03 August, 2021

There Is No Democracy Without Dissent

Draconian laws are used to harass dissidents, violating their right to due process

There Is No Democracy Without Dissent

On February 2, the Maharashtra police arrested activist and academic Anand Teltumbde at the Mumbai airport in spite of the Supreme Court’s January 14 order granting him four weeks to apply for anticipatory bail. The police allege Teltumbde incited caste-based violence on January 1 at Bhima-Koregaon and neighboring villages in the state. Describing the arrest as “humiliating”, Teltumbde said, “The State does not have anything against me in particular. It is against the whole idea of dissent. It is me today. It can be anyone else tomorrow.”

Hours after the arrest, a lower court in Pune ordered his imm­ediate release, calling the arrest “illegal” and in contempt of court. The police action against Teltumbde was only the latest move in a sustained effort to use India’s draconian laws to harass and punish defenders of democratic rights and opp­onents of the government. People exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly have been slapped with statutes such as the sedition law, the...

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