[dropcap]T[/dropcap] he name “The Leaflet” takes us back to the days when we did all our writing on typewriters, went to the press, did our layouts and leafleted for gate-corner meetings, made announcements for demonstrations. Leafleting was a way of mobilising public opinion.
All that has changed.
Today, mobilisation happens on WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook. These modern-day digital ways have been found to be effective when large gatherings are to be organised, as they did during the Arab Spring. Closer home, the #NotInMyName movement was kick-started by Saba Dewan to protest the cow vigilantism in the country. But our street corner meetings are lost to us, our door-to-door campaigning is also lost to us.
We — Angshukanta Chakraborty, Anand Grover and Indira Jaising — chose the name together. The Leaflet — we thought — would perfectly encapsulate our aims and objectives for this exciting new venture, a platform for legal and political opinion in these troubled times. Our purpose is to not only curate, contour and cultivate fresh, progressive voices in the country but also to mobilise public opinion in the service of the Constitution and all the beautiful values of liberty, equality and fraternity that it espouses. The name “The Leaflet” takes us back to the days when there was personal involvement with every act of preparation for the mobilisation.
On one occasion, a young lawyer deputed to fetch Jaising for an event at a law school, made a stirring observation. When Jaising said to her that she was very lucky to have so many tools with which to do her research, the young woman said: “But ma’am, we are a very lonely lot.” Upon being asked why this was so, she said the only friends they had were on Facebook, no social or personal contact existed in their groups. While Angshukanta wasn’t quite born then, in the student days, we (Jaising and Grover) had launched so many movements through leafleting, organising canteen works in college for fair wages, protesting increase in fees, all through gate-corner meetings where we assembled, organised film clubs (no Netflix then), laughed and joyfully protested.
The name The Leaflet is a throwback to those days.
But why now? There is a need for a return to the days of agitprop, the need to organise students and lawyers and journalists and activists. It is absolutely central to organise public opinion about the rot in the legal system, the threat to independence of the judiciary which needs concerted action. As do issues such as freedom of the press, which must now be bolstered and fortified not only through new platforms for not just dialogue but also intervention via strong constitutional challenges.
Now more than ever before a new generation of lawyers needs to defend the rights of working people, defend those who have been arrested vindictively for having organised the Bhima Koregaon agitation, defend the rights of those who were murdered in Tuticorin by the State while protesting against the Sterlite copper-smelting factory, part of the rapacious mining conglomerate with deep pockets and enormous political influence — Vedanta. We need to defend upright doctors like Kafeel Khan, who was arrested and jailed for, ironically enough, saving lives of children in Gorakhpur’s BRD hospital, while a dastardly attempt on his own brother’s life was made on the evening of June 10.
We expect The Leaflet to stand by them and provide the support it takes to carry on. In times when to defend the undefended is seen as being “anti-national”, we will do what it takes to provide support — narrative, legal, and otherwise — to not only the protesters so brutally assaulted by the State, but also the lawyers who defend the rights of such marginalised peoples.
As Angshukanta says, “Today we eat law, breathe law, live law like never before.” Anand Grover says, “We are among a handful of countries in the world in which what we eat is dictated by the law, who we have sex with is dictated by the law and what we say is dictated by the law.”
Every aspect of our lives is governed by law; therefore, the need for a readable, accessible online magazine about law and legal affairs and its close connection with the politics of our times.
At our pre-launch meeting on May 18, over a hundred lawyers committed to upholding the rule of law, met to celebrate the coming of The Leaflet. Justice Jasti Chelameswar was felicitated on that occasion being his last working day in the Supreme Court of India, but surely not his last working day. He received a standing ovation. This gave us the confidence that there are enough right-minded people in the legal profession, ready and willing to defend the rule of law and the Constitution.
In a situation where the official bar associations of the country have more or less collapsed and lost their ability to resist the rot in the judiciary, we need an Alternative Bar, a meeting place for young lawyers who will say to Mr Fali Narimam when he says “Lump it” that “We will not”.
The judiciary cannot collapse unless the bar collapses before. Lawyers and now as we know, even former judges can be and are conduits for corruption in the judiciary. Our attempt in The Leaflet is to return ethics to the legal profession and the press, to stand by the Constitution of India and defend it with all it takes.
Over a period of time we will deal with issues such as whether the appointment of Yogis as Chief Ministers merits constitutional challenges, what kind of legislation is being passed in the name of a Money Bill, questions on the very legality of demonetisation, and many other unanswered questions.
The Cobrapost sting has disheartened many of us about the credibility of the mainstream press. If the judiciary too falls with the press, there will be no institution left to defend the rights of citizens. The Leaflet is a small attempt to visibilise the deep connections the “pillars of democracy” have with each other, and how one’s fall or steadfastness impacts the same in the other.
This will also in some way remind our readers of the print magazine we published on law and legal affairs several years ago. The Lawyers — the forerunner to The Leaflet — will be kept alive in archives and memory, and through constant engagement with the questions we raised then — on rights of construction workers, pavement dwellers, women, sexual minorities, and many more still on the margins of our highly unequal society.
We hope, dear reader, The Leaflet and you will soon become inseparable.
In hope and solidarity,