Mainstream, VOL LIX No 30, New Delhi, July 10, 2021
Patriotism of those who have never been patriotic | Sukumaran C.V.
Friday 9 July 2021, by#socialtags
The oppressive laws like the Sedition Clause of the IPC which is a colonial vestige and the UAPA which is the creation of ’democratic’ India make our democracy truly autocratic. It is now an open secret that the Maharashtra police under the then BJP-Shiv Sena government failed to curb the anti-social elements from disrupting the Bhima Koregaon commemoration event and causing violence in which one person was killed. Then alleging that the Elgar Parishad conclave incited the violence, the police started arresting the human rights activists participated in the conclave clamping UAPA on them! (See the article "Arnab Goswamy, Bihar Election Results and Indian Democracy", Mainstream, November 21, 2020).
Indian democracy has been committing rampant human-rights violations ever since Emergency, imprisoning and killing people who dissent and give voice to the voiceless.
Under the British rule, Mahatma Gandhi was often 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....”
When the Father of the Nation, the Mahatma, was being trialled 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! 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 was also charged with this draconian law. And the ’patriotic’ government that has been ruling the country since 2014 continuously uses this colonial law against the human-rights activists.
If a person is charged with section 124-A by the present government, we can be sure that he or she 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. The irony as far as India is concerned is that it is the RSS, that has never been patriotic when the British ruled and crushed India, leads this war of ‘patriots versus anti-nationals’! It will be interesting and quite revealing to see the patriotism of the RSS (which remote controls the BJP) 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 report from the Deputy Commissioner (British), Buldana district, D. O. No 174-S dated Buldana, the 28th Nov. 1942 reads: 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 (the British) Government... The Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh has however no plan to either fight Government or even to oppose it. (Towards Freedom, Part 3, pp 3024-25)" [Quoted from the article "RSS Controversy: New Revelations" written by Analyst, Mainstream, March 11, 2000].
And imagine the BJP which is an offshoot of the RSS whose "patriotism" was certified by the British as quoted above lecturing patriotism to the people of India and imprisoning those who fight for the less privileged people, especially the tribals, who are deprived of their lands, forests and livelihoods for the corporate mining companies by the rulers who are supposed to protect their rights, by labelling them anti-nationals!
See the depth of the "nationalism"of those who claim to protect the national interest in Arundhati Roy’s words from her book Broken Republic:
“In June 2005, Mahendra Karma called a secret meeting of Mukhiyas and announced the Salwa Judum (Purification Hunt). A lovely mélange of tribal earthiness and Nazi sentiment. Salwa Judum was a ground clearing operation, meant to move people out of their villages into roadside camps, where they could be policed and controlled. Villagers who did not move into camps would be considered Maoists. So in Bastar, for an ordinary villager, just staying at home, living an ordinary life, became the equivalent of indulging in dangerous terrorist activity. Between June and December 2005, Salwa Judum burned, killed, raped and looted its way through hundreds of villages of south Dantewada. The centre of its operations were the Bijapur and Bhairamgarh blocks near Bailadila, where Essar Steel’s new plant was proposed.”
“The Judum came to Korseel, Ajitha’s village, and killed three people by drowning them in a stream. Ajitha was with the militia, and followed the Judum at a distance to a place close to the village called Paral Nar Todak. She watched them rape six women and shot a man in his throat.”
“Comrade Laxmi tells me she watched the Judum burn thirty houses in her village Jojor.”
“Salwa Judum—the dreaded government-sponsored vigilante group responsible for rapes, killings, burning down villages and driving hundreds of thousands of people from their homes—is led by Mahendra Karma, a Congress MLA...”
The Police personnel and the politicians who organised Salwa Judum and allowed them to terrorise the hapless people of Bastar and other areas were not arrested and charged with sedition and treason, but Binayak Sen who tried to expose the State-sponsored atrocities perpetrated on the unprivileged people of India was arrested and jailed and denied bail. The same thing happened to Dr. Saibaba for the same reasons when Mr. Chidambaram and the Congress-led UPA government were in power. And the same thing happens to Varavara Rao, Sudha Baradwaj, Stanislaus Lourduswamy etc under the BJP-led NDA government. Varavara Rao has just slipped from the death grip of the "patriotic" rulers and judiciary; but Stan Swamy couldn’t.
In her article titled “Professor, P.O.W” published in the Outlook magazine dated 18 may, 2015, Arundhati Roy writes:
“May 9, 2015, marks one year since Dr. G.N. Saibaba, lecturer of English at Ramlal Anand College, Delhi University, was abducted by unknown men on his way home from work. When her husband went missing and his cellphone did not respond, Vasantha, Dr Saibaba’s wife, filed a missing person’s complaint in the local police station. Subsequently the unknown men identified themselves as the Maharashtra Police and described the abduction as an arrest.... Dr Saibaba is what is known as “90 per cent disabled”. In order to prevent his physical condition from further deteriorating, he needs constant care, physiotherapy and medication. Despite this, he was thrown into a bare cell (where he still remains) with nobody to assist him even to use the bathroom. He had to crawl around on all fours.”
“He has been charged under the UAPA, Sections 13 (taking part in/advocating/abetting/inciting the commission of unlawful activity), Section 18 (conspiring/attempting to commit a terrorist act), Section 20 (being a member of a terrorist gang or organisation), Section 38 (associating with a terrorist organisation with intention to further its activities) and Section 39 (inviting support and addressing meetings for the purpose of encouraging support for a terrorist organisation.) ...
“Dr Saibaba’s trial has not begun. When it does, it is likely to take months, if not years. The question is, can a person with a 90 per cent disability survive in those abysmal prison conditions for so long?
“Despite the fact that India is party to international covenants on disability rights, and Indian law expressly forbids the incarceration of a person who is disabled as an undertrial for a prolonged period, Dr Saibaba has been denied bail twice by the sessions court....For the sake of argument, let’s leave the decision about whether Dr Saibaba is guilty or innocent of the charges levelled against him to the courts. And let’s, for just a moment, turn our attention solely to the question of bail, because for him that is quite literally a question of life and death.
“No matter what the charges against him are, should Professor Saibaba get bail? Here’s a list of a few well-known public figures and government servants who have been given bail. On April 23, 2015, Babu Bajrangi, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre in which 97 people were murdered in broad daylight, was released on bail by the Gujarat High Court for an “urgent eye operation”. This is Babu Bajrangi in his own words speaking about the crime he committed: “We didn’t spare a single Muslim shop, we set everything on fire, we set them on fire and killed them—hacked, burnt, set on fire.... We believe in setting them on fire because these bastards don’t want to be cremated. They’re afraid of it.”—‘After killing them, I felt like Maharana Pratap’ in Tehelka, September 1, 2007
“On July 30, 2014, Maya Kodnani, a former minister of the Modi government in Gujarat, convicted and serving a 28-year sentence for being the ‘kingpin’ of that same Naroda Patiya massacre, was granted bail by the Gujarat High Court. Kodnani is a medical doctor and says she suffers from intestinal tuberculosis, a heart condition, clinical depression and a spinal problem. Her sentence has been suspended.
“Amit Shah, also a former minister in the Modi government in Gujarat, was arrested in July 2010, accused of ordering the extrajudicial killing of three people—Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kausar Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati. The CBI produced phone records showing that Shah was in constant touch with the police officials who held the victims in illegal custody before they were murdered, and that the number of phone calls between him and those police officials spiked sharply during those days. Amit Shah was released on bail three months after his arrest. (Subsequently, after a series of disturbing and mysterious events, he has been let off altogether.) He is currently the president of the BJP, and the right hand man of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
I have quoted in detail from Arundhati Roy’s article to enable the readers to see for themselves whether there is any ‘scandalous and scurrilous allegations against the judiciary’ in the arguments of Arundhati Roy? But that was what the judgement of the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court felt. Justice A. B. Chaudhari says in the judgement that “scandalous and scurrilous allegations are made by the author Arundhati Roy in the said article against the judiciary. Not only that, she has indirectly questioned the sanctity of the order made by the learned Judge of this Court (Hon’ble Shri S.B. Shukre) for rejecting the bail application filed by the applicant....by comparing the case of the present applicant with Babu Bajrngi, Maya Kodnani and Amit Shah. It is not in dispute that by making the above allegations and remarks about the rejection order made by this Court as above and then asking as to why the applicant should not also get relief of bail by scandalizing the Court, in my opinion, amounts to interfering in the administration of justice and lowering down the image of the judiciary without any basis and with selfish motives.”
How can expressing one’s opinion on the Court’s denial of bail to a person with 90 per cent disability be ‘interfering in the administration of justice’? Who is lowering down the image of the judiciary—the judges who deny bail to a completely disabled person even when India is party to international covenants on disability rights, and Indian law expressly forbids the incarceration of a person who is disabled as an undertrial for a prolonged period or writers like Arundhati Roy? And what is the selfish motive of Arundhati Roy?
The judge further says: “This, prima facie, constitutes criminal contempt and, therefore, it is a fit case where an order of issuance of notice for criminal contempt against author Arundhati Roy is required to be made.”
Elsewhere in the judgement the judge says: “The language used by the author in her article against the Government and the police machinery is as nasty as it could be and one really wonders whether the same would befit to the prestigious awards the author is said to have won.”
Is the language of the article is ‘as nasty as it could be’? Is the judge a competent authority to assess the literary merits of Arundhati Roy’s writings for which she has even won the Man Booker prize? And can you believe that the ideas such as the following can be there in the order of a High Court Bench in the largest democracy of the world, when freedom of expression is smothered in the country by spreading bullets against the writers and thinkers?
The order says: “This Court is also surprised that despite the intemperate and humiliating language used against the Central Government, the State Government, the police machinery and the armed forces, they have not taken any action against the author who, in the name of freedom of speech, is exploiting the situation.”
Of the 22 page judgement which denies bail to Dr. Saibaba, more than 8 pages are spent on Arundhati Roy and her article! The readers can see themselves whose language is as nasty as it could be—Arundhati Roy’s or ....
In the largest democracy of the world those who justifies the killing of innocent people get bail, those who organise atrocious gangs like the Salwa-Judum to terrorise people by raping, killing and torturing them go scot-free. The corporate world is allowed to plunder the natural resources that provide livelihood to a vast majority of the people, and to devastate the Environment that sustains the poor.
But when somebody speaks for those whose human-rights are violated, they are hunted down by the State using the Sedition law and the UAPA. And the judiciary is not offended by the cold-blooded cruelties the State and its police machinery inflict upon the innocent, but by a writer who writes for the oppressed millions of the country. And the callousnes of both the judiciary and the ruling dispensation continues to be the same even today. That is why an 84 year old man died as a prisoner without committing any crime. His only "crime" is being patriotic by working for those whose human-rights are violated by the Indian State.
Independent India has never witnessed such onslaughts 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.”
In India today, the really patriotic individuals are perishing and the reform or evolution of our democracy towards a more inclusive and plural and environment-friendly spirit is being smothered and killed.