At the peak of the Lok Sabha election campaign in early 2014, Her Highness Princess Priyanka Gandhi described then PM candidate Narendra Modi as a “neech”. No one cared. Life moved on.
In late 2014, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, a mere first time MP and Minister of State, described the BJP’s rivals as “haraamzade“. The nation ground to a halt. Parliament came to a standstill. The Prime Minister personally apologized on behalf of Niranjan Jyoti in both houses. It was more than 2 weeks before the nation recovered from the shock of Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti’s intemperate language. At the exact same time, Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of Bengal, ex-Cabinet minister and multiple term MP/MLA threatened to put bamboos into the backsides of her political opponents. Not even a leaf stirred. In fact, an eminent writer for Firstpost wrote back to back articles within 24 hours, the first decrying Niranjan Jyoti for shocking the nation and the second decrying a handful of BJP purists who were refusing to see the earthy humor in Mamata Banerjee’s words.. Secularism made all the difference.
Of course it helped that Mamata Banerjee was born as a Hindu Brahmin and Niranjan Jyoti was from a very “low” caste.
Cut to 2016. The same week CPI worker Kanhaiya Kumar was famously sent to jail for sedition, Commies slaughtered a BJP worker in Kerala. While Kanhaiya’s few days in jail became evidence of fascism, the BJP worker’s death was smoothly written off for purposes of secularism.
And now, with film censors wanting to make deep cuts in Anurag Kashyap’s film Udta Punjab, the free speech frauds have begun their dog and pony show once again. I take free speech extremely seriously. I’ll come back in a moment to why I call them free speech frauds.
India’s record on free speech has always been abysmal. Well, almost. For a brief window of time, the Indian Republic allowed real free speech. Until the RSS began using it. Pandit Nehru promptly corrected this defect in the Constitution by passing the First Amendment in 1951, imposing “reasonable restrictions” on free speech, along with a monopoly for himself on the definition of “reasonable”.
But even as the free speech situation in India sucked, there was at least a hint of fairness to it because it sucked equally for everyone. You were dragged in front of the courts if you insulted Hindu gods (or painted them in the nude). Neither could you make any insults or jokes about Jesus or Prophet M. In the political sphere, the rightwing was slowly granted an increasing right to speak and the oppression became less blatant over the years. The Indian citizens who were members of the RSS were granted their fundamental human right to speak their mind on the condition that they give up their fundamental human right to take part in the politics of their own country! Even today the Leftists in India actually boast of this and other day I even saw AAP spokesperson Ashutosh on TV demanding that the RSS/BJP be banned for “breaking the promise”of not participating in politics. The idea that prominent left wing parties can hold their head high and say openly that India’s largest political party with 170 million votes, 281 elected LS MPs and 9 Chief Ministers should be shut down by force of law for the “crime” of contesting elections says everything you could possibly say about free speech in India.
But hey, at least these days they don’t actually ban the RSS/BJP, they just talk about it. The last attempt to ban the BJP was made in 2007, when the Election Commission summoned them to a de-recognition hearing because the EC felt a campaign CD produced by them was “communal”. Yes, the country’s biggest opposition party made a CD that the state did not approve of and so they tried to ban the opposition…this does not just happen in Gaddafi’s Libya, Stalin’s USSR, Kim Il Sung’s North Korea and Hitler’s Germany…it also happened in India. If any of the so called intellectuals who support free speech and dissent nowadays have spoken up for the right of the BJP to exist in 2007, please let me know…
So, this is what I am saying. At least the EC didn’t ban the BJP. No one went too far. The compromise sucked, but at least everyone had to compromise a little bit. But recent events have led to a shattering of the compromise. Of late, there is a section that is pushing for full scale free speech apartheid, effectively asking for the creation of two classes, one that will enjoy full free speech rights and the other that will have absolutely none.
What does this mean? They want full freedom of speech for Commies like Kanhaiya Kumar. Scum like him have been repeatedly thrown into jail by various governments. But not any more now. Here is what they are demanding now: you don’t like what Kanhaiya says? No more sedition. They tell us right wingers to get used to it. And with that, they also tell us that we should get used to right wingers being slaughtered by Commies. They get to do ALL the speaking. WE get to do all the tolerating. These are the contours of the new free speech apartheid being created in India.
So, an Aam Aadmi Party gets to go on TV and demand that the RSS/BJP should be banned for the “crime” of participating in politics. And they get to demand that censor board should not use their scissors on the film Udta Punjab. And Arvind Kejriwal gets to go to the Supreme Court demanding that anyone who makes Santa Banta jokes should go to jail!
Get it? THEY will have ALL the rights. WE will have none.
That’s the free speech apartheid they are pushing for now.
So Kamlesh Tiwari must go to jail. The kid in Karnataka who put up an FB post against Tipu Sultan must go to jail. Salman Rushdie must stay banned. The Bengali movie “Macho Mustafa” must be renamed due to a fatwa by UPA’s censor board to “Macho Mastana”(because apparently Mustafa is some name for the Prophet!), but BJP’s censor board should be silent. You will notice that all the protests are against the person currently occupying the censor board chief’s position, rather than the position itself. The protest is not against censorship, but against WHO is doing the censorship.
The ploy is being executed very cleverly by selectively highlighting the cases where the secular side gets the short end of the stick. BJP governments at various levels are still stuck enforcing the old rules where ALL SIDES get screwed. For instance, Sanal Edamaraku is still on the run because the Church of Mumbai is angry with him. But Maharashtra has transitioned to a BJP government. Has Fadnavis dropped the case against Sanal Edamaraku and invited him back? No, because BJP is still playing by the old rules of censorship. Attack Hindu gods and go to jail. Attack the Church and go to jail. Equal oppression for all. The BJP is caught completely unawares that someone is trying to change the rules of the game on censorship.
But Modi ji, it is very very easy to turn the game on its head. SIMPLY REMOVE ALL CENSORSHIP. End the censor board, get rid of the anti-free speech laws against spreading “communal disharmony” and insulting religious sentiments, repeal sedition laws, repeal the defamation laws, repeal the laws against “insulting modesty of women” (see further note on this), strip the Election Commission of its powers to decide what can be said and cannot be said in rallies and election propaganda! Give us free speech and then see!
(Important Note on insulting modesty of women: This is a law that is often confused with the completely separate law against “outraging the modesty of women”. Insulting modesty is quite literally a law against talking rudely to a woman…this is the law most often used by female Lutyensites to silence RW tweeters. Please do not confuse this law with the law against “outraging the modesty of women”, which deals with the completely separate topic of molesting women, etc.)
And here is my bet. Repeal all censorship and within a week, you will see the liberal types begging to get censorship back!
You know why? Because WE right wingers are USED to getting treated like crap. It is the liberal whiny babies who will be the most butthurt should there be free speech. To take a trivial example, AIB’s comedian Tanmay Bhatt refers to Ganesh idols literally as pieces of shit. We have already learned to take stuff like that on the chin. But can the Archbishop take it? Imagine how pissed off the Archbishop will be when he finds out that he no longer has the fascist laws to chase Sanal Edamaraku out of the country or make AIB apologize. WE are already used to every Hindu symbol being trampled and insulted. But will seculars be able to live with Prophet cartoons?
Modi ji, what do YOU have to lose by abolishing censorship? They have already called you every possible name in the book. When your 95 year old mother has to go to hospital, TV channels run entire programs accusing her of faking her illness. What more can they do to you? They already mock you as a “Gangu Teli” and a “Chaiwallah”. But Congress can’t live with a book on Sonia ji like “El Sari Rojo”. Some visitor to a museum in Odisha leaves a comment against Nehru and Congress files FIR against him. Can the delicate Congress egos handle free speech? Modi is called a Nazi everyday….what new slur does he have to fear?
There are Commie malcontents at JNU already circulating posters depicting Durga as a prostitute. What more do we Hindus have to fear from free speech? What fresh insult is left for Hindus to face in this country? But will seculars be able to handle Salman Rushdie? Will seculars be able to handle it when Kamlesh Tiwari comes out of jail? Will seculars be able to handle it when “alternative interpretations” of the Book of Peace and the Book of Love begin to roll out. Secular whiny babies couldn’t tolerate a fantastic thriller movie like Da Vinci code, how will they handle *real free speech* when it is decriminalized?
Here, for instance, is the language the Censor Board wants to delete from Udta Punjab, which seculars are protesting:
I beg you Modi ji, please remove the Censor Board and let this language become legal. Let someone dump this free speech on the Twitter timeline of some respected Lutyensite, possibly in more imaginative ways. Let the angry Lutyensite rush to the police station only to find out that the fascist laws she/he was using all these days to put the boot on RW tweets have all disappeared. Forget strong language, a certain top Lutyens journo once sued and silenced a poor blogger because he criticized her reporting…you think these people can handle free speech?
My favorite moment ever on social media was when “Reverend John Dayal” was so fed up with RW tweets against his crusade for freedom of expression that he went to the Delhi police to have these tweeters arrested for expressing their opinion 🙂 And at the police station, he was told that Twitter’s servers are located in the US and John Dayal came back grumbling about American style free speech laws. Which is funny, because Johnny likes to fly to the US to complain about freedom in India 🙂
So, let them have it. Give them what they are asking for. Let them find out what free speech is like 🙂
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