Indian Express carried excerpts of Kanhaiya’s speech and asked “Is this sedition?”I decided to attempt an answer.
Dealing with the offence of sedition the Supreme Court has declared that words, deeds or writings involving an intention or tendency to create disorder or disturbance of law and order or incitement to violence can attract the offence. It is not necessary that there be incitement of violence nor is it necessary that there be a violent act accompanying it. In fact Stephen in the Commentaries on the Laws of England has clearly stated that sedition need not involve “the use of force or violence”.
Subversive speech, thus, can attract the charge of sedition. Subversion weakens a political regime and carries the tendency to public disorder. Preservation of “public order” is a legitimate restraint on freedom of speech.
In course of his speech Kanhaiya says, “Who is Kasab? Who is Afzal Guru? Who are these people who have reached a point they were willing to blow themselves up?”
Before dealing with the effect of such probing questions it would be appropriate to first know who actually these individuals are.
Kasab was a Pakistani militant a member of the Laskar e Taiba. Lashkar is a banned terrorist organisation (not in India alone but Russia, Australia, European Union, UK and USA) with the stated objective of establishing Islamic State in South Asia. Kasab took part in the 2008 Mumbai Terrorist Attack (LeT was earlier also involved in the 2001 Parliament Attack). The Mumbai attack was a series of coordinated shooting and bombing attacks which continued over four days killing 164 people and wounding several hundred more. Kasab was shown videos of targets in training camps in Pakistan which videos were made by David Headley. And he is reported to have said “come kill and die after a killing spree. By this one will become famous and will make God proud.” Lakhwi however claims Kasab is alive!
Afzal Guru was convicted in the 2001 Terrorist Attack on Parliament. He had been charged, apart from murder, conspiracy, harbouring terrorists and facilitating terrorist attacks withe the offence of waging war against India. Guru was convicted by the Sessions Court in 2002. The conviction was upheld by the High Court in 2003. His appeal before the Supreme Court was dismissed in 2005 and the Review Petition was dismissed in 2007. Any other Indian would have been hanged sooner but Guru was executed only in 2013. Afzal Guru was thus a person who the legal system (in which Kanhaiya professed faith on being arrested himself) proved was a notorious terrorist inimical to India.
The facts mentioned are in public domain. Kanhaiya therefore cannot obviously be seeking an answer. He is actually making a statement.
In his speech Kanhaiya is criticizing the existing system and mentioning many of its maladies. And in the course of that exposition he uses Kasab and Guru as illustrations. Questions are asked only rhetorically. They are in fact cited as instances of abuse in the system. This is why he is liable to be charged for sedition.
Kanhaiya a free and autonomous being is entitled to his opinion. From the opinion however an inference about a person can be derived. And on examination of the same one finds Kanhaiya feels the case of Kasab is no different from Guru. He feels no outrage or anger at a Pakistani wantonly killing Indians and disturbing public order in the country. In clubbing Guru with Kasab he believes there is identity in the interests of both (Kasab and Guru) and an Indian (Guru) therefore can act much in the same manner as Pakistani (Kasab)and be motivated against the country with the same hostile intent. The destruction and violence in the country, the systematic and continuous assault on its existence and its being kept under siege as a deliberate strategy of bleeding it with a thousand cuts affects him less than fate of those who brought it about. Can his loyalty be said to be to India? I do not use the expression as “Mother India” but instead of India as incorporated in the Constitution, “Sovereign” as its Preamble states with the right and power to govern without outside interference and a “union of states” as mentioned in Article 1 with Kashmir an integral part of it. India as constitutionally ordained is a shared perception given to ourselves by “we the people” and but Kanhaiya has affinity with those hostile to that view. Is this not subversive?
It is subversion which sedition targets. Kanhaiya’s statement is actually subversive. India should celebrate the fact that Kasab and Guru “reached a point they were willing to blow themselves up.” Had they instead succeeded India would have “blown up”! By pleading their case and regretting the outcome he can well be described as seditious to the Indian cause, be shown as being willing to be party to weakening of the country and the overthrow of the system and is using his freedom as a licence to foment public disorder. How can he plead the cause of Indians if he is alien to India as constitutionally sanctioned?
The treachery of any false Indian (in the Constitutional sense) should never prevail because of the weakness of a true one.