Manoj Jha, RJD: ‘Protest will continue until Bill is withdrawn’

Print edition : April 23, 2021

Manoj Jha Photo: PTI

Interview with Prof. Manoj Jha, RJD spokesman.

THE Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the main opposition party in Bihar, is hell bent on getting a public apology by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for what happened in the Bihar Assembly on March 23 and for his rude remarks against opposition legislators. The RJD plans to force the Chief Minister to withdraw the Bihar Armed Police Bill, 2021. The RJD has decided to boycott the proceedings of the Assembly, carry on an agitation on the streets in Bihar and seek judicial remedy.

Prof Manoj Jha, senior RJD leader, said: “With the Janata Dal (United) strength having been reduced to 40-odd seats, Nitish Kumar has lost the capacity to think independently and rationally. He must apologise publicly for what happened inside the Assembly and withdraw the Bill.”

Excerpts from an interview he gave Frontline:

What was the need for the Bihar Armed Police Bill now? Why did Nitish Kumar bring in the Bill?

With his party’s strength reduced to 40-odd seats in the Assembly, Nitish Kumar has lost the capacity of independent and rational thinking. When you lose rationality in politics, irrational choices become your course of action. In the process, Constitution and democratic values go for a toss.

Are you saying that the Chief Minister is acting under the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) pressure?

That is what I am saying. He has lost his independent thinking, independent mind, independent posture.

Also read: Bihar: Makings of a police raj

How will the Bill affect political functioning?

This is Nitish Kumar’s version of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UAPA]. Look at how arrests under the UAPA are happening all over India: student activists, human rights activists, professors, farm community leaders, almost anyone who raises his voice against the government. The government in Bihar has such a thin majority that this is how it wants to scare people on the streets and elected legislators inside the Assembly into silence, by bringing in such instruments.

Do you think the BJP is using its numerical strength to bring in instruments such as the police Bill as a tool to pursue its larger game plan of crushing democracy?

I would put it differently. The BJP is using its electoral numbers to put democracy in museums; it is museumisation of democracy.

There have been other instances where the BJP, by virtue of sheer numbers, has undermined democracy. Look at Delhi, for example, where a democratically elected government has been kept at the disposal of a nominated Lieutenant Governor. Since the RJD is at the forefront of opposing the police Bill in Bihar, how should such assaults on democracy be prevented?

Also read: When laws subvert the Constitution

We believe in a two-pronged approach: a continuous political dialogue with the people, educating them on their basic democratic rights, like the right to assemble, protest, dissent are being snatched away from them, and the legal route.

But is the response of the people good? How long do you plan to continue the protest?

We are getting good response from the people, and our agitation will continue until the Bill is taken back and the Chief Minister apologises for his bahviour in public. He must apologise, action must be taken against the guilty police personnel and the Bill must be withdrawn.

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