Sunday 10 April 2016

Freedom of Speech Restricted Only to Article 19 of the Constitution

“Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel” – said Samuel Johnson

Isn’t the path of courage to speak out, if one believes our nation’s policies to be in error, and the path of cowardice to remain silent? Should one sink with the Titanic, if one may have a strategy for keeping it afloat? Is it possible that those who have been demonized for uttering the so called seditious words are in some way assisting our country, whether for right or wrong, giving us an overlooked perspective? There is always a thin line between freedom of speech and patriotism.
The JNU fracas has convulsed the country since 9th February, 2016 with political leaders, academicians and media personalities vocalizing their opinions vociferously. It was all geared up when the JNU SA organized a meeting at the campus where the students raised the slogans of anti-national hues pertaining to supposed ‘judicial murder’ of Afzal Guru, the perpetrator of the 2003 attack on the parliament and the contentious Kashmir issue. It was met with backlash from the opposers ABVP. A few slogans here and there led to arrests, charges of sedition and further protests.

Lord Krishna, adorably known as Kanhaiya, has racked his devotees in Bhagabat Gita on taking the ‘avataar’ to invigorate the forces of ‘dharma’during clash between ‘dharma’ and ‘adharma’. Communists may not have faith in Lord Krishna since their ideology states that believe in divine is opium of the masses. But the Left parties are considering JNU’s Kanhaiyya, SA President as their saviour incarnate at a time when the credibility of their ideologies- namely Marxism and class war, have suffered indelible decline, and catapulting him in the super hero status, all to win the war against Narendra Modi. But soon the simple gathering was moulded into a national political game!

The February 9 speech of Kanhaiyya was master performance for which he was arrested on the charges of sedition. The political leaders came up hoisting the flag of nationalism that they probably forgot in making inhuman comments on the suicide of the Dalit student of Hyderabad University, Rohit Vermula. This was bolstered by statement of an iron- jawed one from home- minister Mr. Rajnath Singh- “If anyone raises anti-India slogans and tries to raise questions on the nation’s unity and integrity, they will not be spared.” Now, is the hanging of Afzal Guru anti-national, when he was hanged for an indisputably anti-national? But how sure are we that he was involved in that conspiracy? However, how flawless is the judgement of the Supreme Court that defended, that Guru should be hanged because the conscience of the nation demands it? Is it antinational to question the verdict of the highest court of the land?

We would never be in favour of any move to idolise a convicted terrorist, much less approved of those who are given anti- India diatribes. But to arrest a university student who’s involvement in the controversial sloganeering far from proven, on the charge is an outrageous over reaction. Hence, the slapping of the sedition rap on Kanhaiyya is extremely disproportionate to the alleged “crime” and the state becomes paranoid and irrational. Our constitution provides freedom of speech and expression within reasonable limits and slogan at a student meet, albeit ill-judged, volatile, can hardly be deemed to have breached those limits. Besides all this, it is up to the University authorities to carry out disciplinary action, against students violating rules and regulations of the institution. Why then did the police swoop into the campus and the take president of the student union into custody?

Do a couple of slogans really amount to seditious behaviour? It is spawned endless debates and arguments and hypotheticals and hyperboles on freedom of expression, separatists, liberal hypocrisy and nationalistic pride. The permission to conduct a police raid inside the university campus, search, and hound students, arrest and thrash and bypassing the internal mechanism of university is completely preposterous. India’s airwaves today are choking with patriotic fervour and patriots are busy in denouncing anti-nationals, baying for their blood and putting someone behind the bar, to thunderous applause from fellow patriots.

Enakshi Pal
( PG MEDIA 2015-2017)

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