Illegal tapping of WhatsApp of activists, journalists, Opposition leaders is scandalous
Mon 04 November 2019:
History is a cruel judge. The verdict is dispassionate. Unmoved by theatrics, spin and headline management. Narendra Modi, second term Prime Minister of India, a Hindutva icon in full, wants to go down as the man who reclaimed India and modified her to a hashtag NewIndia.
Modi and his acolyte Amit Shah, Union Home Minister, took a unilateral decision to do away with Article 370, which gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir a special status in the Union of India. Modi and Shah snuffed out even the state of Jammu and Kashmir and reduced it to two Union territories Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Nearly a hundred days down the line the three former chief ministers, including the septuagenarian Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, continue to be in detention along with the rest of the Kashmiris. A lockdown is the order of the day and people have no access to the Internet.
The aftermath of the bold gambit is internationalising the Kashmir issue, an outcome no Indian government has ever wanted.
The balloon of the Far Right Members of Parliament’s trip was totally punctured when Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany took a forthright stand on trip to India this week. Merkel said “the Kashmir situation was unsustainable” and added that the “lockdown was not good”.
This was a self-inflicted foreign policy disaster made worse by the flirtation with the Far Right in Europe.
The latest in a series of whittling down democracy is the illegal surveillance of nearly 1,500 people using an Israeli warfare spyware – Pegasus, which the proprietor claims is only sold to governments.
The Supreme Court has laid down rules for surveillance on Indian citizens, which include permission in writing from the Union Home Secretary, which several agencies authorised for surveillance have to take. This illegal tapping of WhatsApp accounts of activists, journalists, Opposition politicians and judges is scandalous.
An activist like Sudha Bharadwaj, who has now been jailed for nearly two years is an example of the kind of activists targeted by the Modi government. Bharadwaj had given up her United States citizenship to work with the poorest and most dispossessed tribals in India.
I had first written this in my SWAT analysis for Gulf News that Modi had demonetised democracy, but even his rash overnight decision to demonetises 90 per cent of Indian currency in his first term continues to haunt the economy. It was a knee cap blow from which the economy is yet to recover.
Modi is not accountable to the people of India. Till date he has refused to answer who recommended the nutty decision to demonetise. Apart from the body blow to the economy, the ill-advised decision all ensured the departure of two well regarded governors of the Reserve Bank of India – Raghuram Rajan and Urjit Patel. The RBI’s global reputation for autonomy has also vanished as is the belief in official economic data of the Government of India under Modi.
With the lockdown in Kashmir, the snooping scandal and an economy in meltdown despite hectic claims by the government, India seems to be more and more resembling a police state.
The democratic dividend, which gave India growth and managed to pull out millions from poverty, is dwindling as an alarmed world looks at India.
How will history remember Modi? The jury is out.
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