Licence to Chill

The BJP moves in mysterious ways to demonstrate its commitment to free speech.

By: Editorial | Updated: September 13, 2017 11:22 am
Rajnath Singh, Kashmir, rajnath Kashmir, welcome openess, modi, modi independence speech, indian express At a time when the party in power at the Centre is being closely watched internationally for attempts to curb individual freedoms, including the freedom of speech, this is a self-goal scored with two left feet.

Last week, BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya had sprung to the defence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faced opprobrium because his Twitter handle follows trolls who celebrated the murder of Gauri Lankesh. He had said that the PM does not unfollow or block anyone on social media, on account of his commitment to the freedom of speech. But that was last week. This week, the BJP has slapped a legal notice on the historian Ramachandra Guha for an opinion article and an interview on Lankesh’s murder.

At a time when the party in power at the Centre is being closely watched internationally for attempts to curb individual freedoms, including the freedom of speech, this is a self-goal scored with two left feet.

Tactically unwise, the charge is also without merit and surely cannot stand in court. Guha only drew attention to a “climate of hate and suspicion” that has developed under the watch of the ruling dispensation. Thousands of people have voiced the same concern, and the party would turn itself into a laughing stock if it were to go after all of them, as the notice has threatened to do.

Guha did not speculate on the agency of the RSS and BJP in the killing. On the contrary, he wrote that “freelancers” may have been responsible, “emboldened by politicians, ideologues and television anchors who demonise all critics of the ruling regime as anti-national”.

Those who drafted the notice may have been aware of this deficiency, for it includes a Plan B — the tired old whine about the hurt sentiments of thousands of members of these organisations. If the allegedly injured parties file suit in three days, as the notice threatens, the matter could linger in the courts for years, and then attract a negative verdict. However, the purpose would have been served, silencing a writer by taking up his time and distracting him from his calling.

Irrespective of the merits of the case, an attack on a writer of Guha’s stature would have a chilling effect on his fraternity. But the ruling party should know that the world will be watching, and that victory in a war of attrition launched on Guha can only be pyrrhic.

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  1. R
    Sep 15, 2017 at 12:33 am
    hope india is ruled by congress again soon and end this nonsensical rule of india currently going on.. hindsight congress looks much better at governance than these current rulers who just rely on falsification of everything....and attack everyone who dares to criticize the gormint.
    1. K
      Sep 13, 2017 at 6:22 pm
      These are tactics to silence critics. He is in very his right to have opinion about any issue. Moreover, it is a open-secret, people who celebrated Gauri Lankesh's assassination subscribe to a particular ideology. We are living in the time, when electronic media is all most co-opted by this regime. We can't bow to the whims of this totalarian fascist regime. In this regime's lust for uniformity has hidden agenda of majoritanism.
      1. S
        surendra s
        Sep 13, 2017 at 3:58 pm
        Kejriwal had received a message from FM and has since been careful about his accusations. Let's hope this case brings a sense of responsibility in Guha. This cannot go on and on.
        1. S
          Sep 13, 2017 at 12:15 pm
          We are sorry to disappoint the editor but royalty counts for nothing in the current time. However eminent might the author be if he is guilty of slander then he should be brought to book. If you write the truth you cannot be prosecuted but when you peddle lies wrapped in insinuation without a shred of evidence you must bear the burden of such statement or admit that it is nothing but your own personal prejudice which has come out through such poisonous article.
          1. G
            G YAGNESWARAN
            Sep 13, 2017 at 9:52 am
            There cannot be a right to slander. Even on a cursory reading of Guha's article one can come to the conclusion that he has implicated folowers of the right wing idealogies. Guha has to pay for his slandour. The hate speeches of the so called rationalist Gauri Lankesh is available in You Tube. On a philosophical note people will get what they deserve.
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