On Sedition Law & The Patriotism Of The Unpatriotic
by Sukumaran C. V.
Former student of JNU
Under the British rule, Mahatma Gandhi was charged with section 124-A and sent to prison. Section 124-A in Indian Penal Code is titled as ‘Sedition’ and the British created the Indian Penal Code to retain their undemocratic control over the country, and the ‘Sedition’ clause says:
“Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in [India], shall be punished with [imprisonment for life], to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
- Explanation 1.- The expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.
- Explanation 2.- Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.
- Explanation 3. – Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.”
When the Father of the Nation, the Mahatma, was being tried under this notorious section of the colonial law in 1922, he said:
“Section 124-A under which I am happily charged is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. What in law is a deliberate crime appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen. To preach disaffection towards the existing system of Government has become almost a passion with me.”
The British used this law to crush the patriotism of the people before independence. And after independence the law has been used for the same purpose! And the UPA government used this colonial law to send Dr. Binayak Sen, the renowned human-rights activist, to prison. Dr. Saibaba, another human-rights activist is also charged with this draconian law. Now the ‘patriotic’ government that rules the country uses the same law against the JNU. I am a former JNU student and I know that JNU inspires the students to go beyond the theoretical dogmas that bind us to the political, religious and social oppression in the name of democracy. A university like the JNU is the oxygen of democracy, especially when democracy metamorphoses into fascism as is happening today in India.
In a speech delivered at the Special Convocation of Allahabad University on December 13, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru said:
“A university stands for humanism, for tolerance, for reason, for progress, for the adventures of ideas and for the search for truth. It stands for the onward march of the human race towards even higher objectives.”
JNU is a university that stands ‘for humanism, for tolerance, for reason, for progress, for the adventures of ideas and for the search for truth.’ And those who have proved by their actions that they are against humanism, against tolerance, against reason, against progress, against the adventures of ideas and against the search for truth won’t like it. That is the reason behind accusing JNU of sedition.
If a person is charged with section 124-A, we can be sure that the person is a real patriot. The best way to smother dissent, the salient feature of democracy, is to dub it anti-national. The right wing organisations have always tried to eliminate dissent and plurality in this fashion. But the irony as far as India is concerned is that it is the RSS, that was never patriotic when the British ruled and crushed India, leads this war of ‘patriots versus anti-nationals’! See the patriotism of the RSS (the mentors of the ABVP) at a time when India needed it direly—during the tumultuous period of Quit India Revolt. Three months after the historic Quit India agitation was launched by the Mahatma, a British police commissioner reported (D. O. No 174-S dated Buldana, the 28th Nov. 1942):
“The Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh has however no plan to either fight Government or even to oppose it. …In regards to the objects of the organization, the information so far received by me leads me to the conclusion that the Sangh does not want to come into conflict with Government.” And today they claim to be the patriots!
Independent India has never witnessed such an onslaught against dissent as it is witnessing now. It seems that we are in a position Ambedkar referred to in his ‘Annihilation of Caste’:
“The assertion by the individual of his own opinions and beliefs, his own independence and interest as over against group standards, group authority and group interests is the beginning of all reform. But whether the reform will continue depends upon what scope the group affords for such individual assertion. If the group is tolerant and fair-minded in dealing with such individuals they will continue to assert and in the end succeed in converting their fellows. On the other hand if the group is intolerant and does not bother about the means it adopts to stifle such individuals they will perish and the reform will die out.”