To qualify as sedition, the impugned expression must threaten the sovereignty and integrity of India and security of the State. Since it has been made a distinct offence under section 124A, it would not be advisable to place expressions exciting disaffection against the State under the proposed section on hate speech.”
– Law Commission of India, Report No.267, Hate Speech, March 2017
After the thorough investigation, Delhi Police has filed chargesheet against the so-called dissenting student voices from the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University with the strong charges of sedition. Whether that will sustain the court of law or not only time will tell but, it has certainly evoked the debate on the issue of ‘sedition’.
In 2011, the Congress-led UPA Government while arresting Anna Hazare for his Lokpal agitation had claimed that Team Anna had consisted of “armchair fascists, overground Maoists, closet anarchists ... lurking behind forces of right reaction and funded by invisible donors whose links may go back a long way abroad.’’ Kapil Sibal who is now just an independent lawyer and therefore, wants sedition laws to go, was very much part of the same Government and was annoyed with the Anna Agitation. Anna movement was definitely for the cause and based on the Gandhian methods, while the JNU event was meant to openly support the terrorists hanged after the judicial verdict.
Some genuine legal experts are also in the fray of discussion and their arguments on the premise that ‘slogans, critical of govt, are not anti-national and do not amount to sedition’. Principally this is correct and should be followed thoroughly in democracy. As the Law Commission has recently guided us, ‘threat to the sovereignty and integrity of Bharat and security of the State’ falls under the offence of sedition. If as the charge sheet suggests, that the event was organised on the occasion of the anniversary of the hanging of Afzal Guru, which was also evident from the protests later held at Jantar Mantar, then whether this act can be considered just as a criticism of the present Government is the key question before the court.
The two great sons of Bharat, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Ambedkar provide different approaches to deal with the question of ‘protest’ and ‘criticism’ in a peaceful way. In his statement given during The Great Trial Of 1922, on March 18, 1922, Mahatma Gandhi said, “I plead guilty to the charge of promoting disaffection towards the Government established by law in India”. He did not just submit cheerfully to the highest penalty possible as per the law but with conviction called upon the judge with the words, “the only course open to you, the Judge and the assessors, is either to resign your posts and thus dissociate yourselves from evil… or to inflict on me the severest penalty, if you believe that the system and the law you are assisting to administer are good for the people of this country”.
On the contrary, Babasaheb Ambedkar clearly tells us in his last speech in the Constituent Assembly: “What we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. Where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods.”
If you do not understand the context and the fundamental philosophies of these great minds then you would take sides, otherwise apply the method with conviction as per the situation. If the agitators have conviction about their ‘Azadi slogans’ and organisation of event called ‘Cultural Evening’ against what they called the ‘Judicial killing of Afzal Guru’, then they must stand up like Gandhi and face the penalty as per the Constitution. If they are really convinced about the Ambedkar’s commitment to the Constitutional methods, then they have to denounce their action but again, face the rule of law.
The reality is neither these students nor their real masters in and outside the campus believe either in Gandhi or in Ambedkar. They believe in Marxist Jihadism, the same mindset that criticised both Gandhi and Ambedkar when they were alive and now using them to further their anti-Bharat, violent ideology. This hypocrisy is seditious and no sane voice would stand by the same.