Sinlung /
01 September 2014

Cowards Against The Brave

By Garga Chatterjee

It is not accidental that there are four lions staring down at anyone who might take the Satyamev at face value.


Certain truths are always hidden from public attention. Hence, beyond the affected victims, they do not form a part of public memory. In the year 1966, when the Indian Air Force was bombing large parts of Mizoram, including the present capital city of Aizawl, many Mizos were desperately trying to seek refuge to save their life. The sanitised term “collateral damage” was not in vogue back then.
Those were not the days of precision bombing. That there is no such thing called precision bombing even now is evident from Gaza to Baghdad, where those who claim precision in targeting undesirables provide a rich harvest of dead non-combatants.

When the Mizos were getting bombed with the kind of discrimination and precision using incendiary bombs that only an Air Force raised on Gandhian ideology can provide, many of the bombed people must have had a lot of thoughts rushing through their heads. It is my suspicion that some of thoughts were not exactly ones of affection towards the Union of India.

Legally, sedition involves incitement of disaffection towards the state. It is not entirely impossible that some Mizo fathers and mothers incited their daughters and sons to be disaffected towards the powers that were bombing them. And in doing so, they became serious criminals under the law of the Indian Union’s land.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had famously proclaimed that affection for the state (the Union of India in the Mizo case) could not be manufactured or regulated by law. However it is quite possible to create a situation where the grandchildren of bombed people are made to turn out in smart saffron, white, and green uniforms for August 15 festivities in Aizawl.

School children under the watch of armed personnel seem to be a favourite setting for affection manufacturing activities. Smiling children. Happy nation. Waving flags. Zero sedition. No one is a bigger criminal than a state that uses its armed might against civilians it considers to be its own citizens. Incidentally, Mizoram shares a border with the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Some things don’t change – the name of the aggressor and the victim may change.

Like most black laws that an anxious nation-state uses to curb anything that tries to puncture its mythology and glorious creation story, the axe is typically used to shut up those who try to adhere to the official Hindustani slogan “Satyamev Jayate” (truth alone prevails). It is not accidental that there are four lions staring down at anyone who might want to take the Satyamev pronouncement at face value.

Very often, the lions go out to hunt in packs. Too many undesirable people, whose remains will never be found, know this well. That is how much of the instant justice for sedition is meted out. It is only when a relatively powerful person breaks the silence that the lions seem unsure what to do. They roar, but don’t bite.

Recently, there has been uproar against a member of the Indian Union parliament, and said member’s comments are said to have been “seditious.” Kalvakuntla Kavitha, a Telengana Rashtria Samithi member of parliament, allegedly said: “Jammu and Kashmir, and Telangana were both forcefully, and at the same time, annexed to the Indian Union. When I say I feel strongly, it’s because we were both separate countries, but were merged with the Indian Union after Independence. In 1947, we were not a part of India.”

Her father is the elected chief minister of Telengana, a newly established state whose contours resemble in a large way the Nizam of Hyderabad’s erstwhile dominion. Her father’s stature, her MP status, and the reading down of the sedition law in 1962 will ensure that no harm comes to her as far as the sedition case is concerned.

The hunted have always outnumbered the hunters, and anything that puts the focus back on the hunted expands liberty. There is no space for naivet̩ at the level of a parliamentarian, but even with its cynical calculation and political intent, whatever opening is provided, ought to be cherished and celebrated. Only rarely do the contradictions between the powerful come to the fore Рwhen it comes to the origin myths of a nation-state like the Indian Union.

What is left unsaid in the slogan “truth alone prevails” is “when.” Does truth prevail by its own merit as if my magic, is it allowed to prevail strategically to earn points for openness so that more damaging truths can be suppressed?

Section 124(A) of the Indian penal code deals with sedition. Sedition is a law for the powerful against the powerless, of the anxious against the confident, of fiction against fact, of the rulebook against dreams, of the coward against the brave.

An anxious nation-state fears plebiscites. A humane state embraces the people’s will. People who expose origin myths as well as the crimes of the government under whose jurisdiction they live are typically targeted as seditious. They disrupt the long lullaby of the non-violent creation of India and Indians. To consider a nation-state and its political mythology holy is a slur to the sacred – the kind that predates all man-written books, laws, and constitutions.

We must all be fearful of lions because a beast that has tasted blood does not rest even when it is not in the jungle. The shrillness with which K Kavitha has been demonised only shows the weak and tense foundations of the India-making project. And she hasn’t even gone halfway down the path of the parliamentarian, the departed GG Swell, who showed bomb-covers in the Lok Sabha when patriotic tricoloured lions refused to own up to their aerial hunt in Mizoram. Lions love Section 124(A). As long as the hunter holds sway about the story of the hunt, sedition laws will remain. The browns are an unfortunate people.


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