Does it warrant the police to sweep into a university and arrest a dozen students or more? Does it permit goons, some masquerading as lawyers and led by a BJP MLA, to beat up students, teachers and journalists attending an open court? Is this act of student protest so profoundly detrimental to the unity and polity of India for the Home Minister to claim that it was masterminded by Hafiz Saeed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (a claim made on the basis of a tweet from a fake Twitter handle)?

Here, as in other cases spreading across India, the agents of the State can only be one of two. They are either perennially incompetent, or they, and their ilk, represent something far more sinister – the beginning of a party-sponsored goon rule, where any dissent is violently crushed by self-styled vigilantes of nationalism.

Why do I write this? Because it is important to appreciate how quickly civilised nations can sink to evil. Because I treasure India’s civil liberties and the constitutional right to free speech, because I feel that these are being increasingly trampled upon by politically-organised rabble. I write this because I believe that such acts are either being silently witnessed and assented to, or lustily cheered, because I fear that once we cross the Rubicon, we will be in a frightening territory of a State-sponsored “might is right”, “jiski laathi uski bhains” [he who owns the stick owns the buffalo] type of society.

Are we, as a society, just and fair? Do we believe in the saying, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” or do we humiliate and crucify dissenters? It is time to ask these questions… before time runs out. In the meanwhile, please feel free to call me a seditious anti-nationalist.

Omkar Goswami is an an economist and chairman of CERG Advisory Private Limited.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Also those looking to upgrade their TV to a smart one can get Rs. 20,000 off by exchanging it for the Sony Bravia 108cm Android TV.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and the super compact JBL Go Portable Speaker at 56% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.