As someone who feels that the basic features of our constitution, such as democracy, secularism and federalism, should be zealously guarded, and as a strong votary of the freedom of speech and expression, I fully support what Justice A.P. Shah, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, said in his address at the M.N. Roy Memorial Lecture held in Delhi on April 19. The very fact that your newspaper, on two separate dates, carried excerpts of Justice Shah’s address goes to show how fundamental these principles are to the very “idea” of India.
Having said this, I have a caveat for Justice Shah and others like him: Why is it that such critics are prompted to speak out only when Hindu fringe elements resort to illegal and violent means in the name of patriotism, cow protection, conversions, etc.? Undoubtedly, such elements should be dealt with a heavy hand; at no cost and under no circumstances should they be allowed to take the law into their own hands — but why is it that when slogans like “Hindustan ki barbadi tak jung rahegi, jung rahegi” were chanted in JNU, these were not condemned? On the contrary, there were many apologists for these sloganeers, who were of the view that such chants should be allowed as they were not likely to evoke any response or reaction.
The law of sedition, as it stands, does not allow such persons to be booked. But does the law stop others from condemning such chanting, which is clearly anti-India? Let’s take it that those who chanted such slogans in JNU, or are pelting stones in Srinagar, are misguided youths. Would not a word of condemnation by eminent personalities help at least in marginalising such youths?
If well-known personalities would speak up, it would not take away the freedom of expression of these so-called misguided youths, or impede their right to shout slogans, but it may, on the contrary, have a sobering effect on them — who knows, it may even bring them onto a path of righteousness.
Those who ignore such slogans, which give a call for the destruction of India, are allowing the seeds of devastation to be sown. Let us not forget that calls for creating a separate state of Pakistan did not become reality in a day. The seed was sown much earlier; in due course, it resulted in the creation of a separate state named Pakistan. The entire event unfolded because it was not nipped firmly in the bud.
I believe that eminent citizens, often found in the forefront ready to condemn right-wing fringe Hindu elements — and who do so rightly — should also condemn, in unequivocal terms, all such sloganeers and stone pelters.
A case in point is singer Sonu Nigam, who recently made an innocuous statement that the azaan from a nearby mosque need not be played on loudspeakers as that disturbs his peace. An obscure man from Kolkata lost no time in reportedly issuing a fatwa against Nigam and announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh to anyone who would shave his head and garland him with shoes. The statement was outrageous — but nobody from the category mentioned above condemned this man.
My question is — why is this bogey of fear raised only when some right-wingers indulge in illegal and violent activities? Why is a studied silence maintained when irresponsible characters issue fatwas?
The danger is across the board, in all hues, and not necessarily only saffron; hence, condemnation should also be across the board, loud and swift in all such utterances.Incidentally, the reference in Justice Shah’s speech, to the judgment of the Delhi High Court judge who granted bail to JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, is uncalled for. In her order, the honourable judge merely referred to a few lines from a popular patriotic song in a Hindi movie.
Is there any wrongdoing in reminding an accused that he owes some love to his country? Let us pause and ponder.