Several Opposition Parties in India have strongly criticized the Narendra Modi led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government for targeting its opponents and critics, saying that Modi has “unleashed a relentless campaign of vendetta against its political opponents and critics through the mischievous misuse of investigative agencies”
“Prominent leaders of a number of political parties have been deliberately targeted and subjected to harassment in an unprecedented manner. We condemn this and resolve to continue and intensify our collective fight against the anti-people, anti-farmers, and anti-Constitution policies of the Modi government that is destroying the social fabric of our society,” a statement issued by the Opposition parties said.
The Modi regime’s attack against members of the Indian parliament has led to rising concerns over a shrinking political state and the backsliding towards an authoritarian state.
After questioning Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Congress Party for three full days, each day for as many as 10 hours, India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) has now targeted Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the Opposition party.
In a show of strength, the Congress staged street protests and its leaders courted arrest across the country last week as the party chief Sonia Gandhi was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case related to the National Herald newspaper.
Gandhi, who was recovering from Covid, was summoned again on July 25. The 75-year-old replied to dozens of questions last week, media reports stated. According to Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, the ED said it had nothing to ask of her either Thursday or Friday. After which Sonia Gandhi said she was willing to appear on July 25th, he said. The Congress party slammed the agency’s action against its top leadership and termed it “political vendetta”.
“All Congress MPs and CWC members have courted mass arrest outside our party headquarters in a show of collective solidarity with Sonia Gandhi, a target of ‘Vishguru’s’ political vendetta,” said Congress general secretary Ramesh.
Leaders of 13 political parties, including the DMK, Shiv Sena, RJD and the Left, met at Parliament House and issued a statement accusing the government of unleashing a “relentless campaign of vendetta against its political opponents and critics through the mischievous misuse of investigative agencies”.
According to reports, an alarmingly high volume of cases register by the ED in recent years. The total number of cases registered by the ED under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) has jumped almost three times in the first three years of the second term of the BJP-led government (2019-20 to 2021-22) as compared to the corresponding period in its first term (2014-15 to 2016-17), as per the data shared by India’s Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary in a written reply to Lok Sabha on July 25, 2022.
The ED registered 14,143 cases under FEMA and PMLA between 2019-20 and 2021-22, as compared to 4,913 cases in 2014-15 to 2016-17 — an increase of over 187 per cent. The break-up shows that 11,420 FEMA cases were taken up for investigation in the first three years of the second term, up from 4,424 cases in the first three years of the first term — an increase of over 158 per cent. The cases registered under PMLA increased by more than five times in this period — from 489 between 2014-15 to 2016-17 to 2,723 in 2019-20 to 2021-22 — a jump of over 456 per cent. According to the year-wise data, 2021-22 saw the highest number of money laundering and foreign exchange violation cases in the last eight years of the Modi government. In 2020-21, the ED filed 5,313 cases under FEMA (the previous high was 3,627 cases in 2017-18); and 1,180 under PMLA (up from 981 in 2020-21).
Another tool used by the Indian Government in recent years to contain dissent has been the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). As per the submission by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) before the Parliament on July 20, 2022, there is a huge gap between the number of persons who are under-trial and those who have been either convicted or acquitted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in the country during 2016-2020.
Out of 6,482 persons under trial, only 80 persons have been convicted and 116 have been acquitted. The increasing number of persons undertrial is concerning and is a poor reflection on the Indian judicial system.It suggests that the law is merely enabling their continued incarceration. “Thus, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (UAPA) is allegedly being misused to incarcerate political dissidents by a vindictive regime,” critics pointed out.