Not one to be cowed down after his name was mentioned by the Delhi Police, indirectly, of being somehow an alleged influence into instigating the North East Delhi communal riots, veteran Parliamentarian Sitaram Yechury in an exclusive interview spoke to SabrangIndia’s Teesta Setalvad, called out the repeated targeting of activists who spoke up against the CAA-NPR-NRC. He said he will not be cowed down by such targeting, and will continue fulfilling his duty to speak up against things he sees as anti-Constitutional, just like he, and other activists did when the national Emergency was declared in 1975.
On the current scenario, which is widely being seen as an ‘undeclared Emergency’ Yechury also drew parallels and said “investigative agencies are being used against dissenters who are speaking up”. The only way to combat this, according to the verteran leaders, was to build up “people’s resistance”, which is how the Emergency was fought in the 1970s. However, he did point out a crucial difference that ,“At that time, there was still some semblance of the Parliament and institutions,” but now, “the manner in which institutions are being destroyed is disturbing.” He said that to undermine Constitutional order, and replace it with a “rabidly intolerant and fascist Hindutva Rastra” was the real agenda now.
A case in point is the naming of academics, activists, students, opposition leaders, including Yechury in the “official investigations” on grounds that seem to warrant a double check on the investigation itself. “What they are charging me with is, based on unsigned statements, in garbled language. They said I made a speech in Jafrabad to instigate the Muslims into going for actions that caused the riots. I continue to defend the Constitution. It is not just my right to speak, it is my duty,” said the veteran leader.
He minced no words and said that the Delhi Police were “acting under directions of the Home Ministry” and a “political agenda” was being pursued. The latest statements that name the eminent citizens are “unsigned statements” in identical language, including typos and other errors, as reported. “These are educated young women. I can’t believe they write in such language,” said Yechury, as the statements are being attributed to the scholars currently under arrest, “they base this on unsigned statements and there is doubt on the authenticity. This is their methodology. All these people are named. Then this will be taken to court,” he said adding it is yet to be seen if the court accepts these “statements”.
This is what happened in the Bhima Koregaon case too, added Yechiury, and what is happening to other activists such as Harsh Mander, who has been named in the Delhi riots investigations, and questioned earlier. “The message is that if you do not accept the regime’s agenda, you are an enemy of the state. But if they think we can be cowed down, they are mistaken. It is not only my right, but my duty to protect the Indian Constitution,” reiterated Yechury.
While the current session of the Parliament has been truncated, Yechury said the matter has been raised already, especially by the Left leaders. Even in Parliament, the ruling dispensation may “further their agenda,” he warned, adding that “Notices have been given in both the Houses to discuss this issue. Whether the Chairman or Speaker will accept it, remains to be seen.” He said what is being seen in India today is a form of “Phantom Democracy,” as seen in other totalitarian regimes across the world, “It is just the pretence of a democracy.”
When SabrangIndia editor Teesta Setalvad, pointed out that stringent laws such as the UAPA are being increasingly misused to target young Muslim women and men, Yechiry said that, the “The Delhi Police are acting under directions of the Home Ministry. It is a political agenda that is being pursued.” He said attempts were to “destroy the democracy, Parliament, Judiciary, Election commission. Using law and order machinery as a political arm… Undermining the Constitution.”
“The ideologues of the RSS have identified Muslims, Christians and communists as three internal enemies. They see August 5, 2019, when article 370 was abrogated, and August 5, 2020, when the foundation stone was laid for the Ram Temple are the real Independence days for India according to the Hindutva regime. The message is very clear… If you are opposing me, you will face the music. If you support me, you will be protected,” said Yechury.
Yechury added that we are living in surreal times asking, “What is the ground reality and what is propaganda?” He gave examples of how the “unfortunate suicide by a promising Bllywood actor is being used to make political gains in Bihar. The Prime Minister is feeding peacocks. Privatisation is unbridled loot of national resources.What is the meaning of handing over profitable airports to your cronies?” He pointed out that “Indian agriculture is being handed over to private players. Agriculture and the public sector are being destroyed for private profit. And Adivasis and forest dwellers who nurture our forests are being uprooted. All this is happening when the Covid pandemic is raging!” He said the government was “paralysing people and their protests. People are being left to fend for themselves as the government is furthering their own agenda.”
All that has to be resisted, he said, like the 1975 Emergency was resisted by the people. “My generation fought against the Emergency,” he said that there was a need to continue resisting and fighting against the current scenario. Though even he agreed that politically a “a lot more needs to be done. The Left is together, we had protest actions, but this has to be much larger and wider,” he added the effort must now be on bringing the Opposition together, even though the current Parliament session is truncated, and due to the Covid-19 protocol many members are likely to give it a miss. He added that around “11 ‘anti-people’ ordinances may be converted to Laws”, in this session. “We have already given notices in both Houses to suspend business and raise the issue.”
“What is the way forward,” asked Setalvad. “Only to strengthen popular resistance. At all levels. Use all available forums. Build people’s protest,” said Yechury. He warned that, the targeting was “much larger” now, “and the Prime Minister in his speech even said the agenda was to ‘to liberate India from bondage of 1200 years,’ a clear reference and a deliberate attempt to talk as far back as the Delhi sultanate”, and now the targeting he said was “of every single patriot” and “those who believe in Constitutional values”. He added that institutions that have to upload law are themselves compromised with no checks and balances. A “move towards more totalitarian regimes.”
On being asked if he was worried about his name now being attacked by Delhi police, Yechury was candid, “I am not worried. If I was worried I would not have been where I am now.” However, he warned, “If you do not resist, much worse is yet to come. If you resist you can put brakes, hopefully reverse it…”
The full interview may be viewed here: