The Seditions and the Reprehensible Nature of Politics in India
By: Shabeer Ahmad Khan
The precocious nine year old traumatized Oskar Shell in Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’(2005)after finding a key in his deceased ( a 9/11 casualty) father’s closet in an envelope labeled ‘Black’ and embarks on a traumatized quest to find about the secretive nature of it by interviewing everyone whose surname is Black. His traumatized interviewing of the Blacks to reclaim the loss is reminiscent of the BJP’s frustration (after its loss in the recent Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan elections), trauma, and obsession to file every one under sedition who endorses a dissenting opinion.
In a recent move, a charge sheet was filed against three JNU students including the former JNU Student Union leader Kanhaiya Kumar, and seven others from Jammu and Kashmir- Aquib Hussain, Mujeeb Hussain, Muneeb Hussain, Umar Gul, RayeeaRasool, Bashir Bhat and Basharat - by Delhi police. This move came after three years of the political events on the campus (where it was said that the students allegedly raised anti-India slogans) before the imminent general elections. It is obvious that the BJP is playing its political card ahead of the elections while the students wing of RSS ABVP’s not doing well in certain elections may also be a cause to discourage the opposition. However, to label this radicalized political agenda as sedition does not qualify. The essential ingredient of the Section 124(sedition) of the IPC is that there should be a call for violence or inclination to encourage disorder which is remotely applicable in the case in discussion. It is sheer misuse of section 124, which has been an instrument of colonial India to curb public opinion.
This imitative approach of the mainstream is aptly discussed by Frantz Fanon in “Pitfalls of National Consciousness”, an important chapter in the popular book ‘The Wretched of the Earth’(1963) where he says that the failure of a “national consciousness” and truly national harmony are the deficiencies of what he calls the “national bourgeoisie” that take over power at the end of colonial rule: such is the narrow vision of this class that it equates “nationalization” with “transfer into native hands of those unfair advantages which are a legacy of the colonial period”. In other words, the national bourgeoisie appropriate for itself the privileges formerly held by the colonial power.
In an another recent move an eminent Assamese scholar Mr Hiren Gohain, peasant rights activist Akhil Gogoi and journalist Manjit Mahatanta, after their speeches at a rally referring to demand of independence and sovereignty if the ‘Citizenship Bill’ was pushed through the parliament, were also filed under the same sections of the IPC, sedition 124, entering into a political conspiracy to wage war against the government of India (section 121) and concealing a design to facilitate such war. This bill of the Indian parliament seeks to deliberate citizenship rights to Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists who were persecuted migrants of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to India before 2014 (The exclusion of Muslims in the bill is again contentious and shows a politically interested nature of the decision).
However, no violence and disaffection was promoted ahead of the opposition of the bill, the labelling of sedition charges is inapplicable which is also against the exemption of the sedition clause of the IPC. It is again the unrelenting obsession of misuse of the law.
Last year, in yet another instance, a case was filed against three Aligarh Muslim University students from Jammu and Kashmir under the sedition law for allegedly trying to hold a funeral prayer for the slain AMU scholar-turned-militant Dr Manan Wani. It was also said that the students allegedly raised pro-freedom slogans. Whereas in reality some of the Kashmiri students at the campus had gathered out of the concern, when there came a news of commotion in the valley after the militants’ killing.
No funeral prayers were observed; however, if there were any such attempts made by the students that still would not qualify for sedition: funeral prayers are observed for the peace of the dead and not for any kind violence, may it be a militant. The charges were laid down on the backdrop of a political pressure. The students from Kashmir (called in the varsity as Kashmir Alligs) were scared and were ready to leave the varsity en masse and return back home. Although, the allegations were politically motivated mere sensationalism of the Indian national media and an attempt and attack to defame the AMU (which the AMU had already witnessed in the year on the “Jinnah portrait row” these were efforts to put a clamp down on student politics at the campuses, which is conspicuously reflected by the sedition charges that are being labelled in India incase of your failure of the endorsement toward the actions of the state. The question is whether students and the government of a country can ever be warring?
But war circumscribes our ability to recognize the lives of others which is true about the insensitive and belligerent behaviour of the government here. If the students at JNU raised questions about the capital punishment or the escalating turmoil in Kashmir valley, could it be a threat to India? The answer certainly is “no”; for the students are the future of any nation. However, short-sighted, insensitive, intolerant, racist, communal governments can be. Freedom of speech is not a threat to a country but the lack of it certain is.
The writer is a PhD research scholar at Aligarh Muslim University.