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.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.
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.
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.