“Elections should be about making the people a part of the development journey. That is when India will move ahead.”
— Narendra Modi
As quoted by our own Prime Minister, elections serve as the backbone to the making of a democracy, granting citizens the pure power to choose their representatives for that seat in the Lok Sabha on their own free will. Structured, free, and unbiased elections resemble a win for the nation even before the results are announced, and they are one of the fundamental aspects of what makes a nation a “democracy”. Just as a coin has two sides, the ugly side of elections can be stated simply by this quote by Paul Begala.
“One of the problems we saw in the last presidential election in our party is that our nominee, while winning the election, which we ought never to forget, often lost sight of the difference between strategy and tactics.”
Are we, the Indian citizens, losing sight too? Is our right to free and fair elections being exploited by the power-hungry MPs who will do anything to calm the dissent if they get any? The exact same is true in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan, and Telangana, where the brunt of the fiery elections due in the near future is being borne by the journalists and the RTI (Right to Information) activists trying their best to shed light on the starless nights caused by the MPs in power.
The survival of the fittest, or here, the survival of the party winning the maximum votes and setting the tone of the General Assembly Elections scheduled next year, is all set for Mizoram, the smallest of the poll-bound states, on November 7, Chhattisgarh on November 7 and November 17, Rajasthan on November 23, and Madhya Pradesh and Telangana will go to polls on November 17 and 30, respectively. However, reality slaps hard in the present when an uncomfortable political consensus across the political divide can be seen from the 50-page investigation conducted by the Free Speech Collective on the status of free speech in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan, and Telangana, especially for journalists and the media.
Over the last five years, while there were 24 incidents of free speech violations in Madhya Pradesh, the killings of the two journalists (Chakresh Jain and Sunil Tiwari), all for “lawfare” against the media, have shaken trust in the electoral process and free speech.
The same is being observed in the states of Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, and Rajasthan, where disrobement to the unruly regard of the so-called “censorship” lands journalists in prison, including 40 journalists being detained for 12 hours for alleged unfavorable coverage of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi Government and Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao.
The state of Rajasthan is the worst-hit ever, with the killings of the RTI activists Jagdish Goliya and Rai Singh Gurjar and 72 incidents of free speech violations during the past five years, of which sixty were internet shutdowns, ignoring the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in the Anuradha Bhasin case.
“Lawfare” to Silence Dissent:
The 50-page investigation by the Free Speech Elective, including categories of killing of journalists, deportation, censorship, and arrests of other citizens, helps us understand that these forthcoming polls are of unique significance as they will act as the final assembly elections before the general elections in 2024. It would thus be a major challenge for the opposition bloc to bring down the coalition INDIA (Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance) block, and thus, such measures are being resorted to to avoid any obstacles on the way.
However, while being clubbed under the term “lawfare” to silence dissent, the question is how long the citizens will turn a blind eye and just look at the electoral process through a text-book perspective. The MPs in power are not following textbook procedure and thus, it is up to us to hear the screams behind that laughter, to hear the dismissed sighs of those who finally scribbled the ink on the paper, and to rejuvenate the voice which will throw light on the depressed economy, casting all corrupt away.