Monday, May 10, 2021

Nation pays homage to Gandhi with False Sedition cases & Violent Attacks on Satyagraha

On 13 January 1948 Mahatma Gandhi does not know that he was starting his last ‘fast’. He said: ‘Death for me would be a glorious deliverance rather than that I should be a helpless witness of the destruction of India, Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam’, and explained that his dream was for the Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Muslims of all India to live together in amity.

On the 20th a group of Hindu fanatics, who detested Gandhi’s calls for tolerance and peace, set off a bomb some yards from him, which did no harm. It was not the first attempt on Gandhi’s life, but he said: ‘If I am to die by the bullet of a madman, I must do so smiling. There must be no anger within me. God must be in my heart and on my lips.’

On 29 January 2021, a masked group of around 150 persons descended on Singhu border, hurled petrol bombs and destroyed the camp of the Farmers, who were peacefully agitating against three Farm Laws enacted against their interest.

On 26th January 2021, a few Journalists and leaders tweeted about an incident with a mistake, for which they are facing ‘sedition’ charges which may end them up in life sentence.

And on 30 January 2021 nation is paying homage to Gandhi who fought Sedition, invented Satyagraha and died for communal unity.

From Republic Day to Tees January (30th January, Gandhi’s Murder anniversary) the Indian Republic is celebrating the attacks on agitators, crack down on satyagraha and sedition cases on journalists for writing or tweeting. Gandhi was icon of Satyagraha and his trial for sedition during British Raj is historic episode that showcases his courage against dictatorial rule.   British Raj did not sabotage his Satyagraha. British rulers looted and exploited India’s wealth, but perhaps did not think of present-day strategies of employing Goondas under the vigil of Police to physically eliminate the agitators and implicate journalists and leaders for their comments in sedition cases.

Also Read: GANDHIJI :A True Revolutionary, a Radical Thinker

In 1948 on this day, one irresponsible religious fanatic member of the public killed Gandhi, while the Republic Governments today are engaged in violent elimination of Satyagrahis from agitation sites. They call the farmers terrorists and Khalistanis, they blame writers as seditious. Gandhi must be turning in his grave.

Communal forces did not allow frail (for fasting) 78-year-old great soul if India to enjoy the freedom, which he struggled for, not even for a few months, and even before the agenda for democracy and development – Constitution for India is drafted, he was removed from this world. Today the Constitution of Indian Republic is under attack. Freedom of Press is threatened by Sedition case-strategy of Sarkar.

After UP police trying to remove forcibly the protesting farmers from Ghazipur border, Delhi police and Rapid Action Force attempted to remove them from Singhu and Tikri border also. Protestors alleged that the gang was joined by police and said it was plan of BJP to physically remove them and that these people were determined to provoke people on religious grounds and disrupt the harmony of the movement, protesters said. Protestors alleged thatthe stage of the KMSC was attacked and volunteers of the group were brutally injured.   It was also alleged that petrol bombs and tear gas shells were hurled on them by 150 goons with support of police causing injuries to 15 farmers. They destroyed langar, stages, and other materials required for their stay in agitation.

This is Jaggi Singh from Pandher village (Barnala) who doesn’t even have land but is still serving in the langar from day one.

On tweet it was posted how masked men attacked JNU then and Singhu border on 29th January 2021.

Journalists Rajdeep Sardesai, of India Today, senior consulting editor Mrinal Pande (of National Herald), QaumiAwaz, editor Zafar Agha, Paresh Nath, founder and editor The Caravan magazine, it’s editor Anant Nath, its executive editor Vinod K. Jose, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and one unnamed person were booked in Sedition cases for sharing unverified news during the farmers’ tractor rally in Delhi on January 26.  No courts ever interpreted publication of unverified news as ‘seditious’ acts, not even British rulers in pre-Independence dark days. If wrong information is ‘sedition’, who can escape the jail?

Also Read: Madras High Court: ‘A rarest of rare order of boldness by Information Commissioner’

According to the Uttar Pradesh Police the accused journalists have “instigated violence” on January 26 through their posts on social media. If the media reported that a person was shot dead by police, it could be either truth or an error or unverified publication or in could be a fake news. But how could that be ‘sedition’?

Today, it is not the well experienced judges of Supreme Court nor the High Courts, but the politically controlled police will interpret legal expressions and criminal definitions.

Another factual wrong on face of it is that it was a report during the course of events in Delhi on Republic Day: How could that instigate violence. Instigation of violence is defined as a separate offence in IPC. One cannot even call it prima facie sedition because it is factually not. If what these journalists said about ‘death’ is a sedition, what about the false charge against them?

These tweeters were booked for commenting on incidents at ITO crossing on January 26. Either mistaken or wrong reports, they will get corrected the moment the truthful reports are given. But how can they attract various criminal cases including sedition also? The cases booked are under penal provisions of IPC: 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reli­gious beliefs), 298 (uttering, words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), 502 (sale of printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter), 124A (sedition), 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention), 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) and section 66 of the Information Technology Act (66 computer-related offences). Not even a single section is related or relevant in these cases.

Also Read: Hathras atrocity: A blow to credibility

Journalist Rajdeep Sardesai in his tweet had said, “One person, 45-year-old Navneet killed allegedly in police firing at ITO. Farmers tell me: the ‘sacrifice’ will not go in vain.” But within minutes after the police video was released, Sardesai corrected himself and stated, “While the farm protestors claim that the deceased Navneet Singh was shot at by Delhi Police while on a tractor, this video clearly shows that the tractor overturned while trying to break the police barricades. The farm protestors’ allegations do not stand. Post-mortem awaited.” It was reported that India Today decided to remove anchor Sardesai from air for two weeks and deducted his one-month salary for this tweet. Even after this, police thinks that it is sedition.

The Editors Guild of India came forward to condemn this intimidating process of filing FIRs by the UP and MP police against senior journalists, for reporting on farmers’ protests in Delhi on Jan 26. There is a strong element of truth when EGI found these FIRs as an attempt to intimidate, harass, and stifle free media. EGI said: “The FIRs allege that the tweets were intentionally malicious and were the reason for the desecration of the Red Fort. Nothing can be further from the truth. On a day thick with information, the EGI finds these FIRs, filed in different states, as an attempt to intimidate, harass, browbeat, and stifle the media. That the FIRs have been booked under as many as ten different provisions including sedition laws, promoting communal disharmony, and insulting religious beliefs, is further disturbing,” the Guild said.

Also Read: Crime of destruction of Babri committed, but who conspired?

The Delhi Union of Journalists said: “We reiterate our demand for a special law to protect media persons from arbitrary charges, arrests and prosecution for doing their job. We urge the repeal of draconian laws including the law on sedition,”

Gandhi, Nehru and Congress party wanted this sedition to go. But they might have never imagined that ‘sedition’ could be used against ‘Satyagraha”.

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is former Central Information Commissioner and Professor of Law at Bennett University

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