Dissent becomes sedition

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 10/6/2019 11:55:20 AM IST

 Fifty well known personalities of India were the recipients of a First Information Report(FIR) lodged against them for daring to write an ‘Open Letter to PM Modi’ in late July over the issues of increasing mob lynching and other hate crimes perpetrated against minorities barely two months after the BJP regained power with a massive mandate. The personalities such as filmmakers Mani Ratnam and Shyam Benegal, vocalist Shubha Mudgal and noted historian Ramachandra Guha had articulated their genuine concerns in their letter addressed to PM Narendra Modi, over the above incidents. These public figures, much respected in their respective fields, have been booked on charges as diverse as sedition, creating public nuisance and hurting religious feelings. Instead, an FIR has been registered against them on the order of a court in Muzaffarpur (Bihar) to a petition filed by Sudhir Ojha, a local lawyer in Bihar who has accused them of ‘tarnishing the nation’s image, undermining the PM’s impressive performance and supporting secessionist tendencies.’ Ojha projects himself as a patriot-cum-crusader and has a knack for embroiling VVIPs in litigation. Ironically, these celebrities had faced opposition from their own peers soon after the open letter hit the headlines.  The litigant conveniently forgets the stinging response from 61 newsmakers who had strongly hit out against the 50 personalities for their letter. The 61 newsmakers such as actor Kangana Ranaut, lyricist Prasoon Joshi, dancer Sonal Mansingh etc had described the 50 as  self-styled guardians and conscience keepers. Perhaps as far as the issue goes, the counter by the 61 puts it on level plane with the open letter and should be left to the judgment of newspaper readers and TV viewers. The FIR filed by Ojha reveals that the drastic action underlines how the space for exercising one’s constitutional right of freedom of speech is shrinking in India. The ever-rising intolerance is a stark reality which the powers that be have been brushing aside for too long. The fact that the National Crime Records Bureau has failed to release its reports for 2017 and 2018 suggests that the government is not keen on making inconvenient truths public. The brazen attempt to browbeat freedom of speech that is well within all norms of acceptability exposes a deep malaise in the country. The FIR under various clauses of IPC means that no one has any right to speak out against victimisation and  this poses grave threat on democracy. Close on the heels of the open letter, 71 retired government bureaucrats have written to the prime minister on October 4, expressing concern over the prosecution of four former officials of the Finance Ministry in the INX Media case and asserted that such action will demotivate diligent and honest officers from taking important decisions. The letter has been signed by retired civil servants like former cabinet secretary K. M. Chandrasekhar, former foreign secretary and national security advisor Shivshankar Menon, former foreign secretary Sujatha Singh and former DGP of Punjab Julio Riberio. The letter to the PM by the retired bureaucrats is also an expression of serious concern about an important issue- victimisation. If the same yardstick is used, will Ojha also file another FIR against the retired officials? By seeking to bring course correction, the writers were driven by a sense of patriotism and this can in no way be considered as sedition.

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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