Eminent scholars, authors voice alarm over undermining of democracy in India
Amartya Sen (left) described imprisonment without trial as among the "worst injustices" and hoped the judicial system of India will have the good sense to "eliminate barbarities of this kind". Author Amitav Ghosh (right) is also a signatory to the open letter

Eminent scholars, authors voice 'alarm' over 'undermining' of democracy in India

These signatories to an open letter particularly voiced their concern over how a large number of writers, journalists and social activists, undergo "prolonged incarceration without trial"

Well-known US-based scholars, educationists, authors, and writers, including Amartya Sen and Amitav Ghosh, have written a strongly-worded open letter expressing their alarm and concern over the "undermining" of democracy in India and the manner in which a large number of writers, journalists and social activists, often without a charge-sheet against them, undergo "prolonged incarceration without trial".

All that these individuals have done is to criticise the present government in India, pointed out the statement issued by these signatories, which includes besides Ghosh and Sen, Wendy Brown, Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak, Martha C Nussbaum, among others.

Reverse abridgements to democracy

Expressing their concern over these recent alarming developments, they urged those holding positions of responsibility in the various organs of the Indian state, particularly, the judiciary, to ensure they set things right. They wanted them to reverse these "abridgements" to democracy, and ensure the fundamental rights of Indian citizens are not impacted.

The statement, which includes a separate letter by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, cites the example of Newsclick editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha, 75, the activists charged in the Bhima Koregaon case, the accused in the Delhi riots case among others, who have all been jailed for a long time without trial.

Pointing out that with these kind of incarcerations are "undermining the Constitution" and "structures of democracy are being overturned", they said, “This extended incarceration without trial has been given legislative backing, through an amendment to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act passed by the Indian parliament.” And, went on to slam such legislative backing that justifies incarceration.

This goes to show that a government enjoying legislative majority can imprison a citizen for any period of time despite Constitutional provisions to the contrary, the statement said.

Eliminate such barbarities: Amartya Sen

In a separate letter, Amartya Sen calling imprisonment without trial and without fairness as certainly among the "worst injustices", hoped that the judicial system of India will have the good sense to "eliminate barbarities of this kind".

"Along with others who are rightly outraged by this injustice, I must also strongly express my sense of indignation at this basic violation of human freedom in my own country, whose claim to being a democracy is strongly negated by such practice," he added in his letter.

"Tragic" for democratic India

In the statement jointly issued by all the signatories, they said that India has long been admired internationally as an exemplary democracy, and the largest in the world. "Any abridgement of democracy in India is tragic, not only for the people of India, but for all of humanity," they wrote.

Earlier, they explained that they have written this letter to alert international opinion to these recent alarming developments in that country.

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