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The Truth About The Sedition Law

By Parul Verma

16 February, 2016

Anti-Government is not equivalent to being an Anti-National .

In every age there has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the clothes of false nationalism to deceive and overawe the people. One must understand the difference between a Patriot and a Nationalist. A patriot knows when to stand by his functional Government and at the same time question its dysfunctionalities when needed. While a Nationalist, covered under the skin of the false sense of loyalty , will continue to support the governance even if flourish the seeds of inequality among its own countrymen and shall attack all, who dare to question the discrepancies of the government. The article engages with the utter importance of understanding how crucial it is , as a responsible citizen to oppose the hollowness and dysfunctional policies of the ruling government.

▪Prominent freedom fighters were charged under the Sedition Law.

Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code, stipulates the following :-

"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."

British colonial era laws continue to have utter importance in the legal systems of India. The sedition law used by the British colonial government to suppress nationalist dissent in the subcontinent during the 19th and early 20th centuries is being applied today to curtail reasonable criticisms of the government. The Sedition Law imposes restrictions on the fundamental freedom of speech and expression, clearly not within the limit of permissible legislative interference with the fundamental right. And the irony of the law is , United Kingdom abolished its own sedition law in 2010.

The Father of the Nation, the Mahatma Gandhi was trialled under Sedition section of the colonial law in 1922. It was then he uttered, “Section 124-A under which I am happily charged is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. What in law is a deliberate crime appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen. To preach disaffection towards the existing system of Government has become almost a passion with me.”

Infact the 19th and early 20th centuries the sedition offense was used primarily to suppress the resistance via the writings and speeches of prominent Indian Patriots and freedom fighters. The implementation of the law was observed during the trial of newspaper editor Jogendra Chandra Bose in 1891. Indian Patriots like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi were not spared either. Infact In 1919, Britain passed the Rowlatt Acts, which allowed the Raj to intern Indians suspected of sedition without trial. In protest, Gandhi declared a “satyagraha,” against the Colonial Governance , beginning a non-violent movement of civil disobedience. The Indian National Congress adopted Gandhi’s ideals and in 1920 launched a campaign of non-cooperation against the Raj. “During his first nationwide satyagraha, Gandhi urged the people to boycott British education institutions, law courts, and products (in favour of swadeshi); to resign from government employment; to refuse to pay taxes; and to forsake British titles and honors,” explains the Library of Congress, “India: A Country Study.” Gandhi was arrested under the sedition law. He was given a six-year prison sentence, which he began serving on March 18, 1922.

Was Gandhi a anti-national ? NO.

Infact, he along with other freedom fighters who opposed the Colonial Governance by questioning and resisting it, were the true Patriots. Imagine, if our ancestors did not fight against the dysfunctional and coercive governance of the British Raj , in the fear of being called as an ‘anti-national’, would we be breathing the air of independence ? NO.

One needs to define the essence of being an anti-governance and anti-national. Not too long ago, Dalit scholar Rohith and his friends protested against the issue of discrimination. It resulted in them being suspended by the coercive power of the BJP. The student wing of the BJP, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) led this witch-hunt with at least two central ministers giving them letters of support. It ended with Rohith’s death but the so-called ABVP nationalists continued to discredit the Dalit student's movement. When the Padma awards were returned over Akhlaq's lynching in Dadri, the writers were accused of being 'anti -nationals' . When the students in JNU protested against the policies of the government, they were termed as 'traitors and anti-nationals’. The usage of the term anti-nationals by the Modi Bhakts for anyone and everyone to dares to give voice against the hollowness of the Central Government , has become a crass phenomenon. From Aseem Trivedi, Arundhati Roy to Praveen Tagodia ,all has been labelled as anti-nationals for expression and reflection towards the governance of the ruling government. The categorisation by the right wing as ‘anti-national’ to each , for wanting to utilise the freedom of speech to question the government elected by a common man, is a psychological technique to shame and eliminate dissent and plurality.

▪The right wing ideologies of the ruling government is Abusing the Sedition Law.

Any keen observer would not resist but laugh at the underdeveloped frontal lobe functionalities of the self proclaimed Hindu right wing Bhakts of the country , when their vain attempt to profit from politicising the on-campus protest in JNU backfired. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliate, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), committed Oracle blunder by escalating a small campus issue in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) into a national dispute. One should not turn his head from the fact that the president of the JNU Students' Union (JNUSU), Kanhaiya Kumar, was not the organiser of the ‘ anti- national objectionable programme ‘on the campus on February 9. Infact, the circulation of the speech on the internet confirms the loyalty of Kanhaiya Kumar towards the constitution of the country. Meanwhile, as the television channels, dedicated itself in portraying JNU students as Leftist, antinational, Pakistani agents etc, a video has surfaced that is being circulated over social media that allegedly shows ABVP students shouting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans. Aam Admi Party ( APP) senior leaders, Ashutosh and Dilip Pandey met Special Commissioner (Law & Order) Deepak Mishra and demanded action against those seen in the video clips. “We are disturbed by the fact that police arrested the JNUSU president without any evidence against him. The two video clips which we are submitting to you cast a very serious doubt on the role of ABVP in the entire incident and it must be thoroughly probed. Those seen raising anti-India slogans in these clips must be immediately identified and arrested,” the AAP letter to the police read as reported by the IndianExpress. What needs to be questioned is the ease with which the Delhi Police arrested the JNU student under the charge sheet of the Sedition Law, without confirming the allegations against him.

Infact, lets revisit the History again. RSS, that considers itself to be a Bhakt paints a different historical picture. The patriotism of the RSS (the mentors of the ABVP) during the tumultuous period of Quit India Revolt was not of a " Bhakt" to begin with. Three months after the Quit India agitation was launched by the Mahatma, a British police commissioner reported (D. O. No 174-S dated Buldana, the 28th Nov. 1942): “The Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh has however no plan to either fight Government or even to oppose it. …In regards to the objects of the organization, the information so far received by me leads me to the conclusion that the Sangh does not want to come into conflict with Government.",as reported by Sukumaran C V.

The categorisation by the right wing as ‘anti-national’ to each , for wanting to utilise the freedom of speech to question the government elected by a common man, is a psychological technique to shame and eliminate dissent and plurality. Understand the importance of questioning the impunity of the power. A true Patriot stands by its government with pride, but dares to question The same government, once it starts to abuse its centralized Power.

Parul Verma ( activist, student and a writer). Her work has been published in counter punch, counter currents, Intifada Palestine, last word, Kashmir Monitor, Global Research etc. For feedback or queries, contact her at [email protected]



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