ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Incarceration of Conscience

Arrests represent the current dispensation’s tendency to use coercion over deliberation.


The increasing intolerance of the ruling dispensation at the centre towards legitimate dissent is a reflection on the state of democracy. This has been borne out by the arrest of journalists, activists, lawyers, poets, and students, trolling of public intellectuals, and hounding of public-spirited media organisations. The government, using its ever-present spectre of policing, is wielding imprisonment, suspicion, and ­direct violence as its strategy to deal with dissent and protest. The government has become more intolerant, particularly of the farmers’ protests, because these represent a solidarity of conscientious activists across caste, class, and gender backgrounds. This solidarity is rooted in a democratic assertion against the incarceration of these activists, as well as challenges the state and party nexus aimed at dismantling the farmers’ protests.

The government, through its actions, is inverting the essence of a free and democratic society, where freedom from fear is now a fear of freedom. The coercive and stifling capacities of the state are armed with laws that sanction imprisonment without trial for sustained periods of time and difficulty to access bail, which is aggravated by a law enforcement machinery whose objectivity is under scrutiny, while displaying an inherited systemic bias towards the most marginalised sections of society. This, of course, feeds into long-standing apprehensions with the criminal justice system, especially when it comes to smothering dissent and targeting of marginalised communities. Most states have some form of public safety and security legislation, which ensures arbitrary detention, assuring inflated powers for the police. As some high-profile cases are scrutinised in media circles, most of those currently in prison are victims of a regime of secrecy, prejudice and guile, meant to reassert existing social and economic hierarchies.

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Updated On : 28th Feb, 2021
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