Recent developments across the globe and specifically in India are pointing towards an alarming situation. And the accused in this case is the freedom of free speech and expression. On 12th January 2018, 4 senior judges of the apex court in India went on to hold a press conference and alleged that Chief Justice of India is not doing justice to his job as the Master of Roster and went on to say that “things are less than desirable” and are not in order inside the temple of justice. Although I have been and I continue to be an ardent supporter of the preposition that says the right to free speech and expression must be absolute which means that people are free to speak whatever they want to without any fear or any censorship. But in light of recent trends I am forced to think again about the same as I have observed that people and establishment in this country are getting confused between dissent and defection.
Right to free speech and expression is one of the fundamental and inalienable rights of every citizen as we all know. The same has been granted by the constitution too but with restrictions, not one but too many. This right is like a house made by glass, as it will protect you but at the same time it is fragile too so you have to use it as safely as you can.
Benjamin Franklin once said “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.” And here in the present case our establishment is really reluctant to answer the concerns raised by the citizens. In last 10 to 12 years we have seen an increase in cases where the accused were charged with sedition charges. There have been many incidents such as Aseem Trivedi, Binayak Sen, Arundhati Roy, Akbaruddin Owaisi, Kanhaiya Kumar and now the 4 Judges. All or most of them spoke against the establishment and law and order situations in the country. And to an extent we can also say that the current and previous governments have been the hypocrites of the highest order as on one hand they have been giving security to the separatist leaders and on other hand prosecuting the people who raised concerns about the similar issues as happened in the case of Binayak Sen or Kanhaiya Kumar. As far as thing about mockery goes , we have seen the leaders stooping low and mocking each other during the election rallies just for the sake of gaining votes not only in India but similar incidents happened during presidency elections in developed jurisdictions such as United States of America.
So the question arises that what is it that the establishment and leaders are worried about? All of us know that as Indians we really hate change and do not cope really well with them , best example can be that of demonetization & GST . Though I will refrain myself from commenting on the merits and demerits of the policies but as a fact we all know that we have had our issues while adjusting in the new regime. I would love to quote here Leonardo da Vinci who once said that “Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence” and we have seen this happening in reality. Sedition laws date back to the colonial era , these laws were drafted and enacted by our imperial masters so as to suppress any voice which is in disagreement with theirs. This law has been accepted in general to be draconian in nature as it hinders with my rights to speak whatever I wish to. Till it is at its place, I have to be careful so that I do not cross that silver line. Though we have seen the founding fathers raise their voice against sedition law but all in vain. Pandit Nehru called sedition a hideous piece of law but did nothing except adding to it by bringing in the amendment in Art 19(2) of the constitution and after him all the subsequent governments retained it and misused it.
Later on 10th Schedule was added to the constitution and dissent even in the parliament was suppressed. Though we can understand that the same was brought to bring in some positive changes but it failed miserably. 10th schedule actually becomes an obstacle if an elected representative has a different opinion than that of the party. This schedule makes the political parties sort of a constitutional entities and representatives who are not following the “orders” of the higher command are termed as defected candidates and are prosecuted accordingly. The leaders cannot have a mind of their own and cannot vote for whatever they feel is genuine solution and are bound by the party policies. So, we can have an illiterate, person having a criminal background or a corrupt personality as our leader but we cannot have a person who speaks his mind out and can decide what is right and what is wrong for the people he is representing?
We are country full of variety, there is a group who is going to vote for a representative and others vote for a party and some will vote for anyone if it helps the popular face to become the Prime Minister or Chief Minister. We have to face the reality and accept the truth that whatever we are facing is all because of us and our forefathers. There is one more thing we need to understand right now is that we as the citizens of this country and as human being do have a right to safeguard our opinion and being critical of the country or establishment just for the betterment of the same will not make us anti-national . Neither do people should tag others as bhakts because a certain group blindly trusts or has faith on its leader nor we should start to follow any person blindly.
It seems like we have forgotten the Gandhian values and principles we always boast about. If we go back in the history we will see that dissent was one of the reason because of which we got freedom. The Non Cooperation Movement & Quit India Movement etc. are very good examples of the same. Even the hot faction and the soft faction irrespective of the differences in principles worked for the same results i.e. Indian Independence that doesn’t mean that either of them was any less patriotic than other.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official …. it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.” And on the similar lines Pandit Nehru said , “I do not want India to be a country in which millions of people say yes to one man, I want a strong opposition.”
It is the high time that all of us should understand that dissent is something that is the requirement of democracy in India, this will help us to create an environment which will be conducive to discussion, deliberation and informed policy making. This will further strengthen the relationship between a citizen and his/her representative and the government. This will surely not happen if the leaders continue to impose arbitrary rules over the citizens and if that happens a wave of rebellion will rise and all of it may end with India and its citizens getting a 2nd republic.