Over 500 women collectives, and human and LGBTQ rights organisations from across India have come together to organise ‘If We Do Not Rise’ online campaign on September 5, the day when journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead by right wingers at her residence in Bangalore three years back.
“India’s democracy and Constitution are facing an unprecedented crisis. The last few years have seen a collapse of democratic institutions in the country. The independence of the judiciary and other institutions of oversight has come under a serious cloud and the functioning of the Parliament has been gravely compromised. The government has institutionalised corruption and lack of transparency in election funding with the system of Electoral Bonds, which allows corporations to surreptitiously divert black money to the coffers of the ruling party. The dilution of the Right to Information Act has hit at the fundamental democratic right of citizens to question the government and hold it accountable,” a joint statement issued by the coordinators said.
“The last few years, have witnessed a frontal attack on the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution – the right to dress, speak, write, eat and choose one’s religion– which has impacted women and the LGBTQIA communities disproportionately. Voices of dissent have been systematically silenced and labelled anti-national. Activists, journalists and academics engaged in various movements are languishing in jails, without access to the legal provision of bail; and women like Gauri Lankesh have had to pay with her life for exercising the fundamental right to speech and expression. The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (2019) has been amended and used to implicate dissenters and arrest them. There has been a steady deterioration in the rule of law with alarming cases of police excesses, including custodial deaths,” it further said.
“Regressive laws like the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act have adversely impacted the rights of Transgender persons. There are very few provisions in place to protect the safety and rights of the entire LGBTQIA community. There have also been several moves to dilute SC/ST/OBC reservations and the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act,” the statement added.
“The COVID19 crisis has further exposed the apathetic and anti-poor nature of the current regime. The unplanned and harsh lockdown imposed to combat the pandemic resulted in economic devastation. It meant instant cessation of all income earning opportunities for millions leading to unemployment, hunger and destitution among the working poor, especially migrant workers. Heart-rending reports and images of migrants walking for hundreds of kilometers, often carrying children came to characterize the lock down,” it further added.
The statement said that “the India’s economy was already struggling to recover from the demonetisation disaster and the country was facing the worst unemployment crisis in 45 years. The lockdown has pushed the crisis to catastrophic proportions. The pandemic has also exposed the dismal state of the country’s public health system. Gender based violence and caste-based atrocities against Dalits have risen sharply during the lockdown.”
As part of the campaign, thousands of individuals and groups will come together across the country to raise their voices on the issues mentioned both on-line and on the ground. They are expected to make videos of 2-5 minutes which will be shared on various social media platforms. They will also do Facebook lives, create posters, animation, memes, songs and performances and circulate on the social media.
“There will be a release of a State charter of various demands that will be submitted to the Chief Minister and local-level protests and presentation of charter and demands, including local concerns, to authorities,” the statement said adding that while observing physical distancing norms, people will also gather in small groups with placards and slogans.
The Facebook lives and Twitter trends will carry a hash tag #IfWeDoNotRise.