Kashmir: Illegal occupation by India?

February 28, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

JNU, true to its reputation, has started retaliation to the narrow definition of nation and nationalism through a series of lectures. I have listened carefully to only one of them, by Professor Nivedita Menon. And that gives me an idea that these lectures should be carefully listened to, analyzed, appreciated and critiqued.  However, in this article I am not analyzing Professor Menon’s lecture in full, actually I am not analyzing it at all; am just using some ideas expressed in it on Kashmir and focusing my attention on legitimacy or otherwise of its accession to India.

But before I come to that let me start with an interesting and very timely quote from Ernest Renan by the learned professor: “nation is a daily plebiscite”. This is somewhat of a misquote as we will see just now, but in the right spirit. Renan it seems delivered a conference lecture in 1882 in which he made this statement. In this lecture he analyses formation of nations in Europe and traverses ancient history in this analysis. The paragraph in which the above quote occurs is worth reading in some more detail, he says: A nation is therefore a great solidarity constituted by the feeling of sacrifices made and those that one is still disposed to make. It presupposes a past but is reiterated in the present by a tangible fact: consent, the clearly expressed desire to continue a common life. A nation’s existence is (please excuse the metaphor) a daily plebiscite, just as an individual’s existence is a perpetual affirmation of life. Yes, I know, that is less metaphysical than divine right and less brutal than so-called law of history. In the scheme of ideas with which I present you, a nation has no more right than a king to say to a province: “You belong to me, I am taking you.” For us, a province is its inhabitants and, if anyone in this affair has the right to be consulted, it is the inhabitant. A nation never has a true interest in annexing or holding territory that does not wish to be annexed or held. The vow of nations is the sole legitimate criterion and that to which it is necessary to constantly return.”

We will come back to parts of this paragraph but let is note at this juncture that according to Renan here “A nation’s existence is (please excuse the metaphor) a daily plebiscite”, not “the nation” and he is calling it a metaphor. Let us accept this metaphorical and very just basis for the existence of a nation, that reminds us of expressed desire of its people to continue a common life. If the existence of India as a nation in this sense is a ‘daily plebiscite’ then all education in general and the JNU nationalism lecture series in particular are ‘referendum meetings’, to continue the metaphor. The BJP rhetoric and media transmissions, however unpalatable, are means of forming public opinion on the same issue. Thus we are constantly engaged in a debate which decides the opinion of the Indian population on what the Indian nation is, what it ought to be and how to realise that.

Some views on the Kashmir issue

This article should be seen in the same light; as a challenge, however feeble and uneducated, to one of the views expressed in this lecture by Professor Menon. She makes a few points in her lecture which could be summarised as follows:

  1. Junagarh’s king was a Muslim who wanted accession to Pakistan, but majority population was Hindu who wanted to be in India. The principle of majority population was followed. But in Kashmir the king was Hindu and majority population was Muslim, the same principle of majority population was not followed in Kashmir.
  2. Kashmir’s accession to India had the condition of plebiscite, which was never carried out.
  3. The whole world believes that Kashmir is illegally occupied by India. India is known in this matter world over as an imperialist nation, therefore freedom for Kashmir is a justified slogan.

These views are not unique to Prof. Menon’s lecture. There seems to be a video by the great Indian intellectual Ms. Arundhati Roy in which she claims that Kashmir was never a part of India.

In this connection it is important to listen to Umar Khalid, by now famous for the 9th February JNU meeting and its aftermath. He on 9th February tells media: this “… programme is basically about against the occupation of Kashmir by the Indian state and I make it very apparent here that I am not from Kashmir I believe that what is happening in Kashmir is an Indian occupation of Kashmir. Just like one territory is occupied by Pakistan another territory is occupied by the Indian state. And if you see Nehru’s words in 1947 was very clear that Kashmir will be given a plebiscite, it has been over seven decades, where is that promised plebiscite. And to speak about I mean internationally the right to self-determination is an international recognized democratic right.”

To understand this ideological position we should also pay attention to Mr. Khalid’s statement when he resurfaced after 10 days in hiding. With many atrocities by Indian state in very recent times he also notes that three young men were killed in Kashmir. Obviously he refers to the Pompore terrorist attack in which 6 security personal were also killed, and the terrorist were hailed as brave solders by Pakistani terrorist outfits as well as from a mosque in Kashmir. This expresses his stand on the Kashmir terrorism and the attempt of Indian forced to stem it.

In the same speech his ideological position becomes clear when he explains his stand on the anti-India slogans in JNU on 9th February. What I write below is a rough transcript of part of Mr. Khalid’s speech, and not his words verbatim; but I took care to be accurate in terms of meaning. About the slogans he says that there were some slogans “जो शायद हमारे नारे नहीं हैं, हमारा नारा right to self-determination का है. उन नारों में जो छोटी सी दिक्कत मैं देखता हूँ तो इतनी देखता हूँ when we are trying to enter into a dialogue with Indian population … quote-unquote “Indian population”, when I say …  because … I will come to it later. कहीं न कहीं हम उस जनता को antagonize करते हैं. आप जिस जनता से बात करना चाहते हैं वही antagonize होती है. But the onus is also on us to understand why this why this anger … I am not justifying anything. At the end I would like to say … … I don’t believe in any nationalism, I don’t believe in Indian nationalism, I don’t believe in American nationalism, I don’t believe in any nationalism. I dream of a world without nationalism, I dream of a world without borders, and my friends and comrades let’s imagine that world, that world is possible, and it is up to us to create that world, it is up to us, and it is our responsibility, and history will judge how much we stood the test of times in this difficult time today.”

Both Prof. Menon and Mr. Khalid get a huge applause on their statements I have mentioned above. Which means that these views are widely shared and appreciated in JNU, and among the intellectuals in India. No, don’t jump to conclusions, I am not calling them or any one in JNU anti-nationals. Actually I appreciate many of the ideas expressed in these statements; for example a constant building of opinion on nationalism, a continuously examined dynamically defined nation, and a world without borders. These are admirable thoughts, any one would appreciate them.

But I would like to examine their position on Kashmir rather closely from four angles: historical, legal, moral and pragmatic. Unfortunately I am an expert in none of these aspects or on nationalism. But am writing this simply because the current jingoistic mindless nationalistic rhetoric on one side and disdainful rejection of the idea of nation, nationalism and patriotism on the other is confusing a common man no end. All I am doing in this article is trying to make sense of all this and to take as informed position as possible for a non-expert, for a common citizen.

The historical angle

This is common to hear that the idea of India is as recent as of nineteenth century. And I have already mentioned above Ms. Roy’s claim that Kashmir was never a part of India. It is not of paramount importance that the territory called India today should have been established in great antiquity. However, one aspects of a nation-state is certainly territorial demarcation and integrity; and the idea of a nation “presupposes a past” as Renan puts it.

Professor Irfan Habib in his lecture to Aligarh Muslim University students on 26th October 2015 states: The first perception of the whole of India as a country comes with the Mauryan Empire. … the inscriptions of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka range from Kandahar and north of Kabul to Karnataka and Andhra and they are in Prakrit, Greek and Aramaic. So it was with such political unity that the concept of India came, and its first name was Jambudvipa a name which Ashoka uses in his Minor Rock Edict-1, … The term Bharata was also used in Prakrit in an inscription in Orissa, at Hathigumpha, of the Kalinga ruler, Kharavela in 1st century BC; that is the first instance of the use of Bharat, and Kharavela uses it for the whole of India. So, gradually the concept of India as a country began to arise and a cultural unity was also seen within it as religions like Buddhism, Brahmanism and Jainism spread to all parts of the country. Prakrit was spoken, at least literary Prakrit, all over the country, becoming its lingua franca. So, there were things which, as people could see, united us.”

He goes on to explicitly refute Perry Anderson: “I say all this because it means that the concept of India as a country was ancient, the assertion made by Perry Anderson in his book The Indian Ideology that the India is a name given by foreigners particularly Europeans in modern times, is a totally misleading statement.”

However, the idea of love for the country or patriotism came much later according to Prof. Habib. “True, there was a conception of India in ancient times, even before Christ, but when was there a conception of love for India i.e. patriotism?” he asks. And his answer is that “The first patriotic poem in which India is praised, India is loved, Indians are acclaimed is Amir Khusrau’s long poem in his Nuh Sipihir written in 1318.”

But that makes only a country, not a nation of free citizens. That according to Prof. Babib came during the freedom movement when the aspirations and wellbeing of the masses became a deep concern and were made part of the freedom movement. And later on enshrined in the Constitution of India.

In this background one has to ask what do people who agree with Ms. Roy that Kashmir was never a part of India mean. It certainly was a part of the historical conception of the country now we call India. And any ways, why does one rake that up? Does inclusion region in historical idea of a country give legitimacy to inclusion it today? If so, whole of Pakistan was part of idea of India as a country. What do we say about it? It is a useless rhetorical pronouncement then, design to suggest that India has no business including Kashmir in its territory.

Is Kashmir illegally occupied by India?

Prof. Menon claims that the world believes that, perhaps with a hint that so should we. One, does the “whole world” really believe that? What is the evidence? Of her “whole world” is confined to a few countries and territories alone? Even if the whole world believes that does it make the claim true? Should India take that claim to be true, and therefore, believe in it too? I see no reason to do so.

Mr. Khalid equates Pakistan and India in this matter. He says that one part of the territory is occupied by Pakistan and in the same manner another part is occupied by India. How true is that? Since we are talking of legal status first let us confine ourselves only to examine that only. I tried to look at the history of Kashmir’s accession to India and the UN resolutions concerned with it.

When India achieved independence there was a powerful movement in Kashmir led by Shaikh Abdullah, and the main point in the movement seems to be that of self-determination of Kashmiri people. The accession to India was delayed for this and other reasons. Then Pakistan attacked to forcefully annex it. That was the time when the Instrument of Accession was signed by the then Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir; who did have the legal authority to do so. So one wonders in what sense it could be called illegal? The Junagarh example of going to Pakistan or India according to the majority population is rather spacious. The majority of Kashmiri people in spite of being Muslims were not interested in going to Pakistan. They perhaps wanted to be an independent nation.

Both Prof. Menon and Mr. Khalid mention plebiscite and accuse India of denying plebiscite to the Kashmiri people. Of course India agreed for plebiscite in the UN. But it becomes clear to anyone who reads the UN resolution of 13th August 1948 that the plebiscite was to be held when the Pakistani forces and nationals had withdrawn from the whole of Kashmir, and India was supposed to keep minimum forces to keep law and order. The Indian forces were to remain in Kashmir when the Pakistani forces and nationals were withdrawn. Pakistan never fulfilled this condition and the UN was never strong and unanimous enough to force Pakistan to obey. Therefore, blaming India for not holding plebiscite is rather unfair.

One wonders on grounds Prof. Menon tells us that Kashmir is illegally occupied by India. Is Pakistan in a similar legal position to occupy Kashmir territory? Is there an instrument of accession with them? Is there any UN resolution that support their right to occupy? Is calling Indian position illegal are they being unreasonable and biased? Are they speaking against national interest? (I am not calling them antinational, all I am asking is is their position against the national interest?)

One can build an argument that the right to self-determination of a people is internationally accepted right, therefore, by not allowing Kashmiri people that right Indian occupation is illegal, even if not illegal from the point of instrument of accession and UN resolutions. But right to self-determination is a right of process and not of outcome. And the process requires conditions under which that right could be exercised. Those conditions are such that India alone cannot create them. And by now, due to heavy and completely illegal violent interference of Pakistan in the Kashmir the situation is made completely intractable. This argument of self-determination will cut legal ice only with those who are ideologically already committed to it. a common Indian will require more persuasion on better arguments.

The moral considerations

But perhaps the quote “a nation’s existence is a daily plebiscite” indicates to a moral position rather than to a legal one. So even if India has a legal right to consider Kashmir it’s integral part that does not prove that it also has a moral defence for that.

When one talks of right to self-determination in Kashmir what does it mean? What is the section of population this right is asked for? Self-determination may mean forming their own government within the Indian Union, which they already have. The last government was formed with majority, and the voter turnout was 65%. Was not it an expression of self-determination in this sense?

The right to self-determination can also be interpreted as right for a sovereign state, independent of India. Moral decisions of this nature always involve dilemmas. They involve more than one values, their respective force and prioritization. Another consideration in moral issue will be the morality of the aspiration and means employed by the other party to achieve those aspirations. The first thing to note, that the supporters of so-called Kashmir cause never do, is that the terrorist movement in Kashmir today is supported and guided by Pakistan. One does not know at this moment what part of it is the movement of Kashmiri people and what part is Pakistani movement. The movement might have been purely political in the beginning, but now it is also a religious separatist movement. The ethnic cleansing of Hindus is the valley cannot be brushed under the carpet. Therefore, when one argues for a moral position of self-determination of Kashmiris one is asking India to take a moral position in the face of a morally tinged violent struggle.

Furthermore, who are these people who want azadi in Kashmir? One does not have to study much to come to the conclusion that only Muslims do, at least now, even if the situation was different earlier. Even among the Muslims there is a view that only a minority want to secede from India. The slightly above 31% Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Christians do not want to separate from India. According to one view Shias have resisted separatist movement. Now the problem is that India has a moral responsibility towards the non-Muslim population of Jammu and Kashmir. The behaviour of the majority in valley has shown beyond doubt what will be the fate of this population if entire Jammu and Kashmir becomes a sovereign nation. The story of Pakistan and Bangladesh and the decreasing population of Hindus there shows the character of Indian subcontinent in this regard. Would it be morally justified for the Indian nation to abandon these 31% people? Or to displace them? Do they have any rights? If one thinks of separating only the valley, and the referendum is conducted only there; are we again endorsing the two nation theory? Is two nation theory morally justified?

The moral stand to consider Kashmir an integral part of India may not be that unambiguous, but neither is it totally unjustified; nor the opposite stand is morally justifiable.

The pragmatic considerations

We have already strayed into some of the pragmatic considerations while considering the moral issue. But the separation of Kashmir, be that the valley alone or the entire state of J&K, is bound to have very serious repercussions in the rest of India. When we talk of giving right to self-determination to Kashmiris we forget that India was divided in 1947 on the basis of religion. Now again the only Muslim majority state of India gets separated; and again on the basis of religion—whether the political pandits accept it or not. What conclusion the majority Hindu population should draw from this? Should the fraternity enshrined in the preamble of constitution be extended to the people who oppose separation of Kashmir as well, shoukd they too be understood? What would be the status of Muslims in the remaining of India? Will India remain secular? Actually, in such a situation, should India remain secular?

It seems the kind of position outlined above is untenable form all points of view. India is not an illegal occupier in Kashmir. Right to self-determination cannot be implemented at this moment. There is no grounds to accuse India of immoral occupation in Kashmir and India cannot be equated with Pakistan in this matter. Those who take this position and those who applaud them are going much beyond humanitarian consideration and upholding rights of populations; they are acting against the pragmatic interest of India, against its legally justified position and against its morally defendable position. And still they are free to discuss all this in India and are within their rights to do so as Indian citizens.

The rhetoric and its harms

Prof. Menon towards the end of her lecture makes a point that people who demand their rights are considered anti-national. According to her the north-east, Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, women against patriarchy, people against land acquisition and so on are considered anti-national. And at the end about 25 people Amit Shah, Narendra Modi, Smriti Irani and 22 lawyer goons of Patiala House Court are the only nationalist people. This is a clever rhetoric and it is not as benign as it looks. It first asserts that anyone who does not accept her idea of nation as daily plebiscite is with the Patiala house court lawyers and BJP. And according to her they are in a miserable minority. Therefore, if you raise a question on this idea of nation then you are just like those goons; or at the best like Bajrangis. This sounds like an election rhetoric now. Election rhetoric of an ideology which has interpreted the idea of “existence of nation as a daily plebiscite” to mean an occasion, not of strengthening the nation daily through extending justice and winning people over, but as a principle to attack the nation daily to dismantle it. But there are a majority of Indian who are not jingoistic and mindless like the ABVP, the two BJP MLAs and those lawyers; and still cherish the idea of Indian nation in spite of its weaknesses and without being disdainful to it. The torch bearers of this ideology forget that in painting this picture they are insulting the silent majority.

The constitution that promises us justice, liberty and equality also wants us to promote fraternity and safeguard the unity and integrity of the nation. It is a package deal; you cannot pick what you want and look disdainfully at the rest. It is worthwhile here to have a look at some of the fundamental duties listed in the constitution. “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India—

(a) to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem;

(b) to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;

(c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;

(d) to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;

(e) to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.”

As one can see it includes respect for the constitutional institutions that includes the Parliament and the Supreme Court. To uphold and defend the unity and integrity of India, to defend the country. And to promote harmony.

Now, the rulers of the nation in last 68 years have repeatedly and miserably failed to provide justice, equality, liberty and dignity to all its citizens. There have been injustice, curtailment of freedoms and denial of equality. The question however is: as a responsible citizen should one become disdainful of this nation or should one be pained and try to improve the situation? Debates and discussion and lectures that are going on in JNU certainly are ways of improvement through creating public opinion and awareness. Even the speeches like Mr. Khalid’s fall in the category of attempts to understand and improve the situation. But does shouting of slogans of barbadi and war till Kashmir is free fall in the category of debates and discussions? Is the slogan of “Kashmir ki azaadi tak jang rahegi” an argument in a discussion?

I might be wrong but it sounds more like declaration of staunch support to the violent war that is being waged against India with abetment and help from a foreign power. The metaphor of “existence of the nation as a daily plebiscite” allows for debate and forming opinion through it; both for and against the integrity of the nation. The plebiscite is expressed in the amendments that are allowed in the constitution. But does this preparation for plebiscite also include “daily declaration of war”? To understand the metaphor let’s look at the election speeches. In elections one is allowed to argue against positions and parties. But is one allowed to make hate speeches? As far as I know, no. The slogans that pledge war till India’s destruction in this daily plebiscite are like hate speeches. There is a difference between debate and war cries; and when we condone war cries in the name of debate and free speech we are favouring defeat for the nation in the metaphorical daily plebiscite.

The people who do not believe in Indian nationality and do not recognise Indian nation state but want to talk to the “Indian population” have already pronounced their judgment for India. I wonder how many in the Indian population would like to talk to them on these conditions; and why should they if they still believe in the Indian nation state? And the same people who when feel in danger from that Indian population appeal to the same Indian state which they do not recognise and by pass completely in their direct dialogue with that very Indian population! That should be enough to show the unviability of such a theoretical position.

At the end may I remind the learned people that the man who called “A nation’s existence is … a daily plebiscite” was wise enough to admit that “At the present moment, the existence of nations is a good and even necessary thing. Their existence is the guarantee of liberty, a liberty that would be lost if the world had only one law and one master.” I see no signs of human beings having become wiser and more ethical in the last about 134 years after Renan delivered this lecture. Mr. Tahagata Satpathi was right when he said that modern human intellect has as yet not evolved a better system of governance than democracy so far. Those who are impatient with democracy and dream of a world without nationalities should be wise enough and work tirelessly to create that world; and refrain from declaring war on what we have today, even if it is not perfect. There is a difference between improving democracy through peaceful development of human understanding and morality and supporting its destruction. Mr. Satpathi is also right when he says that an attitude of anti-India is being bred and applauded in our universities. We have to make a difference between denouncing and resisting the government, and building arguments for encouraging or acceptability of such anti-India sentiments. Let us not forget the difference between the government of the day and the nation.


Welcoming Umar Khalid

February 22, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

Umar Khalid is back from his brief hiding and it is a right decision. One can understand in his situation it is a courageous decision, and therefore, shows his determination and courage as well. May be some faith in the processes of the Indian system and certainly confidence in the support of his ideological comrades.

The speech he gave at JNU (saw this morning) is an inspiring speech and shows his concern for the deprived masses and struggle for them or on their behalf. The speech also shows concern for what the society might become if jingoist nationalism and canard spread through media gets upper hand. It also shows a confidence bordering on arrogance, but that perhaps is a necessary ingredient in any movement. Every Indian should be with Umar Khalid in these things.

But he answered none of the questions which right thinking, in my view—right thinking, Indians would like to ask him. Some of the questions I have for this staunch supporter of the deprived people are listed below.

  1. Let me begun with the one which arises out of today’s speech. He counted several instances when JNU students did not allow a view counter to their own ideology to be expressed in JNU. He clearly thinks that it was right. Then on what grounds can he demand right to free speech? Is it defendable to demand right to free speech for people who share views with him but feeling proud of denying the same right to others?
  2. He clearly raised at the least one objectionable, to my mind, slogans: Kashmir ki azadi tak jang rahegi. Does he support violent so-called azadi movement in Kashmir? If he does, why should he not be considered abetting violence against the Indian state and Indian people? If he does not, what does that slogan mean?
  3. He shouted “kitane Afzal maroge, ….”. Let’s assume he was unhappy with the lacunas pointed out by many in Afzal’s trial and that he happens to believe that Afzal was hanged wrongly. But no one denies Afzal’s involvement in the parliament attack. What are his views on the parliament attack? Was it a just attack, and does he support it?
  4. He was the most prominent organizer of the event on 9th February 2016. There were slogans like “Bharat tere tukade honge, …”, “Bharat ki barbadi tak, …..” in that event. What is his attitude to these slogans? Will he help catch the people who raised those slogans? Does he feel responsible about such slogans raised in an event he organized?
  5. The permission was withdrawn before it started. He simply ignored the authorities. Does he believe that if the authorities do not go as you want you have the right to disregard their decisions?
  6. There was an encounter between the terrorists and security forces in Kashmir a couple of days back. Several (seven?) security people and civilians dies in that. What is his stand on them? What does he think about the security forces people who died? Does he have any thoughts to spare for them as he has great concern for Afzal?

And do supporters of Umar Khalid know his stand on these issues? Are they with him on these issues, whatever his views on them might be?

If the supporters of JNU resistance and Umar Khalid be kind enough to explain their position on these issues, they may find many more supporters among the Indian people. But may be they do not need or care for support of people who ask such clearly retrograde questions!


The point and the counter point: JNU slogans

February 21, 2016

This time I am uploading a pdf file. It consists of Mr. Bharat Suri’s response to my articles “Spreading confusion through JNU issue”. Uploading pdf file to save time and trouble of writing a separate article. If problems in downloading please inform.

Responses to spreading confusion_2

एक तीसरी आवाज की अनसुनी

February 20, 2016

रोहित धनकर

रवीश कुमार का NDTV पर प्राइम टाइम (शायद १९ फरवरी का) बहुत ही सटीक और इस वक्त की चीख-चिल्लाहट में बेहद आवश्यक था. हमें और बहुत से ऐसे कार्यक्रम चाहियें. रवीश कुमार को इस के लिए धन्यवाद और जितनी हो सके उतनी प्रशस्ती मिलनी चाहिए. इस वक्त के अँधेरे और बेसमझी धारणाओं की लड़ाई को खूनी बनाने की कोशिश का पर्दा फास करने के ऐसे और प्रयाश और होने चाहियें. उन्हों ने बहुत सटीक सवाल उठाये हैं. अन्करों के काम को लेकर, भावनाओं का ज्वार पैदा करने को लेकर और तथ्यों की जाच को लेकर. यह एपिसोड सब को देखना चाहिए और इसपर सोचना चाहिए.

यह कार्यक्रम के इतना अच्छा होने के बावजूद मेरे मन में कुछ सवाल उठाता है. आशा है रवीश कुमार के चाहने वाले (जिन में मैं भी शामिल हूँ) इन सवालों को गलत नहीं समझेंगे. असहमती उनकी हो सकती है और वह जायज भी हो सकती है. मैं गलत हो सकता हूँ; पर जो सवाल हैं उनको रखना भी जरूरी है.

सब से पहले पूरे कार्यक्रम पर एक सवाल जो मुझे महत्त्वपूर्ण लग रहा है वह यह है कि अँधेरे की इन आवाजों को सुनाने की शुरुआत क्या इस नारों की आवाज से नहीं होनी चाहए थी, क्यों की यह बवाल तो यही से उठा?

  • कश्मीर की आजादी तक जंग रहेगी.
  • भारत की बर्बादी पर जंग रहेगी.
  • भारत तेरे टुकड़े होंगे, इंशा अल्लाह.

सवाल यह नहीं है कि यह नारे किसने लगाए, पर लगाए तो. क्या यह आवाज भी इस शांत चिंतन का हिस्सा होनी चाहिए जिसके लिए रवीश कुमार इतनी सिद्दत से और इतनी जायज अपील कर रहे हैं?

रवीश कुमार अपनी भूमिका या टिप्पणियों में कुछ बातें कहते हैं जिनकी तरफ ध्यान देना और उनके निहितार्थ समझना जरूरी है. उन में से कुछ बातें ये हैं (यह शब्दसह नहीं है, पर अर्थ वही है):

  • कश्मीर में ये नारे (मेरी समझ में उपरोक्त) रोज लगाए जारहे हैं, वहां सरकार ने कितनों को गिरफ्तार किया?
  • वहां पकिस्तान के झंडे रोज फहराए जारहे हैं.
  • कश्मीर की समस्या इस्लाम की समस्या नहीं है.
  • अफज़ल गुरु दिल्ली में आतंकवादी है तो श्रीनगर में क्या है?

अच्छा होता रवीश कुमार इस पर कुछ और साफ़ बोलते. अब हमारे पास इस नतीजे पर पहुँचाने के आलावा क्या रास्ता है कि यह सब कहकर वे यह बताना चाहते हैं कि:

  • जो नारे कश्मीर में लगाए जा रहे हैं इनको JNU में लगाने की भी छूट होनी चाहिए, या कमसे कम उन्हें नरमी से जरूर देखाजाना चाहिए.
  • यदि पकिस्तान का झंडा कश्मीर में फहराया जाता है तो इसे दिल्ली में भी नरमी से देखाजाना चाहिए.

इन दो स्थापनाओं पर बहुत गंभीरता से विचार होना चाहिए. सवाल यह बिलकुल नहीं है कि जो सरकार कर रही है वह जायज है, जो कुछ एंकर कर रहे हैं वह जायज है, जो पटियाला हाउस में वकीलों ने किया वह जाजाज़ हैं. ये सब गलत है. हमें इसे तुरंत रोकना चाहिए. पर इस स्थापनाओं के माध्यम से हम ऐसे नारों को यदी जायज नहीं बता रहे तो नरमी से लेने लायक जरूर बता रहे हैं. सहन करने काबिल जरूर बता रहे हैं. नारे लगाने वालों को अपने समूहों में शामिल करने की वकालत अवश्य कर रहे हैं. क्या इस से ऐसे नारे लगाने वालों की संख्या बढ़ेगी? क्या इस से जो अभी ये नारे लगा रहे हैं उनका मनोबल बढेगा? क्या ये दोनों चीजें इन नारों के पीछे की मनसा को पूरा करने में मददगार शाबित होंगी?

यह अभिव्यक्ती की आजादी का तर्क है जिस पर मैंने अपने पिछले ब्लॉग पोस्ट में लिखा है और जिसका कुछ मित्रों ने विरोध किया है. उनका यह कहना है की सरकार और ABVP के जायज और तीव्र विरोध में ऐसा माहोल बनाने का कोई तत्त्व नहीं है जो ऐसे नारों को नरमी से लेने की वकालत करता हो. मुझे रवीश जी के इस प्रोग्राम से लगता है ऐसा तत्त्व है, और यह कार्यक्रम इस का एक उदाहरण है.

यह सही है कि कश्मीर की समस्या की शुरुआत में इस्लाम का तत्त्व बहुत कम था. मेरा मानना है कि कुछ हद तक पकिस्तान के कबायलियों के वेश में आक्रमण करने के दिन से कश्मीर की समस्या में इस्लाम का तत्त्व था; क्यों कि पकिस्तान ने यह इस्लाम के नाम पर किया था. फिर भी कश्मीर की जनता भारत के साथ थी और केवल स्वायत्त निर्णय चाहती थी, जो उनका जायज हक़ था. और यह मूलतः राजनैतिक समस्या ही थी. पर आज यह उतनी ही इस्लाम की समस्या है जितनी राजनीती की. बल्की अब यह इस्लाम-प्रेरित राजनीती की समस्या है. नहीं तो पकिस्तान के झंडों का, ISIS के झंडों का, नारों की शुरुआत नराए-तदबीर (?) (अल्लाह हो अकबर) से करने का कोई स्पस्टीकरण नहीं है.

अब सवाल यह है कि वे भारतीय जो सरकार की आवाज दबाने की कोशिशों को गलत मानते हैं, ABVP और BJP के समर्थकों के हुड़दंग को गलत और राष्ट्र के लिए नुकशानदेह मानते हैं; पर उनके मन में नारों को लेकर उपरोक्त चिंताएं भी हैं; वे क्या रुख लें?

क्या उनकी आवाज ऎसी आवाज नहीं है जो सरकारी खेमे के विरुद्ध है, पर जिसे सरकार का विरोध करने वाले भी नहीं सुनना चाहते? क्या इस चिंता को अनसुना करना और इसे अभिव्यक्त करने वालों को सरकारी-खेमे की वर्त्तमान गतिविधियों का समर्थक मान लेना जायज है? क्या रवीश जी के TV के अँधेरे में इस आवाज को भी सुनना चाहिए था? मुझे लगता है इस आवाज को नहीं सुनकर सही रस्ते पर मजबूती से चल रहे बुद्धी-जीवी और रवीश जी जैसे एंकर सरकारी-खेमे को आम जानते के सामने एक नाजायज तर्क करने का मौक़ा दे रहे हैं. यदी उनकी इस चिंता की आवाज से असहमती है तो उनको बहुत सफलता नहीं मिलेगी. और यह बहुत दुर्भाग्यपूर्ण होगा.


Spreading confusion through JNU issue

February 19, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

Due to inaptitude and dogmatism of the government supposed to be thinking people of India—the intellectuals—have been very successful in obfuscation, spreading confusion, on certain vital issues; deliberate or otherwise. The government acted ham-handedly under the influence of its own narrow, biased, dogmatic and sectarian definition of the nation and nationalism; and perhaps also with intentions of discrediting JNU to be able to better control it. The spontaneous or manufactured attack by Patiala House Court lawyers made the matters worst and gave a potent issue to the group of people who wanted to divert public gaze away from the 9th February events in JNU. Certainly there is a possibility that the JNU teachers may be feeling that attack on autonomy of JNU, curbing dissent through arrest of Kanhaiya and dubbing JNU as anti-national are much more important threats to the democracy and the nation than shouting of a few anti-India slogans by a group of students. Therefore, they are going full steam in attacking the government on these issues nationally and internationally.

It seems to me that hallmark of an intellectual is to see the whole picture, remain unbiased, and the ability to see consequences of ideas and action, beyond one’s immediate concerns. Their resistance to the excessive use of force by the government, not allowing JNU internal processes to take their own course, maddening media campaign by some channels to dub entire university anti-national and condemnation of the Patiala house hooligans is entirely justified. And in that they are actually rendering a service to the democracy in the country and to the nation; because this nation exists only because of democracy and democratic values.

And yet, they are guilty of spreading confusion—though may not be entirely deliberate—that may come back to haunt us in future in very menacing ways. By their actions, writings and behaviour they are making light of the slogan-shouting incident and making it almost acceptable in young people’s minds as an exercise of freedom of speech. And, thereby, making the country a softer target. This needs a closer examination.

At present the entire debate is focussed on the sedition charges. I must make it clear there that I am not discussing whether Kanhaiya Kumar attracts charges of sedition or not. As far as I can understand, so far there is no evidence in public domain that established that he shouted anti-India slogans. Some TV channels are making a spacious argument that since Umar Khalid is standing next to Kanhaiya when the latter is shouting “azadi” slogans, where azadi is demanded from samant-vad, sangh-vad etc.; therefore, he should be deemed to be shouting azadi for Kashmir. This is completely illogical and unacceptable; actually deliberately malicious.

The issue I am discussing here is whether slogans like “Bharat ki barbadi tak jang rahegi” fall under sedition or not. The Article 124-A is about “the Government established by law in India”. It states: “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.” Then it adds clarifications to the effect that disapprobation of the measures of the government with intention to bring about their alteration or disapprobation of administrative acts of the government without exiting hatred and through lawful means does not constitute an offence under this act.

The act read in itself certainly covers the slogan that were shouted, and deems them offence punishable under this law; as those slogans did excite hatred, contempt and disaffection towards the “the government established by law in India”. However, through reading recent articles by constitutional experts it seems that the Supreme Court has interpreted it more liberally. Fali Nariman in The Indian Express (17th February) states: “sedition in India is not unconstitutional, it remains an offence only if the words, spoken or written, are accompanied by disorder and violence and/ or incitement to disorder and violence.”

I personally fail to understand why declaration of “Bharat ki barbaadi tak, jang rahegi” is not “incitement to disorder and violence”? It seems to me that “sedition” as defined here, even by Nariman, remains a punishable offence by his own words.  If one raises a technical point that “sedition” in its dictionary meaning is not punishable, I can call it only obfuscation, as law defines terms for specific purposes. If one argues that the term “sedition” is not used in Article 124A, then it means nothing; call it what you like, it is not a quibble about naming. But I am not a legal expert, therefore, will wait to be enlightened through further reading etc. and suspend my judgment on this issue till then.

The point I want to raise is much more important for our future as a nation. The three slogans (Kashmir ki azadi tak, Bharat ki bardadi tak jang rahegi; and “Bharat tere tukade honge, insha Allah, insha Allah) are not, repeat not against the government alone. They are against the idea of and fact of India, Bharat. They express hatred, contempt, disaffection, abetment and intent to destroy India. The governments come and go, we may oppose and resist governments, may dislike them, may want to change them and actually do change them every five years. India remains, India gives us the space in which we create lawful governments. And these slogans are against that idea of governing ourselves democratically. Reducing this issue to technicality of disaffection with the government is obfuscation, creating confusion. It is a failure to make a distinction between the government of the time and the nation.

So what is this Bharat/India they want to destroy? It is people living in a certain demarcate geographical region who have decided to live together and govern themselves through a self-created constitution. And that includes the landmass and its territorial integrity. Because without the territorial integrity the values enshrined in the constitution cannot be realised, can be practices. It includes a multiple cultural traditions which interact with each other and constantly modify and recreate themselves. In this interaction they cooperate with each other, oppose and fight with each other, confront each other, change each other and are changed by each other. This India is aspirations of people who possess multiple identities and varied imagination of the nation and life in it. This involves confrontation of aspirations, groupings for struggle for power and control, struggle against oppression and injustice and compromises. It involves a shifting cauldron of love-hate relationships. It involves a huge turmoil and constant search for harmony and justice for all. And all this goes on within a framework of values we call constitution; and kept within limits by various structures, including the government.

These slogans express a contempt for this arrangement, these people, this structure of values, this way of life, this territorial entity; these slogans want to destroy it all. And under various kinds of spacious arguments young people are being made to believe that it is alright to want to destroy this idea, these people this entity; and it is alright to express this intention openly within this entity, and living within these people.

In this festival of spreading confusion one hears pronouncements like “Gandhi and Tilak were charged for sedition, it is a law that wants to punish all those who want freedom”. They do not know, or are incapable of understanding, the difference between a foreign power occupying a country and a country being governed by a constitution given to itself by its own people; between a colonised people and sovereign people. Their analytical capabilities are being destroyed by these fallacious argument based on half-understood facts.

There are supposed to be critical torch bear of equality who counter the charge of making heroes out terrorists by pronouncing that Bhagat Sigh and Khudiram Bose were also called terrorist. Thereby, proving to themselves that since we call Bhagat Singh and Khudiram Bose revolutionary freedom fighters Maqbool Bhat and Afzal Guru were also ‘freedom fighters’. They forget, or do not have enough understanding of, the difference between democratic country where alternative and peaceful means of seeking justice are available, where you can participate in government formation; and a colonised country whose government is formed by those outsiders who are not governed by it. More importantly, they forget that Indian revolutionaries rarely targeted innocent public, even innocent Britishers. They attacked government officials who were directly responsible for atrocities, of course in revolutionaries’ minds. But terror through rampant innocent killing and ‘terror’ through targeting particular perceived wrong doer are different.

Arguments are being made out to say that anti-India slogans like the ones cited above and armed struggle against a perceived unjust state are legitimate rights of the people who are oppressed.

No one can deny that the Indian democracy so far has not been just to all its citizens. There are tribles, Dalits, Nagas, Bodos, and Kashmiri people who have been wronged, even oppressed, under this regime after regime and even by the Indian state. This oppression has driven some of them to take up arms, often abated by outsiders. Having sympathy with oppressed groups and standing with them in their struggle is duty of a democratic citizen. But condoning, eulogizing, abetting and supporting armed struggle takes you to a different level.

A democratic system does have redressal systems. Theoretically it is easy to prove that unless run by angels a democracy will involve discrimination and injustice through the self-seeking of those who are in power. Practically it can be seen happening on the ground. And yet, declaration of armed struggle against it on one hand, and making the state sensitive and more just through lawful and democratic means on the other are not the same. Everyone has recourse to peaceful democratic means. And let me admit that it is possible that oppression, atrocities and injustice to a section of people may reach a level when those people come to the conclusion that the armed struggle is the only means left. (I am not going here into the many strategic used that an armed struggle can serve for those who declare it.) That is a shameful situation for a democracy, the whole nation is culprit in such a situation. And that is an unfathomable misfortune for those people. If a democracy does not take care of such situations and does not restore a just system and, thereby, the confidence of the disaffected people; it will get destroyed. In such situations there might be sympathisers of the oppressed people who want to support such armed struggles.

But they all, the oppressed as well as their supporters, should know that declaration of armed struggle is breakdown of the constitutional system and declaration of was on the nation. It is a declaration that we no more accept the constitution, that it has failed, that we are not bound by it. Once you do that, talk of ‘constitutional right for armed struggle’ is imbecile talk. Therefore, support of armed struggle and remaining within the constitutional limits is contradictory. Those who want to support armed struggle should know that they are declaring the constitution useless, they have no constitutional right to support armed struggle to break the country. And they should know that there are people who still have confidence in the democracy and the constitutions; therefore, the state has the duty to protect these citizens. Conclusion that a democracy will fight back tooth and nail does not require much brains. Declaration of war will get what it wants: a war. This situation is no good either for the people who declare armed struggle or their supports or rest of the nation. It is a bad situation, morally indefensible; and ultimately a compromise. But unfortunately humanity at this moment has no better solution. This is not a good solution; but in the current development of humanity it is the best solution. We have to live with it till we find a better one; and have to keep searching for that. We have to find a way of being sensitive to atrocities by various sections and people on other sections and people of the country; we have to fight these injustices and have to do it in a manner that the idea of India becomes stronger and not weakened.

The current debates are actually spreading these, and more, confusions; through their general tenor and kind of arguments they are building. This is an insidious way of harming the nation—as defined above, a constitutional nation—and democracy. It is preparing ground for various insurgencies, preparing an environment of false intellectualism where those who want to harm India can be respected and protected under the garb of radical ideas and seeking justice. This will haunt us, will come back to us. Confusing young students on these issues through spacious theories is dangerous and will ultimately harm all of us. Most probably this is not deliberate. But a critical citizen is called upon to be aware and responsible for unintended outcomes of his/her actions as well.


The ‘Nation’ turning into a ‘Wrathful God’

February 18, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

[This is a reaction to Patiala house lawyers’ behavior on 17th February 2016, according to Times of India news report. I am very sceptical of news reports these days, still the ToI report sounded reliable and very disturbing early in the morning.]

Lawlessness of the lawyers is well known and there are dozens of instances in courts across the country in last few years when lawyers created a riot like situation and committed violence. There are many instances when they did it to save a member of their own community—a lawyer—from police action resulting from some crime committed by that member. Their relationship with the judiciary and the police is of mutual dependence and that gives them a certain confidence of handling these two favorably. As a result they have often blocked the process of law and delivered their own judgment.

But if I remember correctly most often they have used this brazenness to save some or other erring member of their own community from the just course of law. The Patiala house court incident is different. There the avowed objective is to ‘save the nation’. This might be the beginning of something sinister.

We have seen numerous riots in the name of religion and hurt feelings in the name of the God. This behavior of the ‘faithful’ has thoroughly discredited the religion and the God in the minds of thinking people; or at the least this malignant interpretation of the religion. The Patiala house incident has openly declared coming of the age of a new ‘Wrathful God’ THE NATION.

In the religious riots and hurt feelings’ issues—real or sham—the chanting has been “come what may I will defend my religion and God, and punish those who speak against it”. When the hurt feeling is boiled to a certain point the mob is ready to lynch and go berserk. The pot of misplaced national fervor—mostly sham and politically motivated—has been on the simmer for some time by now. The lawless lawyers of Patiala house are now declaring that this pot is on the boil; and new wrathful God called the Nation is coming out of it.

If you say anything that according to them goes against the nation they will lynch and beat you up. Once the principle is established, fervor is raised and the ideology of wrathful nation is spread widely enough no central engineering of riots is needed. The machinery starts operation automatically at the local levels and controlling it becomes very difficult.

The low machinery and successive governments have been very deferential towards the religious sentiment; that made the monster of religious riots very powerful and now everyone is scared of it. But it has also thoroughly discredited the religions in the minds of right thinking people.

Now the law enforcement agencies and the government seem to be very deferential to the sentiment of nation, they are allowing a new kind of hurt-feeling—hurt national feeling—to be established, to gain a sacred aura. This will become a new cause for rioting. You will see ‘nation riots’ like have been seeing ‘religious riots’; if this is not checked. And the suspicion it arouse for the genuine national feeling is too dangerous for the nation. Turning Bharatmata from vatshalya-mai to a wrathful and violent Chandika is too demeaning and dangerous for the Bharatmata herself. Those who genuinely care for India; be that in the form of a constitutional nation or Bharatmata; should stop this new wrathful, lawless and violent God being called “Nation”; this is an imposter; the real nation is sane, peaceful, rational and loving for all its citizens. Let us stop this replacement of the sane and rational nation by this demon unjustly masquerading as the nation.


Common Indian: between the devil and the deep sea

February 16, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

ABVP, BJP and the Government

The BJP including the government and its wings have only one thing to say to its detractors: anti-nationals. They think that once they utter this pious word from their lips the argument is complete. Period. The soul of the nation for them, of course, is in Nagpur. And it’s truest embodiment is the Sangh.

Even the young ABVP activists who should have a fertile imagination and convictions of a young idealist are totally parrot like, trite, unimaginative and unconvincing; under this stifling notion of the Indian nation. When they want to be forceful all they can do is abuse. Calling people dogs seem to be their most forceful slogans.

The government in arresting Kanhaiya has proved itself to be totally inapt. The Home Minister seems to be losing his depth. It is not totally unbelievable that all this hyper activity might be partly motivated by future elections in JNU. (Do I understand correctly that JNU election are coming in March? I am not sure here.)

Their zeal for demanding worship of their imagination of the nation is fanatical. And their imagination of that nation seems to be empty but for Bharat-Mata. If one takes cue from their imagination of history and ancient India then it seems to be coming right out of Raja Ravi Varma’s calendar paintings and second hand heard puranic stories.

Indian police was never known for its braininess, but by arresting Kanhaiya they seem to have bracken their own record, unless they really have something up their sleeves; which does not seem to be very probable.

This is the devil.

The JNU function

It is hard to deny that there was objectionable sloganeering in JNU. Whether shouting such slogans attracts sedition charges or not is a legal matter, and I do not know much of that. The slogans I consider objectionable can be categorized in two classes.

One, objectionable:

  • कश्मीर कि जनता संघर्ष करो, हम तुम्हारे साथ है.
  • अफज़ल कि हत्या नहीं सहेंगे, नहीं सहेंगे.
  • कितने अफज़ल मरोगे, हर घर से अफज़ल निकलेगा.
  • कितने मकबूल मरोगे, हर घर से मकबूल निकलेगा.

I call them objectionable because they if logically analyzed will lead to disrespect for the constitution (it also encompasses the territorial integrity of India), UN processes (withdrawal of Pakistani troops was a precondition of plebiscite), Indian parliament (it passed a resolution that Kashmir is integral part and it was attacked) and The Supreme Court (it awarded death sentence to Afzal and Makbool Bhat).

I do not consider them ‘seriously objectionable’ because there are Indian citizens who have counter views on the secessionist movement in Kashmir and question the fairness of trial or availability of defense to Afzal. Since many India citizens have these views the students may be considered under their influence and ignorant of the history of Kashmir problem. Youthful idealism even if coming out of ignorance and misguided sense of justice should be considered a subject of dialogue. Idealism is too precious to stifle even if it happens to be somewhat misguided.

Two, seriously objectionable slogans:

  • कश्मीर की आज़ादी तक, जंग रेगी, जंग रहेगी
  • भारत की बर्बादी तक, जंग रहेगी, जंग रहेगी.
  • भारत तेरे टुकड़े होंगे, टुकड़े होंगे.

This seems to be seriously objectionable to me because it directly calls for violence and breaking up India. Ignorance, stupidity and misguided idealism cannot become factors in condoning these kids of slogans. But they need to be dealt with dialogue and social/moral disapproval. Such people do not deserve respect as fellow Indian citizens, and need to be watched. They can be on the verge of becoming a threat to the nation. Their number does not matter, terrorism can function with small numbers.

But people who are shouting these slogans are not recognizable in the videos so far circulating. Still it was happening in our supposed to be the best university in presence of hundreds of students. No one was seen trying to stop them. That is serious, and disheartening.

Who were these people who were shouting these slogans? Kanhaiya could have been in the best position to find that out because of his reach to students; and it is not possible that no students knew them. The police has arrested Kanhaiya who is not seen shouting slogans and there is nothing to show his complicity in this; apart from one single fact that he supported the function even after the administration withdrew permission. But that does not prove that he knew what will happen. The poster itself is objectionable enough but that comes in category one above. Therefore, in this unjustified arrest the police has lost its best chance to identify the people shouting these seriously objectionable slogans.

JNU protest

The students’ and teachers’ protest against Kanhaiya’s arrest is completely justified. The torrent of articles appearing in the press condemning the arrest, the ham-handedness and inaptness of the government is pointing to the right concerns.

But there is also something worrying about this. The focus is completely on attacking the government and BJP and everyone has forgotten the seriously objectionable nature of the last three slogans after a momentary lip-service to condemn them. It seems almost deliberate to distract the people’s attention from the seriousness of the slogans to that of the omissions and commissions of the government. In the zeal for bashing up the government a serious problem is being ignored. Not even that, but is portrayed as too minor an issue to pay attention to.

This attitude will encourage and protect the people who shouted those objectionable slogans. It will communicate to other students that people who shout such slogans are fine, can be part of the student community and enjoy it’s protection.

This is the deep sea, if the BJP agenda is the devil. Mature, serious and responsible democratic academics and intellectuals of a country are so busy fighting their current political battle (right kind of battle) that they are oblivious or are willfully ignoring the dangers their single mindedness may bring about in the long run.


What is wrong with Amartya Sen’s well-argued article “Dissent and freedom in India”

February 13, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

Amartya Sen’s article in Indian Express, 13th February 2016, titled “Dissent and freedom in India” is very well-argued and balanced.

(http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/amartya-sens-column-dissent-and-freedom/ )

Sen rightly notes that we are too tolerant, to the extent tolerating intolerance. That we should be more determined and proactive in defending our freedom. He also rightly notes that neither Indian constitution nor Indian tradition, including Hindu tradition, can be blamed for this intolerance. The constitution gives Indians freedom to express and disagree. The Hindu tradition (he quotes the famous Nasadiya Sukta from Rig Veda, the ultimate in scepticism about God to my mind) according to him was “familiar with, and tolerant of, arguments about religious beliefs for more than 3,000 years”.

He blames the intolerance on, (1) small organised groups, (2) their “imagined entitlement of “not to be offended” (an alleged entitlement that does not seem to exist in this particular form in any other country)”, and (3) colonial era “British law, primarily Section 295(A)” which puts “on a pedestal … the sentiments of any religious group”. Then he suggests five strategic points to resist “unfreedom” being imposed on us, all of them are perfectly valid, very good and can be very effective if used with commitment and judgment.

In all these points one sees a clear mind of a Nobel Laureate and great intellectual. All these points are briefly but very well argued and make perfect sense. Actually they put the finger right on the ailing nerve.

And yet, something is deeply wrong with Sen’s article.

That wrong is not in what he says, not in what he argues for, not in the way he argues, not in his facts. That wrong lies in what Sen has left out unsaid, what he deliberately avoids, what he communicates without stating, an overall un-argued argument he makes effortlessly.

In his well-written 1200 word article Mr. Sen makes references to 9 examples of intolerant behaviour of small organised groups which imposed ‘unfreedom’ on the majority tolerant population. Seven of them are sound and justified examples, even if somewhat repetitive. One can question and debate only two of them. Court cases on MF Hussain and Wendy Doniger. They were court cases, and a citizen has the right to go to the court against something which s/he finds objectionable and illegal; it is for the courts to decide whether to uphold the appellant’s contention. In both these examples the cases were not pursued to the end. But he is partially right even here, as he blames Section 295(A) of IPC, on the basis of which such complaints become justiciable and in the light of which the outcomes might have gone in favour of the appellants.

What is wrong in the article is his careful choice of the examples. Out of nine examples only one example puts the blame of attacking freedom on a Muslim group—that of Satanic Verses. And even there it is put on the government of the day. All other examples are those of unjust restriction of freedom by Hindu groups.

Taslima Nasrn’s plight, attacks on Lokmat office in Maharashtra and subsequent unconditional apology of from the paper, Kamalesh Tiwari being in jail, having a prize of 51 lakh on his head announced by a UP cleric and continuing violent protest to hammer home the demand of death penalty for blasphemy, chopping of fingers of a Kerala professor for a question in examination paper that mentioned Muhammad; none of these are alluded to in his article. These are recent examples, if one goes little farther back than Satanic Verses one finds example of serious communal riots on making Muhammad a character in a Kannada story and a host of many more such cases.

Sen, therefore, is creating an impression that the threat to freedom and imposition of ‘unfreedom’ is from the small but organised Hindu groups. Actually, it might be alleged that he considers the examples of Muslim groups’ imposition  of unfreedom primarily as out comes of attack on a religious minority; and therefore, just a reaction from the minority and not instances of imposing unfreedom.

As long as our tallest intellectual remain selective in siting instances of intolerance and keep focussing on one wrong doer, either condoning or ignoring the other, we will not be able to defend the freedom of speech, we will not be able to stem the tide of intolerance. Actually, we will be strengthening one intolerant group (the Hindu one) and encouraging the other (the Muslim one).

Some very wise intellectuals interpret this demand for mentioning and condemning both groups as ‘a balancing act’ of giving ‘equal blows’ to both groups; a demand for ‘if hit one,  hit the other as well’. This is excessively moronic interpretation of this demand. It is not to balance your blows; but is a demand for commitment to always, by principle, call a spade a spade. Respecting the truth equally wherever and in whatever shape it is found; without considerations for political correctness or ideological commitments or your current political purposes. Because the truth filtered through these screens is no more a truth, it becomes a falsehood, it becomes what Harry Frankfurt calls “bullshit”.

Yes, this is a very high moral demand. Not easy to meet, even if you happen to be a great intellectual. But then freedom of expression is a very high moral principle; you cannot buy a diamond for dimes. If you are not prepared to pay the price of freedom in coins of truth and fairness you are condemned to forfeit it. The choice is yours.

It is important to say all this particularly in response to a well-argued and largely balanced article by a top level and much respected intellectual. As the value of valid and forceful arguments is likely to be reduced by simple omission which can be interpreted as a biased selection. And also, because the very potent strategic points listed in the article are likely to become operationalised in an imbalanced and unfair manner by the politically correct intellectuals.

In today’s climate it is easy to interpret what is written in the paragraphs above as a justification of what small organised Hindu groups are doing. Again, it would be a moronic interpretation. These groups rightly deserve condemnation and punishment as per the law; even if other groups committing similar crimes go scot-free, it does not justify leaving them scot-free as well. But such condemnation and one-sided punishment will not stop the intolerance. It will only create a mentality of unjustified victimhood in them and their resolve to perpetrate their heinous acts will only strengthen. To eradicate a malaise one has to give appropriate treatment to all infected by it; being selective leave the virus flourishing and it becomes resistant to your medication in due time.