In 2002, Chief Election Commissioner James Michael Lyngdoh became a legend among India’s secular brigade for announcing bans on “communal speeches” and a proposed “Jan Jagruti Yatra” of the VHP. The VHP’s yatra was to begin from Godhra and culminate at Akshardham temple (which had recently seen a deadly terrorist attack). The date of the culmination of the yatra? December 6!
Were only those killed in the rest of Gujarat human and not those burnt alive in Godhra? Were the lips of Congress MPs sealed with Italian locks?
That’s what I like to call “Modi classic“. Treasure this memory, for we will never hear him again in this format.
The saving grace about the Election Commission is that it has no teeth. Despite James Michael Lyngdoh’s best efforts, Modi said what he wanted to say. The people heard what they wanted to hear. The elections arrived. And Modi got the massive 126/182 victory he needed to become the eternal thorn in the secular side.
But you know who has teeth? The Supreme Court does. And yesterday the Supreme Court told us all when we have to bite our tongues.
From the link:
“The Supreme Court outlawed on Monday seeking votes in the name of religion, caste, race, community or language..”
Incidentally, while the Honorable Supreme Court outlawed seeking votes in the name of religion, caste, race, community and language, only the religion part made it to the headline of the Hindustan Times story. The reasons are perhaps too obvious to require restating here. As Modi would have said in his classic version, it is only voting in the name of religion…and more specifically the majority religion that bothers the idea of India. On the matter of those doing politics in the name of caste, the secular brigade have sealed their lips with Italian locks.
A month or so ago, when the Honorable Supreme Court ordered that the national anthem be played in movie theaters, liberals fell over themselves to mock the decision. There was much social capital to be made in elite circles by finding novel ways to insult India’s flag/anthem and a liberal feeding frenzy ensued.
But now comes a decision from the Honorable Supreme Court with much deeper consequences and the same free speech fundamentalists have conveniently disappeared. Why can’t people ask for votes in the name of religion and/or caste? Why is this not a free speech issue?
Is it a good thing to seek votes in the name of caste or religion? In general, no. But is it the job of the Honorable Supreme Court to dictate morality to us?
Elections are the most important exercise in a democracy. If you curb political speech during elections, what meaningful free speech do we have left in this country? Can the Honorable Supreme Court really decide what is a “good political issue” and what is a “bad political issue”?
What is next? We can’t ask for votes based on X, Y and Z. Will they also announce curbs on what issues people are allowed to vote on? Will voters be asked to pass an ideological test before being allowed to vote? If I openly and proudly declare that I plan to vote based on which party/candidate best represents (in my opinion) the rights of Hindus in this country, will the Honorable Supreme Court take my vote away?
As I said, how come this is not a free speech issue? And how come those who desperately want a referendum on secession of Kashmir are silent about this clampdown on free speech?
When the national anthem judgement came, we were lectured by liberals that it is not the job of the Honorable Supreme Court to tell us what it means to be a good Indian. What happened suddenly? When the Indian government slapped sedition cases on JNU students for chanting “Bharat ki barbaadi” and cheering Afzal Guru, we got long lectures on the sanctity of free speech. Why are those chattering classes silent now?
Of course the chattering classes are silent because they expect these new regulations to be selectively enforced by their beloved bureaucrats at all levels against the one party they hate. And how long before one of them goes to the court and gets an exemption for “minority religions” from this judgement? Take it from me : it won’t be long before it becomes illegal in India to ask for votes in the name of religion, with the exception of minority religions… They will call it RTS (Right to Secularism).