My strongly critical views on the Pakistani establishment can be seen here and here. My view on the ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ controversy stirred by MIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi can be seen here, and on the JNU sedition controversy can be seen here, and on each of these occasions, I have taken a strongly nationalist position.
However, if a person says that Pakistan is not hell and that very many Pakistanis are nice people (as actor and politician Ramya did), that doesn’t amount to sedition, which is to attempt to undermine the rule of law in India as per the constitutional framework the way calling someone known only for terrorism a martyr is. Certainly, the entire population of Pakistan shouldn’t be demonised (for more on this, please see this article and this article, and it may be noted that BJP leader Yashwant Sinha had written a letter expressing concern when liberal Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir was shot at), and we can all have our views on whether it is appropriate to call that country a hell on earth or not. Have a look at this video of liberal Pakistani Muslim intellectual Najam Sethi, or this article written by a Pakistani (let’s assume he still holds a Pakistani passport) and think whether it would be appropriate for such people to be framed under sedition laws in Pakistan. Certainly, that wouldn’t be justified.
Democracy is all about debate and free exchange of ideas, with restraints only to protect people’s lives and the rule of law. This episode certainly doesn’t make the cut for sedition and should be dismissed in the first hearing itself, which I predict it will be.
The fate of Germany after the Second World War tells us the outcome of charting the course of restricting civil liberties, as does the fate of Afghanistan in its post-Taliban phase. We have to be careful to safeguard our civil liberties, for dictators are often not benevolent, as we can see in North Korea.
No, I am not engaging in fear-mongering here, but urging all Indians to keep up a fight against authoritarian tendencies. We may disagree with what others say, but we must indeed defend their right to say it, at least as long as it falls within the constitutional guarantees.
(Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)