Silence of politicos in coal agitation is deafening

| JULY 13, 2023, 11:37 PM IST

The ten anti-coal activists charged by the Goa police in the November 2020 midnight protest at Chandor will have to face trial after the Court of District Magistrate First Class, Margao, rejected their discharge plea. The activists have been charged for blocking the road connected to the Chandor railway gate crossing for forming unlawful assembly and restraining traffic movement.

The court observed that there was a prima facie case against the accused and that there was a common objective to protest against the collector’s order. The court noted the argument that the activists did not disburse despite being ordered to do so.

What is interesting, however, is that political leaders who were part and parcel of this agitation and had proudly shown off their party colours (some have joined the BJP subsequently) have conveniently managed to escape the long arm of the law. It is intriguing that separate yardsticks of justice are applied to social activists and political activists.

The ten activists have been charged with Section 149, among other sections. Section 149 implies that if an offence is committed by any member of an unlawful assembly in prosecution of the common object of the assembly, every person, who, at the time of that offence, is a member of the same assembly, is guilty of that offence. In this case, all political leaders who were part of that protest should have been booked in equal measure, given the fact they took part in the protest.

The move to only target activists smacks of vendetta and favouritism to suit political interests, and it is shameful that representatives of people who were taking the high moral ground and projecting themselves as torchbearers of this agitation have gone silent after a section of protestors, who these political leaders had joined hands with, has been caught in a legal tangle.

There are at least three political heavyweights who have crossed sides and joined the ruling dispensation but have not only distanced themselves by remaining aloof and by not negotiating the situation by pressing for the withdrawal of the cases. None of that has happened, and the silence is deafening.

The involvement of political leaders in the anti-coal agitation itself stands exposed and sends out a clear message that their presence at the site was to pass on a purely political message rather than out of any concern for the double-tracking issue. This is further compounded because none of these frontline political leaders had the gumption to make any statements as activists were continuously harassed.

The Chandor agitation should be a learning curve for activists and general protestors who are left to fend for themselves. Some lessons are learnt the hard way, and it’s time activists understand the fallouts of the involvement of political players in such protests, especially when it comes to major public issues. Political leanings will give demonstrations a different flavour and direction depending on how the wind blows. This case should serve as a clear warning to those activists pursuing public issues with political support.

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