Of sedition law and colonial governmentality
By Kh. Ibomcha
What is sedition? Is it not seditious when those in power misuse their privilege and position, breach peace and security by inciting violence? For instance, state government’s brutal act of using tear gas shells to Kanglei mothers who were democratically protesting against the CAB. That act really incited violence to the people?
This question does not come out of nothing as its sources can be traced back to the Indian legal system exactly copied from the British colonial legal system that suppressed the people of India during British Raj.
So, the above question which is an answer in itself has its own legal merits to protect myself, the writer of this article, from being slapped with sedition charge. Because the question being raised here is absolutely based on the very definition of sedition as written in section 124 (a) of Indian penal code (IPC), under which many helpless people are/ were put behind bars by different ruling dispositions.
It was under this same law which put Nehru, Gandhi and many other Indian freedom fighters in prison during the time when they were fighting against British colonialism.
After knowing this fact or the history of section 124 (a) of IPC, rather the genesis of sedition law which is now invoked in India, there comes out another question, more irritating maddening and vexatious, that is, why is India still using this colonial law notwithstanding that British had gone long time back, giving freedom to the people of India in 1947?
Does this indicate that India, after the British had left become a colonial master colonizing the people from the periphery and other backward people located on the lower rung of the Indian social ladder? If not so, why does India still need colonial laws employed by the white to repress the voice of dissent during the British raj?
Now what I want to put forward is the plain point that sedition law belongs to the colonial era, so it has been anachronistic and needs to be scrapped from the Indian legal system to save democracy.
The only reason behind the retaining of this law is to suppress dissenting voices, isn’t it? Who are being referred to while speaking about ‘dissent’. Of course, it refers to those freedom lovers who are longing for freedom—freedom from injustice, freedom from inequality, freedom from the fear of losing identity, freedom from oppression, freedom from poverty, freedom from corruption, etcetera and etcetera.
Reflecting British colonial governmentality, the British raj used this law to criminalize the Indians who might challenge its authority back then.
With the above lines I wrote, what is being tried to bring home is the frequent mis (use) of the sedition law makes the common people feel that they are envisaged as subjects not as free citizens with democratic rights but as the ones who need to be repressed and disciplined.
If the rights to freedom of expression have been equated with merely putting words, which the ruling class wants to hear from the mouth of the people they rule, where does this governmentality of Hindu raj differ from that of British Raj?
Now the people begin to see, realize and register the colonial logic embedded in the law which anchors on the idea of the subject - ruler relationship between the oppressed and the ruling class.
From the manner how the ruling disposition uses the law, evidently seen that it had been enacted to suppress the voice of dissent, a voice sans of which democracy has completely been reduced to dictatorship.
The fact is that this law was used by the British against Ghandi, Tilak, Besant and other stalwarts of Indian freedom struggle to repressed them.
So continued using of this law against the people raising voices for their democratic rights will produce new Gandhi Tilak and Besant in the new avatar of Kanhayya Kumar, Veewoon Thochom and Arundati Rai.
Here my appeal to those who remain in power is ‘please try to understand the intention behind a citizen when he speaks out his mind before jumping to the
conclusion of slapping him with sedition by merely reading the literal meaning of what he spoke’.
For instance, former Mizoram CM Lal Thanhawla protested against the CAB by holding a banner reading ‘independent republic of Mizoram’. Yet any thinking man will understand his real intention was not to get Mizoram truncated from the union of India, instead he used that as a democratic means to get the bill withdrawn. As you all see, the ruling disposition of Mizoram could see the intention; and no sedition was charged against him.
Similarly, Thokchom Veewon’s case can be interpreted in the same manner as mentioned above, that is, the case of former Mizoram CM. Here it is worth remembering that there were many student leaders in Mizoram who organized young Mizos to protest CAB sloganeering ‘bye bye India, Good morning China”. Hope, all my readers sees not a single soul among the young protesters was arrested with the offense of sedition.
The state govt. of Manipur could have seen Thokchom Veewon as a young student who fears the losing of Kanglei identity. Like those Mizo youths, he might have used the word sovereignty or independence, yet his real intention would not be much different from that of the former CM of Mizoram and thousands of Mizo youths who shouted bye bye India, good morning China.
In my calculation, the sense of repression that comes out of continued use of 124 (a) incites more violence to the people than the people’s act of response to govt. policies. Thus, in every sense the law of sedition is very, very anachronistic that it needs to be scrapped.
Its continued application will signify the stifling of political dissent and expression which is plain undemocratic and unconstitutional.
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