Show affection to me, or else.

Whether Arundhati Roy is right or wrong on the issue of Kashmir, it is a mockery of democracy that her freedom of speech is not being respected. Many are baying for her blood, and many want her behind bars for sedition. But how right is it to punish someone, just because you don't agree with him or her?

When matters can't be settled using the laws of mathematics, it is natural for people to have different viewpoints. It is their fundamental human right to say what they think, under no compulsion or fear. The beauty of democracy is that it allows things to be settled by dialogue. Anything which prevents dialogue is undemocratic.

As a corollary, if it can be proved that Roy intended to cause violence, or that she uses violence herself, there is no doubt that she should be tried for the crime of inciting violence and disrupting the democratic process (which is, as stated above, one of dialogue). But that is is something completely different, and that is not what she is being accused of.

The Telegraph, from Calcutta, writes the following on this basic problem ailing India:
The right to dissent is one of the prized rights of a democracy. But India has for a time been sliding ludicrously from its chosen path, that of a democratic republic, and confusing dissent with incitement to violence and divisiveness.
Yes, it is very important to distinguish between dissent and violence. The paper goes on to argue that people have the right to have their own interpretation of the word 'patriotism'. Very true, at least here in India if not in China or Burma today.

This whole incident is reminiscent of Mahatma Gandhi's 1922 trial in Ahmedabad, where he was charged with sedition, under section 124-A IPC, by the British Government. Readers will note that this is eerily the same section number even today. Another evidence to show that not much changed in 1947, save the skin-colour of those sitting in New Delhi.

Gandhi pleaded guilty in 1922, in line with his concept of non-violent non-cooperation with evil, and made the entire British Empire look small in front of his strong ethical stance:
Section 124-A under which I am happily charged is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. Affection connot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or thing, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection so long as he does not contemplate, promote or incite to violence.
Gandhi mocked at the sedition law which required him to show affection to the government, irrespective of what his heart feels about it.

The law, as found in Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code today, states:
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.

Explanation 1.- The expression" disaffection" includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.

Explanation 2.- Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.

Explanation 3.- Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.
It is a pity that the above law hasn't been updated in spirit after Gandhi's critique, and that the concept of coercing people to unconditionally shower affection on the Government continues.

If it is a crime to "excite disaffection" towards the Government, aren't all opposition parties in a democracy guilty of sedition? Isn't H.D. Kumaraswamy guilty of trying to "excite disaffection" towards B.S. Yeddyurappa's government? Isn't everyone in the media establishment guilty of sedition whenever they point out the wrongdoings of the government and "excite disaffection"?

The sedition law is clearly a colonial hangover, designed to force public submission to an absolute and 'mathematically supreme' monarch. It simply doesn't apply to a democracy in which the people are supposed to be the real rulers. It is the fundamental right of man to speak his mind, even if it "excites disaffection" towards the Government, as long as it is done in a non-violent way.

It is only man who can rectify mistakes which creep into insentient machines such as governments. Man is above machine. It's time India scraps the sedition law and covers any violence under other applicable laws.

5 comments:

Subrata Nandi said...

Government of India and political leaders know only the military solution.In 1946 to 1951 when communists raised the voice against Nizam of Hyderabad headed by P.Sundaraiya,M.Basabapunaiya , B.T.Ranadive , P. Ramamurti for the toiling people Government preferred to send military to repress and suppress the movement. When Tamil Nadu headed by Anna Durai raised voice against Hindi imposition where Rajendra Prasad's (who was also Hinid speaking from Bihar)casting vote made Hindi as national language ,Tamil Nadu even demanded a separate country, Government sent military to suppress the people . Therefore ,not people but only military is only to decide the India's fate and this is India's perspective.

jayateerth said...

This clearly shows all our rulers of this country are more dangerous than Hitler.

shanks said...

It's a sad commentary of the attitude of the people of this country, that we are reading these type of articles openly. My friend, there is a fundamental difference between 'OPINION' and 'INSTIGATING'. If some one disagrees with the opinion being asked on an event or on a subject it is ok. But here, there is NO opinion being sought by Govt., on Kashmir being part of India. So wiping up some passion and justifying it on 'Freedom of Expression' is unjustified.

Lets take a situation where someone or a group of people come near your house and starts shouting in choicest of abusive language, would you keep quite and justify them.

All of us owe our allegiance to the Constitution of our country and any language spoken to subvert that is sedition.

Rakesh Shettty said...

Well Kiran,
I do agree that many laws are outdated and colonial.But in case of Arundati Roy what govt is doing is very much right she should be sent behind bar only.People who know her past drama's and hypocracy will surely think in this way only I belive.

Pinka said...

@Rakesh,
Citing an excerpt from the blog,

"As a corollary, if it can be proved that Roy intended to cause violence, or that she uses violence herself, there is no doubt that she should be tried for the crime of inciting violence and disrupting the democratic process (which is, as stated above, one of dialogue)"

It is clear that the argument in the blog is not whether Roy should be tried or not. The approach that is being taken (section 124-A) is what is being debated here.

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