The recent order by the I&B Ministery to NDTV India to suspend broadcast for 24 hours drew a range of reactions from outrage to bewilderment. The supporters of the ruling party were of course triumphant – Subhash Chandra of Zoo, er sorry Zee News was so excited he wrote a whole article on this. But even outside the partisan responses, many well-meaning self-declared neutral janta declared that national security is not a matter to be trifled with, and that it was right for the government to admonish NDTV. Wait, ADMONISH?! Never mind that the government’s allegation of NDTV having compromised national security simply doesn’t survive a fact-check. Here is how the largest section of (English-speaking, online) popular opinion sees it.
This token punishment was good and important to show that someone is there who is monitoring the media who always thinks behind the mask of freedom of expression that they can do anything in the world. So it is important that the Government of the Day makes its presence felt otherwise there will more chaos and issues like the UPA government where everyone was going around like headless chicken and no one is bothered or cared if a Govt of Man Mohan Singh existed or NO. Even small timers like the Delhi CM AK and his Guru Anna were threatening and taking morcha in Ram leela Maidan every second day and doing expose every third day putting the Govt. of India on the back foot and in defensive mode running for shelter. Now Arvind Kejriwala and his team is running for shelter as every day a Delhi MLA is shown the door of the JAIL and Anna Hazare has been locked in a shell in his hometown watching the sunrise and the sunset. This means business, It is important that Govt of the India should show it exist otherwise human mentality is that then everyone shows that everyone exist and everyone is the BOSS. Cannot allow to happen like this MESS. PM Modi please keep it up and keep the heat on this reckless media, on AK and his gang, on others who are trying to show unnecessary activism and also the Judiciary, keep all the appointments on hold and let them slog day and night. Show who is the BOSS ! Show who is the BOSS !
This is the text of a statement issued byASEEM TRIVEDIfrom inside a jail in Mumbai. Trivedi has been remanded to judicial custody till 24 September for displaying and publishing cartoons that are allegedly seditious, insult national honour and, under the IT Act, are “grossly offensive” and of “menacing character”. An English translation of his letter is followed by the Hindi original.
I am a true citizen of this country, not someone who has committed sedition.
If speaking the truth is sedition, then I am indeed guilty of sedition. If raising one’s voice against injustice is sedition, then I am guilty of sedition. If patriotism and the definition of patriotism have changed, then you could say I am guilty of sedition. If Gandhi, Bhagat Singh and Azad were guilty of sedition, so am I.
On Friday morning, when I started for the Supreme Court to attend the bail hearing of Dr. Binayak Sen, like many of our friends and comrades I was not sure of whether he would be granted bail. I was afraid that the case would be adjourned once again, as many of us who are regular visitors of courts expect, aware of the delaying tactics of government counsels, and the history of tareekh par tareekh. Kavita Srivastava, who has been following the case closely and campaigning tirelessly for Binayak’s release along with others, put the spirit back in me. It couldn’t get any worse, she said.
Fortunately, it turned out to be a good Friday. I was happy, as were my friends and comrades. We wanted to scream out of joy and happiness but we restrained ourselves for we were in the court premises and could be booked for ‘contempt of the Court’. Naturally, it was one of the happiest moments our life. Binayak and Ilinia a source of inspiration for hundreds of students and youth like me. I am happy for Binayak, for his family, especially for his mother, for ordinary (read extra-ordinary) people of Chattisgarh and for thousands of his supporters and justice loving people. Continue reading Chidambaram khush hua: Mahtab Alam→
Dastangoi performed by Mahmood Farooqui and Danish Husain as part of Justice on Trial for the Free Binayak Sen Campaign, at the Alliance Francaise de Delhi on 6 April 2011. Video credit: Nicky Chandam.
Justice on Trial: three days of cultural events
April 4 – 6, 2011 @ Alliance Francaise de Delhi
72, Lodhi Estate, New Delhi 110003
Justice on Trial (Facebookers RSVP here) is a collaborative programme put together by leading contemporary artists, photographers, film makers, musicians, performers, and activists to commemorate struggles for democracy, freedom and rights. An exhibition of photographs and art works, talks performances and screenings all are directed at drawing renewed attention to the trial of Dr. Binayak Sen, who has emerged in recent times as a symbol of courageous resistance, and a reminder of the many injustices that surround us. Our aim is to provoke a dialogue with the colours and sounds that emerge from the idea of what Dr. Sen represents. Continue reading Dastan-e-Sedition→
Like the unseasonal and tenebrous rain clouds that are hovering over Thiruvananthapuram in what should be a sunny, light-mist-adorned January, a pall of gloom, of impending danger, hangs around my everyday life in Kerala. This is not a general feeling. It is however shared by many of us who write and speak critically about the powers that be. The space to speak and write thus has been shrinking for a while now, but now there is a sense of dangerously teetering on the edge: the Indian state seems to be upon us, and with a vengeance. Continue reading Un-Indianizing Kerala: How to defend K K Shahina→
2011 marks the birth anniversary of one of Southasia’s greatest poets, Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Centenary celebrations are planned in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh throughout this year. The Southasian magazine Himal has brought out in its January 2011 issue a set of six articles on Faiz. A note accompanying the issue reads:
Over the course of human history, intellectuals and artists have helped broaden the scope of citizenship and the nebulous contours of citizen rights. Southasia is no exception. Despite its colonial past and internal fault-lines, it can boast of extraordinary individuals who have stood up against tyranny and reaffirmed the innate strength of the human spirit. Continue reading Celebrating Faiz→
As a follow up to the earlier piece, here is a translation of excerpts from Periyar’s speech on the constitution soon after it was framed.
Here there is a need for a note on how we can read these historic documents. This is not a call to burn the constitution (Figuratively maybe a little bit but not literally. That would be a waste of paper. We’d rather recycle it en masse as a symbolic gesture! ). The purpose is to break down into details, this ‘nation’ that we often use as a default construct. We know it has a history and a not so long one. We also know that it has been contested by many from its very inception. Independence day should also be observed as ‘partition into india and pakistan day’ for starters. There have always been challenges ranging from debates over secession of regional kings when independence was declared, to demands for a separate nation that always existed and continue to do so. Continue reading Periyar on the Constitution→
It is hard to introduce E.V.R.Periyar. A good sign of the fact that his thoughts are broad based and radical is the way in which they can be used in different contexts. With each context, the description of the person also changes. For the purposes of this piece one may say, ‘he was a radical thinker who sought to question many aspects of the ‘nation’ that are taken for granted such as democracy, freedom, unity, integrity and so on’. This critique took many shapes and forms throughout his career based on his position in tamilnadu and the particularities of that history. In 1972, he reflects on the nation as it is today. And disheartening for us and even to him as he wrote these words, he stands by what he said the moment india got ‘independence’ in 1947. Continue reading Periyar on ‘independence’→
(Given below is the full text of the judgement sentencing Dr Binayak Sen for life. It is a translation from the Hindi. The translation has been done by the Free Binayak Sen Now campaign. You can download here (.pdf) the Hindi original. For updates on the Free Binayak Sen Now campaign, see BinayakSen.net. If you are on Facebook, you can join the Binayak Sen Solidarity Forum.)
[An edited version of this article by me has appeared in the November-December 2010 issue ofConveyor, a magazine published from Srinagar.]
On 22 October 2010, there was a public seminar in Delhi, titled “Azadi: The Only Way”. I did not plan to attend it as I had important work that day. However, a day before the event, it was announced that the keynote speaker would be none other than Syed Ali Shah Geelani. How could one not go to hear what the man of the moment had to say?
I reached late, when two speakers had already spoken, Kashmiri Pandits had already created a scene, even getting into a physical fight with some Kashmiri Muslims. As I entered the precincts of the Little Theatre Group auditorium, I met Delhi University student Suvaid Yaseen who showed me a small cut in his hand, caused by the fisticuffs with the Pandits. Some of the Pandits had been taken away by the Delhi Police and detained for a few hours, many others still inside the auditorium. The auditorium was full of cries of “Hum kya chahtay? Azadi!” To hear that in central Delhi rather than Srinagar’s Lal Chowk is a little incredible. But it had happened before, on 7 August, at Jantar Mantar, the only place in the capital of the world’s largest democracy where protest is allowed. At Jantar Mantar too, Pandits were being restrained by the Delhi Police. Continue reading The Logical Urges of Sedition→
A true measure of being democratic is not the cycles of elections – it is the dignity given to disagreement, to dissent. Why must we dignify dissent? There are the arguments that we hear everyday: so that the views of the majority cannot silence the voices of a few; so that no one view or institution may becomes so dominant as to become authoritarian; and the value of freedom of speech and expression in and of themselves. Any memory of the Emergency in 1975-77 is testimony to why any of these are important. Yet there is a more fundamental reason why dissent is the cornerstone of a democracy: it is the action of a free citizen.
Speech is an action. An action within a democratic framework – an action that simultaneously shows a continuous faith in the polity, the state and the people even as one (often virulently) disagrees with it. An action that keeps a democratic system alive. You dissent as a citizen, in the name of your constitution. You dissent because you have the freedom to do so – not a freedom you have been “given” but one that you possess because you, as part of the people, are sovereign. This is more important than what we are taught in our textbooks – being able to voice our disagreement is as central as the ability to walk to a ballot box and cast our vote. This is a freedom we give to each other as democratic citizens and that we must protect, especially when we disagree.
This open letter by SHIV VISWANATHANhas been circulated by Communalism Combat
Dear Professor Manmohan Singh,
I hope you don’t mind the temerity of this letter. It is written as one scholar to another, one citizen to another. I know you are a PM and people like me may not be influential. However some things must be said and said clearly.
One of the issues that the Binayak Sen trial has revealed is the quality of the investigative process in the case and the nonchalance with which the police has flouted even routine guidelines, safeguards and rules.
“email referring to an occupant of the White House as a “chimpanzee” was introduced by the prosecutor as evidence of the kind of “code language” terrorists resort to. But tragically, it is the Chhattisgarh police that have had the last laugh in this round.”
On Christmas Eve, the Raipur Sessions court delivered a surprisingly harsh sentence in the case of The State of Chhattisgarh versus Pijush Guha, Binayak Sen and Narayan Sanyal, where B.P. Verma sentenced all three to life imprisonment for “conspiring to commit sedition.”
This latest ruling on a sedition case isn’t so much about the narrowing of the space of expression in India (there are far more illustrative cases here, here and here) but more about the wide application of the sedition law to convict when the supporting evidence is questioned by the defence.
Prosecution teams seem to have figured out that in cases involving “Maoist issues” – a poor investigation can easily be supported by planting “seditious” documents and pushing for sedition.
Through the course of this post, I shall try to collate some my coverage over the last two weeks to give you all a sense of how the trial proceeded. As always, I this piece serves as a starting point for further discussions. I would urge readers to post comments with links to articles that they found interesting (along with their own thoughts of course).
Noor Mohammed Bhat, a college lecturer in Srinagar, who decided to get creative with the English examination paper. Amongst his essay topics: “Are the stone pelters real heroes? Discuss.”
It also asked students to translate this Urdu-language text into English: “Kashmir is burning once again. The warm blood of youth is being spilled like water. Police and soldiers are beating even small children to death. Bullets are being pumped into the chests of even girls and women. People in villages and towns are crying in pain. Rulers continue to be in a deep slumber. It appears they’ve turned dumb, deaf and blind.” [Associated Press]
Although the AP report linked above says he has been charged with promoting secession, it’s not clear if he’s been charged with sedition. Kashmir Dispatch reports say he’s been charged under section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Ironically, the college where Bhat taught (he’s already been sacked) is named after Gandhi. Univesity spaces in Kashmir are heavily controlled to prevent political expression and student unions are banned. So much so that when Kashmiri students see campus politics at the Jawaharlal University in Delhi, they often remark that they are seeing for the first time what freedom looks like!
Meanwhile, Rohini Hensman says Kashmiris should not have azadi until they ask India and Pakistan for azadi in equal measure, or something like that.