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Kitne aadmi the? We are all seditious now

December 2, 2010

Here is a very short, utterly incomplete, hastily compiled list of people charged under Section 124 A in the last two years alone.

Our very own Shuddhabrata Sengupta figures  in this roll of honour.

(Incidentally, KK Shahina, who has guest posted with us, faces charges from the Karnataka Police under IPC 506 for intimidating witnesses. Her expose in Tehelka showed how the police case against Abdul Nasar Madani, head of the People’s Democratic Front (PDP), accused in 2008 Bengaluru blasts, was fragile and based on non-existent and false testimonies.)

There would be hundreds more, not named here, charged with sedition for “criticizing” the government, for exposing corruption and police nexus with mafias, or for expressing views that run counter to official wisdom on the “integrity” of India.

As if “integrity” is something pre-existing and eternal rather than something that has to be produced at every point. The existence of a nation is a daily plebiscite, said even historian Ernst Renan, a staunch supporter of the nation form. Not so Rabindranath Tagore, who was highly suspicious of the “fetish of nationalism”. He called the Nation nothing but the “the organization of politics and commerce” and warned that when this Nation “becomes all-powerful at the cost of the harmony of the higher social life, then it is an evil day for humanity.” (In his lectures on nationalism, published by Rupa and Co. 1994)

Said Gandhi to a Naga delegation that met him in 1947: “I believe that you all belong to one country, to India. But if you say you won’t, no-one can force you…I will go to Naga hills and say that you will shoot me before you shoot a single Naga.”

Good for the Indian Nation that they did shoot him.

I have said it before and I will say it again – the charge of sedition has no place in a democracy, it is anti-constitutional, anti-democratic and must be repealed as soon as possible.

Look at this list and the reasons for which they have been charged with sedition! If it wasn’t enraging me so much, I would find it hilarious.

2010

Dr E Rati Rao a senior scientist, long-standing activist of the women’s rights movement, Vice-President of PUCL-Karnataka and Vice President of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) has recently been charged with sedition by the police of Karnataka.
The FIR against Dr. Rati Rao accuses her of publishing a PUCL bulletin that is “favoring naxals and Muslims and is propagating that the police are killing innocent people in the name of encounter”; that “calls upon dalits, women, minorities, farmers and adivasis to build organizations in order to fight for their rights”; that “accuses the Sangh Parivar in Karavali (coastal Karnataka) of indulging in false propaganda and fueling communal disharmony” and “calls upon the secular forces to raise their voice against such spread of communal hate”; and “by raising such issues incite and spread intolerance, disbelief, discontent amongst the public”; that “in the name of doing good to the dalits, women, minorities, & adivasis the said bulletin is spreading false information against the casteist & communal Government…It is propagating intolerance, disbelief, and discontent amongst the Government officials.”

Laxman Choudhury, a stringer for the  daily Sambad when the local police said they found Maoist leaflets in his possession, this year. He was in jail for ten weeks.

Other journalists in Orissa charged with sedition:

OTV reporters Khusiram Sunani and Kirti Chandra Sahu

Samaj correspondent Jagannath Bastia

Aarombh reporters Sriharsha Mishra and Kiran Mishra

Piyush Sethia was charged for sedition, and arrested in Salem, Tamil Nadu. He is an activist, who was trying  to circulate a pamphlet, in his capacity as a representative of a much-wider Campaign for Justice and Peace at a Republic Day function in Salem this year.

Arundhati Roy

Shuddhabrata Sengupta

Varavara Rao

Syed Ali Shah Geelani

SAR Geelani

Sheikh Showkat Hussain

Sujato Bhadra (I just learnt he is included in this list)
For supporting the Azadi demand of the Kashmiri people at a meeting in Delhi

Gujjar community leader Kirori Singh Bainsla charged with sedition and conspiring against the state by the Rajasthan government for leading an agitation demanding ST status for Gujjars.

(Can there be anything more non-seditious than demanding recognition in a schedule of the constitution?!)

Surinder Singh Barnala

Bheem Singh Saddowala

Kuldeep Singh Namol

Sukhmandeep Singh Toor

Banjara Kulwant Singh Dhandiwal
For distributing pamphlets containing a text version of one of Bhindranwale’s speeches. All speeches, interviews and many letters of Sant Bhindranwale are already published in a combined volume, titled “Singh Garaj” complied by S. Narain Singh, Editor of Awaz-e-Khalsa, and are published by Gurmat Pustak Bhandar, Amritsar. These speeches are even translated and published in English too. Many editions of these books have been published so far.

2009

MDMK General Secretary V. Gopalasawmy (Vaiko) was charged by the Chennai City police, who registered a sedition case against him for his speech warning that India would not remain one country, if the war against the LTTE in Sri Lanka was not stopped.

2008

Lenin Kumareditor of the quarterly magazine Nishan, after a special booklet on the Kandhamal riots entitled ‘Dharmanare Khandamalre Raktonadhi’ (The rivers of blood in Kandhamal) was published in the magazine.

Times of India resident editor Bharat Desai

Reporter Prashant Dayal

Photojournalist Gautam Mehta
for articles that criticised the Ahmedabad Police Commissioner.

Dr Binayak Sen, medical doctor and social activist working among the poorest of the poor in Chhatishgarh, detained on charges of sedition and in jail for two years.

2006

Manoj Shinde, the editor of a Gujarati eveninger is facing sedition charges for using “abusive words” against CM Narendra Modi in an editorial on Monday while alleging administrative failure in tackling the flood situation in Surat.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. a rose cellar permalink
    December 2, 2010 2:16 PM

    One has to keep struggling against the Idea of the Nation as the Social and Existential actualization of the Human.

  2. December 2, 2010 2:59 PM

    while the indian express has run an edit against charging Arundhati Roy with sedition (I don’t know why they would say this about Roy but not her five co-accused), its editor Shekhar Gupta in an interview with Ratan Tata about the Radia tapes said: “It is flooding the environment with things that are very seditious.” http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/full-text-ratan-tata-speaks-to-ndtv-on-2g-scam-69007?cp

    • omar Farooq permalink
      December 2, 2010 3:27 PM

      Can you think of anything more ironic than the name of the programme- “Walk the talk”- keeping watching the space- he is gonna get Modi to walk the talk on communal harmony

    • a rose cellar permalink
      December 2, 2010 3:32 PM

      can you quote even one sentence from that edit that is unequivocally for the idea of sedition? put differently, does it support sedition? to explain—if tomorrow thousands of seminars begin at regular intervals, wait for the edit!

    • a rose cellar permalink
      December 2, 2010 4:08 PM

      the edit is about indian express’ understanding of liberal democracy.( express’ understanding is quite questionable, but the limited nature of liberal democracy requires a separate essay). by the way, from time to time, it does write to support some people. if i remember correctly, it wrote in support of binayak sen too.
      now comes the question: does this paper support these people as bare humans without their ideological clothes? are humans naked bodies with rights without their mental constructs and social preferences? from hannah arendt to agamben, and from rorty to negri everyone has debated this problematic.

  3. omar Farooq permalink
    December 2, 2010 3:25 PM

    Actually the first time – i got to know how big a joke this was when Dr. Sen got arrested .

  4. December 2, 2010 3:37 PM

    we are all seditious, someway or the other…

  5. December 2, 2010 4:22 PM

    For those who may be wondering, this is the Express edit we’re talking about: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/dont-book-arundhati/718428/

  6. Mini Mathew permalink
    December 2, 2010 4:43 PM

    muffling dissent

  7. abdulsalam permalink
    December 2, 2010 5:40 PM

    If Mahatma were alive today, he could not have kept quiet and surely would have been in jail for speaking truth.

  8. December 2, 2010 5:52 PM

    Being in the jail for only 23 days was a emotionally draining experience & for a crime not committed.. that made things worse. But how else do we today show the world that the Corporate colony the whole country has become…

    Violence is the only weapon that the state owns & these examples of false cases & foolishness on its part would expose the gaping hole in its ass…

    • Nivedita Menon permalink*
      December 2, 2010 7:09 PM

      Welcome Piyush, wonderful to hear from you.

      Solidarity!

  9. V. Geetha permalink
    December 2, 2010 9:06 PM

    For everyone that’s accused of sedition, there’s at least ten that support it – clearly the state and the classes-castes that seek its endorsement for their acts of greed and violence want to separate out the good from the bad amongst us, those that are articulate. In Tamil Nadu, we’ve seen how intellectuals are easily enamoured of state patronage and its empty rhetoric as regards culture and identity – think of the number of them that endorse the horribly nepotistic politics of the DMK, and shy away from talking about what a disaster it has meant for democracy. I guess it is not just those that receive its awards in good faith, but those that would wait for an opportune oppressor to turn up to criticise him or her – easier if the oppressor is not clearly Dravidian, and harder if he is. The brotherhood reign, cutting across caste, faith, class and united in fictive kin terms…
    It is as worrying to think of those that take the part of the state as those that are ranged against it – to be in a position to arbitrate, comment and judge from a self-righteous position that is in the last instance, sits on material reward, on what in another and older world, we would call worldly power.

  10. Aristocratic Radical permalink
    December 3, 2010 1:51 AM

    It’s not as black and white as you claim it is. To talk in strictly constitutional terms – section 124A does not mean to prevent criticism of the state – rather it is meant to define the limits to which the criticism might be taken. Of all the people you have mentioned – how many people have actually been convicted by the court on section 124A ?

    The topic of seditious speech is far more complex than you seem to imply.

    To quote case law (Bhagwati Charan Shukla vs Provincial Government, Central Provinces, (1946) )

    It is not sedition merely to criticize Government however bitterly or forcibly that may be done, or to seek its overthrow by Constitutional means in order that another Government, equally Constitutional, may be substituted in its place in a Constitutional way. It becomes sedition only when the intention or the attempt is to induce people to cease to obey the law and to cease to uphold lawful authorities’

  11. tnjoyi permalink
    December 3, 2010 9:48 AM

    well said geetha?

  12. Thushar Nirmal Sarathy permalink
    December 3, 2010 9:07 PM

    Here is a short list from Kerala
    1.K.K.Rajan and Lalitha.
    Booked under section 124 A of IPC for propagating election boycott during the panchayath election held on 2005.Lalitha who is the wife Rajan Had to spent in jail for one weak.Later the sessions court discharged them as the offence is not maintainable and that is only after the lapse of 3 years.
    2.P.GovindanKutty
    Peoples March editor was booked under section 124A of IPC in the year of 2007 for publishing articles criticizing Chandrababu Naidu in the year of 2004.His press registration was cancelled by the Ernakulam District Collecter arbitrarily . Later it was revoked by Press and Registration Appellate Board.The case is still under investigation.
    3. Sunilkumar and vinod
    Two political activists working at Attappady a tribal area at palakkad district were booked u/s 124A IPC and brutally manhandled by the police.They were booked only because they campaigned against the inaction of police in investigating unnatural deaths of tribals. Later Kerala State Human Rights Commission directed the state government to pay compensation to sunil and vinod . But investigation in the criminal case is still pending.

    4.M.N.Ravunni
    He was arrested and made an accomplice with the above said Sunil and Vinod .Ravunni who is a vetern Naxalite leader filed a petition against the Agaly police for illegally detaining and torturing Sunil and Vinod. This provoked the police and he was also booked u/s124A of IPC.

    5.Suresh Babu and Soman
    They were booked u/s .124A of IPC by the Kannur police during 2008 for pasting posters expressing solidarity to the Kashmir liberation movement .The case is still pending under investigation

  13. Partho Ray permalink
    December 4, 2010 8:06 AM

    Dear Nivedita,
    you should also include the hundreds of people, mostly unknown, from the jangalmahal area of West Bengal, who have been also charged with sedition over the past two years in this list. These include people from all ages, from teenagers to grandmothers, who have been arrested at various points of time and under various circumstances. Most of them have never heard the term “sedition”, let alone know the meaning of it. A grandmother, Sudharani Baske, who is above 65 years of age, was arrested from in front of her home when the police had raided her village. She had gone out of her home to see what was happening when the police were mercilessly beating up villagers. She was arrested and charged with seidtion. When she was released after twenty days, she didn’t even have the wherewithal to get back to her own village from the district town.

  14. Nirmalangshu permalink
    December 6, 2010 8:28 AM

    It is interesting that Gandhi’s remark is juxtaposed with Tagore’s, for, Tagore’s critique was essentially directed at Gandhi’s version of nationalism as in, say, the concept of Hind-Swaraj. Incidentally, calls for azadi are also nationalistic in content in the same sense, this time framed in terms of, say, Kashmiriyat.

    Tagore (and Marx) went beyond these sectarian sentiments to embrace all humankind, Insaniyat, especially the unity of all oppressed and working people. It was too early for them to embrace the rest of nature.

    Calls for sedition cannot be of lasting value if the Indian state–itself a seditious concept–is to be resisted. Calls for sedition to form another state or seizure of the existing state are thus historically incompatible with universal resistance. Resistance ultimately aims to dismantle the state.

  15. Shankar permalink
    December 6, 2010 11:39 PM

    One could also add Avinash Kulkarni, Bharat Pawar and other adivasi activists picked up in Dangs district in Gujarat in March. But, as Partho raised, I think the use of this section is actually very widespread. It used to be that everyone picked up was charged under 302 or 307; nowadays they seem to use sedition where they can, possibly because it makes UAPA an option.

  16. January 11, 2013 1:05 AM

    Indian state can be arbitrary & stupidly violent. But it doesn’t have the scary stasi like efficiency, you should be more scared about the business elites and their ability to manipulate the state rather than the state itself.

Trackbacks

  1. We are all seditious now, but when did this start? « Kafila

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