By Mayank Jain:
Remember Aseem Trivedi? The political cartoonist who was sent to judicial custody from 10th September, 2012 – 24th September, 2012. The charges were of sedition on the series of political cartoons that he did and people all over debated the rights and lefts of the issue before sweeping it under the carpet, yet again. Yes, he appeared on Big Boss too.
Arundhati Roy is another victim. She was sought to be charged with sedition in October, 2010 when she appeared on a stage and expressed her opinions towards disintegrating the disputed region of Kashmir from India and giving it independence.
There have been many other such cases, many more victims of the archaic sedition law that celebrates its 154th anniversary this year. The section 124A (1860) deals with sedition in the Indian Penal Code and has been hotly contested by people all over. It is the tumor that is slowly eating away the freedom of speech and right to expression of people and a destructive weapon into the state’s hand that the democracies of today no longer need.
The law had been put in place by the British government in India to keep revolutionaries like Mahatama Gandhi in check (read: jail) and make sure that there arises no voice of dissent against the established form of government. It is unfortunate that we haven’t been able to get rid of this ‘draconian’ law even today and the latest victims of the state’s blatant obsession with patriotism and nationhood are the 60 Kashmiri Students who dared to support Pakistan in the match against India and ended up getting suspended and booked under section 124A, 153 (causing unrest among groups) as well as 427 (mischief) under the Indian Penal Code.
The said students watched the match in the hall of Swami Vivekanand Subharti University (SVSU), cheered for Pakistan and celebrated every time an Indian wicket fell. They also went on to shout pro Pakistan slogans on the campus that irked many and the university took the decision to send them back so as to avoid tensions. While the university’s action to dismiss them and avoid clashes could be justified, but the police used the sedition law to book them, which portrays the dangerous power government has in its hands to suppress any form of alignment with any group. The charges on sedition have been dropped by the UP government just yesterday, though other charges still stand.Â
The sedition law exists from 1860 and even though it is a bit too late to modify or repeal it, but if it happens even now, much is not lost. However, continuing with this archaic law that undermines a person’s right to support his favorite team in a friendly match or make cartoons to express his frustration from the system is not only harmful but diabolical.
Vishal Manve, who works with DNA spoke to us on the issue and expressed similar concerns about the law, “Sedition law is draconian because of the grey area that lies between the actual law and its implementation. In India, it is randomly used against anyone and for anything which is a direct violation of section 19A. There should be either amendments, or total repeal of the law which is obsolete. The student may have done the act which can be called stupid by some but considering the way Kashmir issue is turning out, they should have restrained with their opinion. Punishing them in this manner has resulted in India losing its face.”
Democracy relies on the ability to speak and act as a person wishes, and without encroaching upon the others’ rights and necessities, but terming anything sedition just because it doesn’t support our country categorically is at best, naivety.
This is not the first case of sedition law being implied and enacted in a different way than it is supposed to be and it won’t be the last one. Do we want to be pulled up by the police for cheering for New Zealand players in an IPL match? Or worse, who should we support in English Premier League so as to not be charged with sedition? Only Blackburn Rovers?
Patriotism is about protecting your country, but it cannot bury rational support to others in the name of nationalism, can it?