Last week on Firstpost, during the heated JNU debate, I took the fun quiz “How anti-national are you?” The result is for all to guess, considering the times we live in under this government. The situation has rapidly deteriorated after that government came to power and alarmingly so with each passing day. What has emerged is a web of lies and deceit to set a fascist agenda under the garb of nationalism and patriotism, which Samuel Johnson famously said was the last refuge of the scoundrel.
Sadly it has turned out to be the very first for this government, as it has been unable to live up to the promises it made to this great nation. Events being played out at JNU by the BJP and its related organisations are a ploy to divert attention from paralysis of governance and economic crisis that the country is facing. Exports have declined for the 14th month in a row. Core-sector manufacturing has dipped. The Sensex has crashed, leading to an erosion of wealth and hard-earned savings of small investors, and yet we have a government that is busy creating a religious divide ever since it came into power and is now setting an agenda of patriotism to thwart dissenting voices.
Sedition charges have been applied on students on the basis of doctored videos.
No one stands to support anything that goes against the nation and its unity and if anti-national slogans were raised, take action is what most say, but it smacks of hypocrisy when the BJP that shares power in Jammu and Kashmir with the PDP — a party that called Afzal Guru’s hanging a travesty of justice — is busy applying sedition charges for the same offence in Delhi. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely is true in BJP’s case. A brief history of application of Section 124A will show how the courts have in most cases rejected the charges.
Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code reads: “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…”. And now, for the court’s judgment in the Kedar Nath Singh case: “Comments, however strongly worded, expressing disapprobation of the measures of government without exciting those feelings which generate the inclination to cause public disorder by acts of violence, would not be penal.”
The sedition charge in the JNU case comes despite the government knowing it won’t stand in the court, but it comes to let everyone be warned about the harassment they will face if they choose to speak against this government or the prime minister. All government machinations have been put to use to silence the dissenting voices. The same sinister pattern was adopted during the FTII protests, when the protesting students were called 'Naxals'.
Students of 'Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle' in IIT-Madras were banned merely because they dared to criticise Narendra Modi. Students like Rohith Vemula and others were systematically persecuted on the campus of Hyderabad Central University and called 'anti-nationals' and 'Naxalites’. The BJP is muzzling the voice of India's youth, students, teachers, journalists, Opposition and every individual organisation that questions the subjugation of disagreement or paralysis of governance.
The BJP president in this ongoing debate wrote a blog asking whether Congress supported anti-nationals, he asked questions of Rahul Gandhi’s patriotism. All this from a party president who promoted Sakshi Maharaj for eulogising Nathuram Godse as a martyr instead of taking suitable action, a president who turned a blind eye when Damodar Naik (BJP MLA) celebrated Godse as a martyr. It is indeed rich coming from a party president who has no qualms when Islamic State and Pakistani flags, and anti-India slogans are shouted in Jammu and Kashmir. The Congress and its leaders do not need lessons in patriotism from those who sided with the British in the freedom struggle.
We emphatically reject the patriotism certificate from those who did not even acknowledge or fly the Tricolour at their Nagpur headquarters for 52 years after Independence. It is indeed a crying shame when those who released dreaded terrorist Maulana Masood Azhar — under whose watch terrorists attacked the Parliament — are busy calling people anti-nationals. Those who seek self-glorification instead of service to the nation have led us to terrorist incidents like Dinanagar, Udhampur and recently Pathankot. Jawans have needlessly lost their lives because we have a government that has no clear policy on Pakistan.
A flashback to 2014: During the run up to the General Election, BJP spokespersons called Narendra Modi the tsunami that will sweep the country and come to power. Every time they said that, I wondered if they realised that a tsunami is followed by havoc and disaster. What we are seeing unfold right in front of our eyes is the aftermath of said tsunami that has brought in its wake havoc to the Constitution. And if we do not protest strongly enough, it can lead to a disastrous cost for our nation.
Is this what they really meant when they said vote us to power for development?
Did the development mean unleashing a tsunami that can have far reaching consequences one cannot even begin to fathom?
It is time to speak up or forever hold the consequences of your silence.
The author is the national spokesperson of the Indian National Congress. Views are personal. She tweets at @priyankac19