Dissent has been considered the paradigm of democracy, and through dissent, nations were built but this has been threatened in India in the form of circulars from the Bihar and Uttarakhand police. That goes on to generate serious caution for civil society and opposition.
Those dissenting in Bihar will not get government jobs or contracts.
Bihar Police in the same order (in Hindi) from February 1st goes on to mention, “any person who gets involved in road blockades, protest demonstrations or other activities that affected law and order and against whom the police issues a charge-sheet for involvement in a criminal activity, must be awarded an adverse entry in character verification certificate”.( Roughly translated by Press Trust Of India)
To add to this there has been further comments by the DGP of Bihar Police stating such incidents will be noted and further stated that “All this will be duly mentioned in the Police Verification Report. Such people should be ready for grave consequences.”
On the other hand, Uttarakhand Police goes one step further on an “anti-national” hunt which can be better perceived as nothing less than a witch hunt. In the same exercise, they plan to “monitor” and take note of “anti-social” and “anti-national” content on social media and make a record of the same. According to the Uttarakhand DGP Ashok Kumar “Earlier, only FIR was checked, but now a person’s behaviour on social media will also be checked.”
This has led to the ever-important question which has been seen in the public domain and social media that has been the question of responsible use of the same. Social media has been a matter of contention in the same regards and there have been instances of escalation of tension for the same but at the current juncture when the prevalence of the Rule of Law has been questioned and the Centre’s role as a neutral upholder of the same.
From continuous internet shutdowns in Kashmir to months of agitation of Farmers erupted in the aggravation on Republic Day. There has been a continuous question regarding the Centre’s approach towards dealing with dissent. This has further been fully proved by recent actions taken by the state when it comes to curtailing dissenting voices, from journalists to comedians booked for the exercise of free speech which this nation secures as a fundamental right and dissent has been the part of the same.
One needs to understand that this democracy has seen dark days but vox populi has always out-run the same. But at the current juncture when it comes to regulation of posts or contents there are algorithms prevalent, which deals with the same to make sure such content is not in the public domain. But there has been a question regarding the proper use of the same as seen in the case of Facebook as recent as the last Lok Sabha election. (Goyal & Frenkel, New York Times)
Thus at the current juncture monitoring social media for hate speech and inciting violence might seem a positive action for a lot of them but in its reality, the question of application of the same in the proper sense is still ambiguous and connecting the same to a passport verification of which in practice deals with checks of complaints of Cognizable Offences is nothing but dubious and would rather keep a position for legally curtailing dissent.
By Arunava Bannerjee.