THE SKILL INDIA AD – A POSER

The SKILL INDIA advertisement featuring Sachin Tendulkar credits skill at the expense of dignity.

One sees Sachin sit on a chair while the carpenter sits on the floor as they talk and have tea. Why could both not be shown sitting on a chair and talking?

Apart from skill, personhood carries value too. Why hold anyone down whether skilled or not?

A patronising attitude carries an arrogance of superiority  which shifts attention to the symbolic generosity of a patron from the worth of the patronised and re-enforces the very inequality which it pretends to redress.

And if an ascribed status will continue despite achievement, as the advertisement suggests, what merit will inculcation of skill attain?

The advertisement presents status as an entrenched power and fails to present skill as being versatile.

Skill is meant to be assertive and itinerant unlike status which is inhibitive and immobile. The advertisement focusses on the status of the carpenter not his skill.

Skill is dynamic unlike status which is sterile and moribund. Yet it is precisely that which the last shot of the advertisement displays.

Skill has to be achieved but any effort in this direction will be futile unless there is a corresponding correction in attitude.

It is the right attitude (Tendulkar making the other sit on the chair) alone which can facilitate social mobility (symbolised in the carpenter also so sitting) to improve our cultural capital (recognition of the innate worth of a human being aside from skill trumping status) and unravel the social stratification which the advertisement puts on display.

 

Panama Papers and Amitabh Bachchan

A rose by any other name, said Shakespeare, would smell as sweet. And smell attracts bees. A flower may not be called a rose and can yet can have a bee pay attention to it. But what about the Big B? Does this B prefer ships over flowers called roses or anything else and can thus smell something simple b’s cannot?

Big B said that he “does not know the (shipping) companies referred to in the Indian Express” but added that “it is possible my name has been misused.” Now there may be nothing in a name if the subject was a rose but Amitabh Bachchan is different. A rose can be nameless but one will never ask Amitabh Bachchan his name. And there would be more people wanting to be called Amitabh Bachchan whatever be the name they actually carry. Had Amitabh Bachchan been born when Shakespeare was alive the latter might well have said, “there is nothing in a name unless the name is Amitabh Bachchan.” So an Amitabh Bachchan popping up in Panama should cause little excitement. Even an eskimo might like to be called Amitabh Bachchan. Its a very simple explanation. The Panama Papers cannot be used to implicate Big B.

But the problem is that Big B is himself not sure! In the fact that it is “possible” his name has been misused is the possibility that it has not. So the possibility that it can be the Big B competes with the question can it be Big B! And who else but Big B can answer that? An Amitabh Bachchan might not be the Amitabh Bachchan but the Amitabh Bachchan should surely know who’s who!

This reminded me of another Shakespearian play Hamlet. Prince Hamlet contemplating death or suicide said, “to be or not to be is the question”. Interestingly in the soliloquy Shakespeare, speaking through Hamlet, mentioned “sea of troubles.” And the Panama Papers coincidentally are alleged to link Amitabh Bachchan to shipping companies. These indeed are slings and arrows of outrageous fortune!

One can well conclude that a rose by any other name may smell as sweet but sometimes a rose by the same name may not remain as sweet. Even Amitabh Bachchan can be forced to distance himself from Amitabh Bachchan!

 

KANHAIYA – THE INTELLECTUAL

“No intellectual,” said Kanhaiya “is supporting the Modi regime.” I will not engage myself in any defending Modi (as he and his party are well equipped for the purpose) but will concentrate instead on the use of the expression “intellectual” by Kanhaiya.

There are two reasons for this exercise. Firstly there is a snobbishness in the comment which is in fact anti-intellectual and secondly the speech given by him displayed no critical nor a rational spirit of enquiry which is actually associated with intellectualism.

Kanhaiya ignores the difference between an intelligentsia and an intellectual. The former is a social class organised on the basis of shared beliefs and will include communists, socialists, conservatives and of course Kanhaiya’s favourite fascists. Disagreement with an alternative point of view will not make the holder of that point of view any less an intellectual. No one should know this better than Kanhaiya himself but his comment suggests he does not regard anyone not sharing his point of view to be an intellectual. This itself shows disregard of liberal values which he claims to espouse and a totalitarianism which he claims to oppose.

Kanhaiya makes a distinction between “emergency” and “fascism”which shows knowledge neither of history nor ideology.

Emergency, he says, is “goondaism of only one party” while “fascism” entails “using of state machinery for goondaism.” “State machinery” is ordained under the Constitution and Emergency was declared invoking Article 352 of the Constitution and the excesses of the Emergency were those of the government  which claimed to be exercising powers not of a party but of the state machinery as ordained by the Constitution. This was the use of state machinery for goondaism  which is how he describes (again wrongly) “fascism”.

Fascism, used in the sense Kanhaiya understands it, is not descriptive of any ideology but merely a pejorative term of abuse. Common ownership of means of production (envisaged by Communism) may be described by its critics as “goondaism” too and the subjective preference of one ideology over the other shows complete absence of any rational spirit of enquiry which is the hallmark of any intellectual. Is this not acting like a political commissar or an ideological administrator to control thought by using abuse not critical enquiry to deify one’s own and deride the other’s point of view? Is this not the “azadi” to impose one point of view over all others? Will this be “azadi” at all?

Significantly Kanhaiya impliedly concedes intellectuals continue to exist in India and express dissent and disapproval of what they find amiss in the system. How does this compare with Red Guards, the Chinese para-militaries who purged the country of those politically dangerous to Mao? Or the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Government. Or Lenin’s contempt for the intelligentsia apparent in his infamous comment “we have completed no academies.” Or again the preference of “bourgeois science” over the “proletarian science” in the old Soviet Union?

Yes, as Kanhaiya mentions, “it is important to understand history before we reach any kind of conclusion.” It is however obvious from Kanhaiya’s speech the examples he gave and the relevant examples which he ignored that he does not practice what he preaches and also knows little about what he chooses to preach!

KASHMIR & MYTH OF “OCCUPATION”

“After Independence, the accession of Kashmir was done following the India-Pakistan war on the pretext that a plebiscite will be conducted when the situation gets back to normal and since then it (janmat sangrah) has not happened.” Thus spoke one Nivedita Menon who is a JNU Professor. She also said that India, an “imperialist” country is “illegally occupying Kashmir”.

Mark Twain famously remarked, “Get your facts first then you can distort them as you please.” In the instant case distortion is being paraded as facts.

The India Independence Act, 1947 created a sovereign Dominion of India which came into existence on August, 15, 1947. Under the said Act the suzerainty of the British Crown over the Indian States (including Jammu &Kashmir) also lapsed and they consequently regained there sovereignty. In exercise of this sovereignty the Indian States were competent to succeed to either of the two Dominions.

On October 26, 1947 The Maharaja signed Instrument of Accession with India thus recognising the fact that his State was part of the Dominion of IndiaThe Instrument of Accession was in the same form as was executed by Rulers of other states which had acceded to India and the legal consequences cannot be any different. The requirement of a plebiscite was not part of the Instrument of Accession. The acceptance of the Instrument of Accession was unconditional.

This position was reflected in the Constitution of India when it was made in 1949 and declared Jammu & Kashmir as part of the territory of India in Article 1. Article 370 itself states that Article 1 applies to the State.

The Constituent Assembly of Jammu &Kashmir ratified the accession to India in February 1954 and the President of India issued Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order, 1954 which added all Union subjects under the Constitution of India (not the three subjects of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications).

The Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir adopted on November 17, 1957 with effect from January 26, 1957 declares the State of Jammu & Kashmir to be “an integral part of the Union of India”. The choice of January 26th as the date from which the constitution was to take effect is significant as it was on this day that the Declaration of Indian Independence (Purna Swaraj) was proclaimed by the Indian National Congress as opposed to the Dominion status offered by the British Regime and it was chosen as the day when the Constitution of India came into force.

Where then is the “pretext of a plebiscite”? A sovereign Princely State acceded to the Dominion of India which accession  was unconditionally accepted by it and the same was incorporated in the Constitution framed declaring India to be a Republic to be ratified subsequently by the Constituent Assembly of the State and eventually acknowledged in the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir itself. 

The UNCIP resolution talked of a plebiscite but even that mandated the withdrawal of Pakistani troops and tribals which never took place. And Mountbatten’s letter, apart from being a unilateral and ultra-vires act without the approval of the Council of Ministers could not only not alter a completed accession but at best was statement of intent which was fulfilled by subsequent developments.

Admittedly, elections to the Constituent Assembly were held in August-September, 1951 and all 75 seats were won by the National Conference. This itself is popular affirmation of the State’s accession to India.

Significantly the first official act which the Constituent Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir did was to end the princely rule of the Maharaja. His son was elected by the Constituent assembly itself. If what the Maharaja did was unacceptable would the Constituent assembly have elected his son as Sadar-i-Riyasat of Jammu & Kashmir?

Elections were held to the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly after the Constituent assembly was dissolved in 1957 and again in 1962 wherein 65% of the voters cast their ballot. Is this not vindication of the integration of the State into India? In fact in later elections in excess of 75% of the voters cast their votes! Presuming that any assurance of taking “people’s will” into account was given, this “will” has been repeatedly expressed by the people.

Jammu & Kashmir is India’s and will remain so and not because India is an imperialist country forcibly occupying it. Kashmir has not been colonised but has been constitutionally integrated into India. It was not for expanding investment, nor for acquiring material resources nor even to look for man-power that India sought to “occupy” Kashmir. The integration followed a legal process and in the very making of special provisions for it there is an absence of both dominance as also an enforced inequality in the relationship. There has been an engagement not conquest. And force is being used not to extend territory but only to preserve that which is its own.

India’s breakup is the agenda not the so called “occupation”.

A Reply to Afzal Guru’s Defense

Nandita Haksar in her article “Was Afzal Guru a martyr or a militant? JNU students were debating a question that law can’t” wrote against the hanging of Afzal Guru and justified the meeting at JNU protesting against the same.   It was tweeted by Ms Sagarika Ghose.

Ms Haksar commented: “In India we do not have a jury system. So people will have to make their own judgements. Many Indian citizens have adjudged Afzal Guru a terrorist, while their fellow citizens in Kashmir honour him as a martyr. The meeting on February 9 at JNU, which was organised by both Kashmiris and other Indian students, was an important bridge between these two understandings. Such bridges can be built most effectively by the youth. Ultimately, our borders have to be defended not against our enemies but against disaffection and alienation within our country.”(emphasis mine)

I do not agree with Ms Haksar’s reasoning.

Firstly, while India does not have a Jury System it has Bench Trial which is as much a legal system as the former.

Secondly, notwithstanding the absence of Jury System judgments are rendered by Courts  and “Indians do not have to make their own judgments”.

Thirdly, Indians citizens did not adjudge Afzal Guru a terrorist the legal system did.

Fourthly, the meeting could build no bridge because it shut out the contrary point of view by taking a firm position that Guru’s execution was “judicial murder” and that too surreptitiously under the guise of “poetry reading“.

Fifthly, it is because the country has to be guarded against disaffection and alienation that dogmatic denunciation of the system and that too in a covert manner must be deprecated.

Strangely, Ms Haksar in an earlier part of her article had mentioned, “As it happens, there is so far no evidence to show that Kumar ever shouted pro-Afzal Guru or pro-Maqbool Bhatt slogans at the February 9 event at JNU, which was organised to protest the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.” (emphasis mine) One protests when one feels wronged. Whether slogans are shouted or not the organisation of the protest suggested an identity with the point of view with the more vocal of the protesters!

Guru, Haksar says, became a martyr because he was “hanged secretly by the Indian governmentbut as hanging follows a completed adjudication how can the hanging be “judicial murder?

And while Kanhaiya did mention Afzal Guru in the speech (reproduced in Indian Express) prior to his arrest, on his release he said Rohith not Afzal Guru is his icon! Even if we ignore Kumar’s fitfulness towards serious issues, if Kanhaiya (whom Haksar describes as a “national treasure“) has forsaken Afzal Guru, is Haksar’s espousing of Guru’s cause and that too riding on Kumar’s shoulders not utterly incongruous?

It is interesting what Nandita Haksar calls “incontrovertible facts” about the Afzal Guru case. She says, “According to Afzal Guru, it was someone in the intelligence agencies who asked him to escort Mohammad to Delhi and help him find a rented room and a car.”  (emphasis mine) The incontrovertible fact is Afzal Guru’s version which incidentally never mentioned who and in which intelligence agency told him to escort  Mohammad.

Ms Haksar goes on to say, “In the light of the controversies over Ishrat Jahan, it is not entirely unthinkable that Afzal Guru, a surrendered militant, was being used by the intelligence agencies. In the West, there have been many cases in which intel agencies used former militants and even allowed them to commit acts of terror. In this case, the intelligence agencies may have been following some intel and could not prevent the attack.” Surmises and hunches thus become “incontrovertible facts!”

As far as denial of a lawyer in the Trial Court is concerned what is important to note is that he was not given death sentence by the Trial Court (where the denial of lawyer is alleged) but by the High Court (where he was duly represented) which was upheld by the Supreme Court (where he was duly represented too).

Haksar concedes that Afzal Guru “was involved in conspiracy to attack Parliament” but says “he should not have got the death penalty.” because Azhar, Baba and Ahmed absconded ignoring that in cases of conspiracy the liability is joint and the act of others is imputed to the conspirators and because Azhar, Baba and Ahmed deserved death penalty Guru could not be treated differently. The accused who was convicted for 10 years was not convicted under Section 121 (as was Guru) but under Section 123 (for which the maximum punishment is 10 years).

The Supreme Court judgment in Guru’s case runs into about 200 pages and has 339 paragraphs but only one line from the entire judgment is reproduced which says, “The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.” This said Nandita Haksar angered the Kashmiri people. I do not know how all the Kashmiri people converged on this one line in the judgment and do not know the empirical basis for Haksar’s conviction that this line angered them. But Ms Haksar had earlier said, “The people in Kashmir started calling Afzal Guru a martyr only after he was hanged secretly by the Indian government without giving his family an opportunity to meet him a final time.” (emphasis mine) How then could the “Kashmiri people” react to the judgment which was many years earlier?? In any event the line reproduced was not the only reason given by the Supreme Court to justify dismissal of the appeal. The Court found that the conclusion reached by the High Court both with regard to “the applicability of Section 121 IPC (Waging, Attempting or Abetting War) and punishment is correct” and detailed reasons were given for the same. The judgment was not rendered by “random men” whom Haksar referred to in Chesterton’s quote and to whom she had objection but experts, specialists in the field of law.

Ms Haksar says, “The law and the media have judged Afzal Guru as a terrorist. In defiance of this judgement, the people of Kashmir have called him a martyr. Who is in the wrong then? If sentiment overrules the law, law would require continuous speculation and would vary with personal whims. And what is the basis to primacy of any one section’s whim (in this case the Kashmiri people imagined by Ms Haksar) and will such an exercise not affect the principles of stability, fidelity and rationality which alone guarantee fairness in law?

We are not concerned with what kind of person Guru was but what Guru did. Ms Haksar does not set out the “historical injustices” which she alleges qua Guru and the random references to different thinkers is actually so, random. And they do not fit with the rest of the content.

It is good to build bridges, as Ms Haksar says, but it is not correct to create divides because those who create divides will never be serious about building bridges. When one is more serious about divides than bridges, law will always be a hinderance. And the only way to justify such extra-legal behaviour is to say, as Ms Nadita Haksar has said, that what one does is what “law cant”!

Bounty on Kanhaiya? Neither ADARSH & definitely SHARMAnak!

It is heartening to read that Adarsh Sharma has been arrested. His declaring a reward of Rs 11 lakhs to anyone killing Kanhaiya Kumar is abhorrent.

There can be no Final Solution in a democracy. It is for the same reason Pappu Yadav’s comment declaring reward for whosoever kills those responsible for  Rohith’s suicide is equally condemnable warranting similar action.

It is because law is supreme that Kanhaiya is sought to be prosecuted. And Kanhaiya can escape punishment by showing he is not in violation of law. The whole exercise re-enforces the rule of law and allows for a structured discourse which is indispensable for an ordered existence notwithstanding  conflict of ideas.

Abuse in language like violence in action symbolises want of conviction in one’s beliefs. And a belief which is held without conviction is just a passing fantasy, a self-indulgence for personal pleasure which has no creed or doctrine and is merely passing sentiment.

If we give credence to sentiment over belief mere offense NOT harm would be the basis of action and law would  cease being founded on norms but would captive to the dominant ideology of the day.

This is dangerous for democracy and if it is allowed to happen by supporters of a political party merely because that party is in power they will be defenceless when that party loses power because the criterion for action would be no principle but the dominant credo of the day. This is a very menacing situation because the stability and fidelity which gives credibility and worth to any legal system would be lost. 

Conflict of points of view makes for a robust society and the purpose with which freedom is granted to speech is NOT to obstinately hold onto one’s opinion but to correct it if in a principled clash it is found wanting. There is no hostility in such conflict ONLY engagement. It is only in this way that freedom of speech will NOT give way to “polarisation”.

I have serious disagreement with a few things which Kanhaiya has been associated with and the exchange with those supporting him has been sharp but there is no bounty at stake and the thought of violence to support my point of view has never crossed my mind.

I will object to the allegation of “judicial killings”, to the association with Kashmiri separatists and with the espousing of anti-India sentiment but I am assured in my belief that the established system will both address and correct what I believe are aberrant ideas because I will put them to a successful test according to settled norms. Even if I fail the established system would have triumphed.  No individual is bigger than the system.

For the same reason assault even by the lawyers was unacceptable – far from showing strength it displayed a weakness and embarrassed a person like me because the mode of protest discredited my point of view. The way in which one protests is an indication of character.

India today is engaged. This is wonderful. It shows it is different from Pakistan, China, North Korea and other countries. It also provides the assurance that every Indian should feel secure in it to make any thought of moving away from it unjustified. And it shows it rejects violence as the prop for any point of view. Physical attack and extermination show extreme scale of prejudice which is the reason we condemn Kashmiri Pandits being made to leave Kashmir. How then can the same method be adopted in a protest against what is believed to be an anti-national act? There is an inherent contradiction in the approach which exposes its utter untenability.

It is because we will not tolerate sedition we also NEVER tolerate any Adarsh Sharmas either.  And  if we do it will not be Adarsh and will definitely be Sharmanak!

Indira Jaising & Satya Meva Jayate

Justice Pratibha Rani is not the first judge in legal history to extract lyrics of a song in a judgment.

Bob Dylan is the favourite of American Supreme Court judges.

Chief Justice Roberts lifted the lyrics from “Like a Rolling Stone” from the Highway 61 Revisited album when he said “when you got nothing you got nothing to lose” and Justice Scalia quoted Dylan’s the “times they are a-changing” in a 2010 decision.

Ms Indira Jaising is, however, offended that Justice Rani referred to a patriotic song from the movie Upkar – “Mere Desh Ki Dharti Sona Ugle Ugle Heere Moti”. According to her “there is no such offence as anti-national act in any of the statute books in India”.

If instead of looking at Satya Meva Jayate Ms Indira Jaising’s had cared to see the Indian Penal Code (the “statute book in India” defining offences) she would have noticed Chapter VI. Chapter VI sets out  “OFFENCES AGAINST THE STATE”.  These offences disturb security of state and public order and are an attack on its very existence.

“Act” is a noun. “Anti-national” is an adjective. Adjectives are describing words which name attributes of a noun.  “Anti national act” means “an act opposed to national interests.” Are offences against State not acts which have attributes opposed to national interests? Unless you choose to look away both from law and language or if you are Ms Indira Jaising they are not!

Ms Jaising does not stop there. She proceeds to ask judges “what have you done to guarantee us peace?” Judges come into the picture after the act. But when they do indeed intervene, as Justice Pratibha Rani did, lawyers like Indira Jaising say there is nothing called an anti-national act!  How then can peace ever be guaranteed? It is, however, difficult to fathom what she is saying because just a paragraph later Jaising says “We have succeeded in defending freedom zealous in  courts”! I wonder how courts can succeed when judges or the system fail. It is obvious the “judiciary” is doing its “job” but according to Ms Jaising it is not!

Ms Indira Jaising surpasses herself when she refers to the Constitution to understand what “anti-national” is. She cites Article 352 – the proclamation of emergency – to suggest that integrity of a nation can be imperilled only by “external aggression”. But pray where is the Proclamation? Does she mean to say merely because emergency cannot be imposed, an act which satisfies the ingredients of a penal offence cannot be punished? If she has her way the Indian Penal Code will have efficacy only in an Emergency. And in her scheme of things Emergency, which according to the Constitution is a transitional measure, would have permanence!

Ms Jaising refers next to ADM Jabalpur. I cannot fathom its relevance. The judgment dealt with a Presidential Order under Article 359 and also concerned the question whether Article 21 is the sole repository of personal liberty issues which have no bearing on Kanhaiya.  And in the context of the said judgment Jaising says “majoritarian (sic) is an illusion”! But the judgment, as also Kanhaiya,  had nothing to do with majoritarianism.

And after saying all this Ms Jaising asks, “Was Kanhaiya national or anti-national?” But she herself had said there is no offence called anti-national act! If she is sure of the latter why the question? And as she did ask the question there has to be cause for the doubt. Or is it that in her scheme of things there is no difference between national and anti-national. All that the bail order required was that Kanhaiya will not participate actively or passively in any activity which may anti-national. According to Ms Jaising this is “onerous, oppressive and unconstitutional”! Where will We The People (whose cause Ms Jaising espouses) go when anti-national activity (which by its nature is inimical to their interest) is according to her not unconstitutional??

Kanhaiya is accused of an offence which carries life imprisonment. His is one of the fastest bail orders in a case of such gravity and that too in a writ petition which is unprecedented not only because of the form in which his case was presented but the speed with which it was decided facilitated not the least because of the order of the Supreme Court itself.

The worth of a national motto, Ms Jaising, lies not in its being seen but in imbibing of its virtues. Satya Meva Jayate has to be present in the heart even if not visible to the eye. There may be some whose action will be askew despite looking straight at it. And there may be others who will do right without needing to stare at it. As Jaising herself said, Yato Dharma Tato Jaya!

Mr Chidambaram’s “Polarisation”: Blame-Game & Half-Truths

The country, said Mr Chidambaram, is “most polarised” comparing it to the time of partition of the country.

The comment was seemingly uttered with a sense of dismay at what was perceived as a deteriorating situation in the country.

Lose comments deny dignity to serious concern. Mr Chidambaram’s comment is a case in point.

Polarisation is understood as extreme divergence in opinions with distance between the extreme points of view so large as to deny any possibility of convergence. One cannot, however, talk about “polarisation” without addressing the issue of freedom of speech.

A misuse of the freedom implicit in mischievousness, distortion or obscurantism closes door to dialogue frustrating the purpose of communication and contributing only to noise and not public discourse.

Then again, not every polarisation of views is bad. In dealing with the subject of polarisation, to make the discussion meaningful, one must specify the issues on which there is extreme disagreement and further consider whether disagreement on those issues can justify apprehension of a larger discord as can threaten cohesion in society.And in dealing with the latter both discord and justification need to be considered. An unjustified discord will create polarisation only to create disorder and law will have to intervene to clam down on it.

Mr Chidambaram addressed neither the issue of abuse of freedom of speech nor specify what issues he had in mind while commenting on polarisation and did not also dwell on the question whether disagreement on those issues is justified as to label the matter disagreed with dangerous.

The comment was only an appeal to emotion and is mere prejudice parading as fact.

The immediate context for the comment was the JNU controversy. JNU became controversial because of comments about “judicial killing” of proven terrorists and emphatic demands of “self-determination” of Kashmiris. The former means courts in India murder and latter questions the integration of Kashmir into India.hero even for students

Strangely Mr Chidambaram mentioned partition of the country not independence which accompanied it and framing of the Constitution which followed establishing rule of law in the country with courts as its guardian and Kashmir as part of its territory.

It were those wanting partition who demanded Kashmir and rejected secular foundation for the new state they created. Mr Chidambaram’s comment shows his affinity with this group rather than those who fought for and established an independent India.

If an Indian objects to secession and to the undermining of a system entrenched constitutionally it is the point of view that the Indian opposes which is dangerous. As wide a disagreement as possible with this view is imperative for the integrity of the country. And using this as an instance of “polarisation” is mischievous.

Similarly if “beef” moves from being food to political weapon consumed not to satiate physiological need but make a political point the intent clearly being to spite another not satisfy oneself vociferous opposition is not only important but necessary for such hate will  feed itself till it consumes the country. Why no comment on celebratory beef binging? Is polarisation bad only if it entails a disagreement with your point of view?

Who made HCU debate Dalit issue? Afzal was a hero even for students of HCU and judicial killing flavour of the debate. Is this a discipline issue or Dalit issue?

And while the Asura tribe, constituting a minuscule part of the population may celebrate Mahishahsura, The Times of India reported, “Today, few Asurs, especially the younger generation, know who Mahishasura was and what he means to their community and the activists hope to change that. Soon after the gathering in Purulia, the tribals will congregate at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi on October 26 to raise their voice against the “centuries-old systematic repression of their culture and religion”. The students of JNU are more aggrieved than the tribals whose cause they claim to espouse to create a fractious environment where none exists. Who then is moving to the polar extreme and in this deliberate movement is there not the wilful  intent to create disturbance and will this intent not be impervious to resolution as a dispute has been raised for the sake of raising it without there being a reason for the same? Is this, again, not an issue of mischievous use of speech and can a legitimate objection to it be called a sign of polarisation?

Mr Chidambaram said, “University is a place where I have a right to be wrong!” If you claim such a right how do you justify rights or protest wrongs and use the medium of interaction to find common ground necessary for an ordered existence. And with such an attitude you, not those who oppose you, are responsible for the polarisation you claim to be so worried about.

The polarisation arising out of such abuse of free speech is not bad. The discord which follows exposes not what is wrong in the societal apparatus but who the miscreants in society are and the regulatory apparatus is then meant to intervene in such situations to discipline such reprobate behaviour. This is a sign of a functional not dysfunctional system. The disagreement on some issues is imperative for preservation of a polity and where there is justification for disagreement the disagreement cannot be cited as being pathological.

There is a contrary point of view to your world view Mr Chidambaram.That point of view is now equally vocal. Yes there is disagreement. But that is only half-truth. It is the unwillingness to see the reason for the same which is now causing the polarisation. Introspection will be better than playing the blame-game.

 

Sedition explained

There has ben much uninformed comment on the law of sedition, as applied in India, and the judgment of the Supreme Court in Kedarnath v State of Bihar (AIR 1962 SC 955).

It has been alleged by Lawrence Liang in Plan B for Free speech (Indian Express, February 16, 2016) that “mere speech no matter how subversive it is does not amount to sedition” (emphasis mine). Another lawyer Colin Gonsalves said (Tribune, February 12, 2016) that an offence will be sedition “only if something said against the State is coupled with a violent act to overthrow it” (emphasis mine). Yet another lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, said that the offence of sedition could be established “only if there is incitement of violence or public order”. And Kapil Sibal said there should be “intent to overthrow the government.”

The purported exposition of law of each of the aforementioned persons is incorrect.

It would be appropriate to first refer to the facts of Kedarnath. Kedarnath in one of the appeals (Criminal Appeal 169/57) had given a “statement” mentioning “dogs of CID” and “Congress gundas” and talking about their “liquidation” said “we believe in the revolution which will come” and “those who loot the country would be reduced to ashes and on their ashes will be established the government of the poor and the downtrodden people of India.” Kedarnath was charged under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which punishes sedition.

If Lawrence Lang was right that “mere speech no matter how subversive is not sedition” Kedarnath should have been acquitted. The Supreme Court, however, upheld his conviction. The Supreme Court said that it was not contended before it on behalf of Kedarnath that the words used by him did not “come within the purview of the definition of sedition” and that no argument was advanced that “even upon the interpretation given by it” his case did not come within the mischief of the said section and hence his “Criminal Appeal 169/57 has to be dismissed”.

Before dealing with the interpretation given by the Supreme Court another equally significant aspect of Kedarnath may be referred to. There were two other appeals before the Supreme Court dealing with “speeches” given that “excited the audience with intent to create feelings of hatred and enmity against the Government. The accused were again charged under Section 124A. The High Court of Judicature at Allahabad had set aside the proceedings holding that Section 124A was ultra-vires Article 19(1)(a). If Lawrence Lang’s understanding of sedition is the law the appeals against the said setting aside should have been dismissed. But the Supreme Court instead of dismissing the said appeals remanded the matter to the High Court for consideration in light of its judgment and hence decide whether the speeches were seditious. The case against them, therefore, could not be rejected at the thresh-hold.

It is now necessary to understand what the Supreme Court held. The Supreme Court had before it conflicting decisions of the Federal Court and Privy Council on the meaning of sedition and accepted the interpretation of the Federal Court as to the gist of criminality in Section 124A. The Federal Court had held that “words, deeds or writings constitute sedition” if they create public disturbance, promote disorder or incite others to do so. And the Supreme Court summed up the law thus: “We have no hesitation in so construing the provisions of the section impugned in these cases to acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence.”

A “subversive” speech is inflammatory, treasonous and incendiary. The words “subversive” means a tendency to “subvert”. And “subvert” is defined in the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary as “corrupt, pervert, disturb or overthrow a system” and “weakening or destruction of a country, government or a political regime”. A subversive speech is bound to have “the tendency” to create public disturbance and promote public disorder and hence is liable to prosecution for sedition.

The offence of sedition is made one because it is “in the interest of public order” which is one of the limitations on freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. And as the Supreme Court itself held, “This Court as the custodian and guarantor of the fundamental rights of the citizens has the duty cast upon it of striking down any law which unduly restricts freedom of speech and expression. But the freedom has to be guarded against becoming a licence for vilification and condemnation of the Government established by law in words which incite violence or have the tendency to create public order.” This is precisely what the Federal Court had also held.

It is thus also wrong to say that sedition can be established “only if there is incitement to violence or public disorder. It is not only causing violence or public disorder which will attract the offence of sedition but independent of the same the tendency to create public disorder which equally attracts liability. Putting it differently it is not an actor’s willful and deliberate stirring of public disorder alone which constitutes sedition but likeliness of disorder because of the quality of inherent in the act which is equally independently seditious. Thus Kapil Sibal is wrong when he says that sedition is justified only when there is “an intent to overthrow the government.”

There is also no requirement as has been suggested by some lawyers that an offence will be sedition “only if it is accompanied with a violent act to overthrow the state.” Stephen’s Commentaries on the Laws of England was cited by the Supreme Court itself and it described sedition thus: “We are now concerned with conduct which on the one hand falls short of treason and on the other does not involve the use of force or violence. The law has to reconcile the right of private criticism with the necessity of securing safety and stability of the State…The seditious conduct can be by words, by deed, or by writing.”

A bad tendency alone is enough to attract the offence of sedition. The charge in Kedarnath’s case itself shows that the test for invocation of the offence of sedition is neither “imminence” of disorder nor “a clear and present danger of it”. Notwithstanding there being no immediate prospect of “revolution” which Kedarnath mentioned nor the immediate possibility of the existing dispensation “being reduced to ashes” as he desired the “bad tendency” of what he spoke was itself sufficient for his prosecution for sedition. The judgment in Shreya Singhal’s case is sometimes referred to for reliance on “clear and present danger” test as the basis of justification on any speech but what is ignored is not merely that the Bench Strength of the said case was two judges only (Kedarnath was five) but also that it specifically mentioned Kedarnath and other cases to affirm that restrictions on freedom of speech can be justified on the ground of their having a “tendency” to cause harm, the test applied in Kedarnath. In any event hatred, contempt or disaffection cannot never get constitutional protection.

Mr Sorabjee added a new twist to the whole issue. In an interview he suggested that Pakistan zindabad is not sedition but Hindustan murdabad might be sedition. This creates a piquant situation. Please consider the consequences. An Indian (according to Mr Sorabjee) is immune against action if he shouts Pakistan Zindabad but if he shouts Hindustan Murdabad its impropriety needs to be debated. And debate is protected! But if debate is protected how can that which is being debated (Hindustan Murdabad) be the cause of arrest? Arrest thus will be unwarranted in both cases whether one shouts Pakistan Zindabad or Hindustan Murdabad! Indians can thus travel the length and breadth of the country either shouting Pakistan Zindabad or Hindustan Murdabad and not be tried for sedition. But if one protests against this he is liable to be arrested for objecting to legitimate political action!

Four other aspects need to be noted here.

It is, firstly, said that Section 124A has been used to imprison Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi and the very use against such outstanding Indians shows abuses inherent in the provision. The criticism however misses the fact that interpretation of the said section as used to prosecute Tilak has been rejected by the Supreme Court which not only followed the Federal Court’s interpretation instead of that of the Privy Council but also rejected challenge to its legality for violating Article 19(1)(a).

The repeal of sedition in the UK is next referred to as necessitating a similar repeal in India. Such comments ignore the fact that the balance between unfettered right to speak and the necessity of national security is clearly affected by historical events and cannot be viewed in vacuum ignoring the effect national and international developments on the political atmosphere in the country. The conditions prevailing in India mandate retention of the offence of sedition notwithstanding the repeal in the UK.

It is next said that “sedition” was not included in Clause (2) of Article 19 – a fact mentioned by Mr Nariman in a recent article. The reason for its exclusion was the expansive interpretation put on the section by the Privy Council which at the time the Constitution was enacted was the law but which is no longer the law now. In any event the Supreme Court itself has held that the prosecution for sedition is “in the interest of public order” and “public order” was added to Clause(2) of Article 19 by the First Amendment.

Finally Balwant Singh’s case is relied upon for suggesting one can raise anti-India slogans and yet not be prosecuted for sedition. In so doing those relying on Balwant Singh confuse the findings peculiar to that case with the law it declared. The approach is flawed because what is binding in a judgment is the law it declares and not the conclusion it reaches. And in declaring the law the Supreme Court in Balwant Singh’s case applied literal interpretation of Section 124A (not limited by purpose or mischief of the provision) to hold that the application of the offence of sedition will be attracted “when the accused brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India, by words either written or spoken or visible signs or representations.” The Court therefore expanded the reach of Section 124A. And the only reason it did not hold the accused guilty in that case was because the slogans were raised by a lone individual that too only a couple of times and evoked no response.

Uninformed criticism has little evaluative merit and no social purpose. Public discourse to be meaningful must be educated. It can otherwise lead to complete irrationality and would violate of Laws of Thoughts, the axiomatic rules on which rational discourse is based.

KANHAIYA-A CASE FOR SEDITION

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.