FREED: The three student activists of the Delhi University, who were arrested for protesting against attempts to change the Constitution, have been freed by the Delhi High Court.
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Goa observed Revolution Day on June 18, 2021. For a Saturday following the week when the Delhi High Court again reiterated that protest was a right and not an act of terrorism. For a Saturday following the week when Manoj Caculo, President of the Goa Chamber of Commerce, insisted that opening shops was more important than getting married. For a Saturday following the week when scientists questioned the doubling of the period for the second dose of Covishield. For a Saturday following the week when the Chief Minister Pramod Sawant claimed that the tourism sector would be thrown open when the positivity rate drops below 5%.
AND a few stray thoughts on Goa having celebrated the Revolution Day on Friday, June 18, 2021. The problem is that few if any Goans know the significance of Revolution Day. Revolution Day marks the start of the last and final phase of the Liberation struggle. It was the day on which senior socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia attempted to hoist the Indian national flag at the Lohia Maidan. Dr Lohia, who had been a classmate of Dr Julião Menezes in Germany, where they had studied together, had invited the socialist leader for a holiday to Goa.
Lohia had just been in released from Lahore jail for his participation in the Indian Independence Movement. When people came to know that Dr Lohia was in Goa, many Goan leaders approached him to revive the liberation struggle. Most of the Goan leaders who had the revolted against the Portuguese colonial regime were in jail or had been exiled to Portugal and the other colonies. The liberation movement had come to a halt for lack of leadership. Lohia was shocked to learn that Goans did not have the right to freedom of speech, let alone the freedom to protest against the Portuguese regime.
Though he was on a holiday Lohia was determined to revive and boost the liberation struggle. Lohia spent the day before Revolution day, June 18, in Panaji. He had declared openly that he would break the Portuguese laws and address a public gathering at what is now called the Lohia Maidan in Margao. The Portuguese army and police were on the highest alert.
To escape from the police, Lohia spend the night in a lodge in Margao and came to the venue of the meeting in a horse driven carriage. Lohia stepped out on to the open maidan where he had decided to hoist the Indian national flag and address the gathering. A large number of Goan nationalists had gathered to listen to Lohia. But the police chief would not permit Lohia to speak. Even before Lohia could address the gathering he was arrested and taken into custody. His speech was read out by one of the other freedom fighters.
In the following days there were processions to the police station in Margao demanding the release of Ram Manohar Lohia. The police could not keep Lohia in custody for any length of time as he was then a citizen of British India. It is not widely known that Bombay was gifted to King Charles II of England as a dowry when he got married to Princess Catherina of Portugal. So ironically instead of Goa being merged with Maharashtra, Mumbai was part of Portuguese territory till 1661.
The Portuguese Governor of Goa, Jose Bossa, had Lohia escorted to Londa, which was part of British India. Though Lohia did not return to Goa his act of defiance motivated many Goans to revive the liberation struggle. In the last phase of the liberation struggle, it was a socialist colleague of Lohia who led satyagrahis from Pune to the Goa border in an attempt to enter Goa. Many of them were shot dead at the Goa border. This was what finally persuaded the then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru to agree to send the defence forces to liberate Goa.
Unfortunately, successive governments after liberation have not recognised the major contribution that Ram Manohar Lohia made towards the liberation of the State of Goa. The only symbolic gesture was the naming of the Margao maidan as the Lohia Maidan to commemorate the socialist leader’s act of defiance on June 18, 1946. This year with covid-19 there is hardly likely to be any celebration of Revolution Day.
PROTEST NOT TERROR
AND a few stray thoughts on the Delhi High Court declaring that protest was a right and not an act of terror. What Goa had failed to do, the Delhi High Court has done to mark Revolution Day in Goa. The Delhi HC which released the three student activists, Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Tanha, who were part of the “Pinjra Tod” movement against the proposed amendment to the Constitution.
Protesting without arms is a fundamental right and not a “terrorist activity,” the Delhi HC said, granting bail to the three university students who were jailed under the anti-terror provision in connection with the north east Delhi riots last year. The Division Bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Anup J Bhambhani in separate bail orders were very harsh on the police. In their verdict they observed that they were “constrained to say, that it appears that in its anxiety to supress dissent and in the morbid fear that matters may get out of hand, the State had blurred the line between the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to protest and terrorist activities.”
The bench added that protest against government and parliamentary actions are legitimate. It is not uncommon for protestors to push their limit of permissible law. Even if inflammatory speeches, chaka jams, instigation of women protestors and other actions crossed the lines of peaceful protest, they would not amount to commission of a terrorist act or a conspiracy or an act preparatory to the commission of terrorist act. The Bench reminded the government that the foundation of our nation stood on surer footing than to be shaken by a protest however vicious, organised by a group of college students operating from the confines of a university located in the heart of Delhi.
The government and the police are wrong in concluding that every act of protest is an attempt to over-throw the government. The government cannot engage in terror against protestors to choke dissent. By a happy coincidence the Kerala journalist and cartoonist, Siddique Kappan, who had been detained for his cartoons against Narendra Modi, was also released. The charge of breaching the peace against him which was the basis for his detention was dropped. Kerala District Magistrate Ram Dut Ram, concluded that there was no proof produced by the police. He added that “the charges under section 116 of the criminal code had been dropped and the accused had been discharged.”
MARRIAGE V/S SHOPS
AND a few stray thoughts on Manoj Caculo, the owner of Caculo Mall, insisting that permission to re-open shops was more important than allowing people to get married. Caculo was referring to the relaxation announced in the latest phase of the curfew permitting marriages as long as the number of guests were limited to 50. Manoj Caculo, who is already married, apparently is not concerned about the hundreds of couples waiting to tie the knot. Through the lockdown period of more than a year declared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2020, and the curfews imposed by Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, many couples have been forced to cancel their date with marriage which had already been scheduled. Marriage is a once in a life time event for which a great deal of planning is involved. The marriage date is fixed taking into account the convenience of both families and close friends and relatives.
In Goa it is so difficult to get a venue for holding the wedding and the reception and reservations have to be done a year in advance. Similarly, the master of ceremonies and caterers have to be informed in advance. As it is, compared to other parts of the country, Goan couples marry very late in life.
THE average age of marriage in Goa for girls is on an average 30 years, plus, plus. This perhaps is because of the difficulty in finding suitable boys. The sex ratio in Goa is adverse with more girls than boys in the population. A large proportion of prospective grooms are either on board ship or are working in the Gulf. Which makes fixing a date for a marriage even more difficult as the groom has to return to his job after a limited period of time.
More over girls in Goa like to work for some time before they get married and in many cases they continue to work after marriage. Even the concession of holding marriages with a maximum limit of 50 guests is unfair to couples. In the normal course on their big day the couple would like all family relatives and friends to be present on the occasion. Those who have been excluded are also likely to get upset.
But couples would rather get married with just 50 guests than keep postponing the marriage. If as Manoj Caculo is demanding marriage be postponed till covid-19 ends, the intending couple may be condemned to remain single forever. Between double blessedness and single cursedness the former is far better. Surely it is absurd to compare getting married to opening shops. In any case Manoj Caculo has managed to blackmail the government into letting him re-open his Caculo mall, which was his main objective in objecting to permitting marriages during the curfew period.
EXTENDING VAX GAP
AND a few stray thoughts on scientists questioned the doubling of the time gap between the first and second dose of vaccination in the case of Covishield. It is curious that the doubling of the time gap from six weeks to 12 weeks has been done only in the case of Covishield. There is no such extension of the time gap in respect of Covaxin. I am a victim of the increase in the time gap as when I took my first dose I was given a written instruction to come back before the second dose within six weeks by the Manipal Hospital. When I went for my second dose as scheduled I was told that they have no stocks of Covishield.
I have always suspected that extension of the gap from six to twelve weeks is because of the shortage of Covishield. It is not just Goa but other states in a country and even countries in Europe who have had to delay giving even the first dose because of the Covishield shortage. Apparently, the production of Covishield has been delayed due to the lack of the raw materials, most of which are imported from the United States. The US has delayed the imports because it wants to give preference its own citizens.
There is no scientific logic behind extending the time gap between the two doses. In fact, three leading scientists have pointed out that extension may be dangerous in the light of the emergence of the new Delta plus variants. Even the special cocktail of drugs given to the then US President Donald Trump is resistant to Delta plus.
The real reason behind the period extension is suspected to be the government’s desire to ensure that the majority of the population gets at least one dose of the Covishield vaccine. The stocks meant for the second dose of Covishield seem to have been diverted to ensure that the bulk of the population gets at least one dose. In the view of the scientists one dose is not enough to protect us from the deadly new variants. If the government can make an exception for people who want to travel, it should also extend the same facility of cutting shot the time gap at least in the case of senior citizens.
AND a last stray thoughts on the tourism sector putting pressure on Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to allow tourists to return Goa. The biggest pressure is from the casino lobby which has strong contacts in Delhi and generates a lot of revenue. The Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) has been complaining about the huge losses they are incurring. Goa is probably amongst the few states which has not permitted even the functioning of restaurants with reduced capacity as in Delhi. On the contrary only home deliveries are being permitted and this has forced even the five- star hotel kitchens to offer what they call meals in a box and they are delivered at your doorstep.
The CM who is being blamed for delaying the curfew till May-end has now declared that he will open the tourism sector only after the covid-19 positivity rate in the State drops to less than 5%. Even then only tourists who have got vaccinated or who are carrying a covid-19 negative certificate of less than 72 hours will be permitted to come into the State.