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all-round threat to expression

There are many ways to weaken or destroy democracy, but weakening it democratically has proved to be the most effective so far. Indira Gandhi had democratically imposed Emergency, arrested her opponents and imposed press censorship. He had not done anything unconstitutional. Democracy was stifled only by using the powers given in the constitution. Even at present, all kinds of things that are being done to weaken democracy are being done in a democratic way. The work of arresting the opponents or suppressing their voice is being done in a legal way only. There is nothing illegal or unconstitutional.

The irony of Indian democracy is that on one hand there are sections of the age-old Indian Penal Code i.e. IPC and on the other there are sections of the very modern IT law. Both of these are being used to suppress the voice of the opponents and to trample on the freedom of expression. The unfortunate thing is that the governments are using them in a systematic manner. The way politicians were once sued for violation of prohibitory orders i.e. Section 144, in the same way now there is a case of sedition. Maharashtra’s female MP and her MLA husband announced to recite Hanuman Chalisa in front of the Chief Minister’s residence and when their supporters gathered, the government sued them for sedition. Think, what’s treason in this? Will democracy be strengthened by imprisoning an elected representative on charges of treason?

It is true that the Maharashtra government did not start it, but if it is, it is a retaliatory action! It is also true that central agencies have taken action against state government ministers or ruling coalition MLAs, MPs on false and true allegations. But it makes no sense to sue the opponents for sedition to avenge it. On the contrary, it can also prove to be politically disadvantageous for the Maharashtra government and the ruling coalition. Central agencies are taking action against Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress leaders on corruption charges but the state government has booked Navneet Rana and Ravi Rana for sedition for the public recitation of Hanuman Chalisa. There is no doubt that it is wrong to announce that Hanuman Chalisa is recited in front of the Chief Minister’s residence, but it is suicidal to file a case of sedition for it. Opponents may be scared or apprehensive about being tried and imprisoned for treason, but this ultimately undermines democracy and the democratic system.

It is not that any one state government or the central government alone is silencing the opponents by running the stick of laws. Wherever he has got a chance, he is misusing or using the laws arbitrarily to silence his opponents or suppress the voice of the common people. The Aam Aadmi Party, which came to the government with the dream of new politics, started arbitrary use of police against its opponents as soon as it got an opportunity. As soon as the government was formed in Punjab, the AAP government has started using the police, it seems that it is good, which the AAP government does not have the right of police in Delhi. If the AAP government had police in Delhi, I don’t know against whom it would have been used. As soon as the police was found in Punjab, Bhagwant Mann Sarkar ran the police to those who wrote and spoke against party supremo Arvind Kejriwal. BJP spokespersons Tejinder Pal Singh Bagga, Preeti Gandhi, Naveen Kumar Jindal and Congress leader Alka Lamba had tweeted or made statements against Kejriwal, which is their job as the opposition party. But the police of Punjab reached everyone’s house and handed over the notice. Kejriwal’s old aide Kumar Vishwas had accused Kejriwal of having met Khalistanis before the elections. That statement of his was also sued after the formation of the government, that too in Ropar, Punjab.

Think, if Kejriwal had found Kumar Vishwas’s talk defamatory, then why did the party not file a case in Delhi at the same time? Or if any of Bagga’s tweets were defamatory to Kejriwal, did the Aam Aadmi Party try to file a case in the cyber cell in Delhi? There is no news of any such attempt being made. A case was filed directly with ‘Apni Police’ and a team of ‘Apni Police’ was sent. Obviously, the purpose of this is to scare all these people so that a message is given to all their opponents that they should not think of commenting against Kejriwal because now they have the power of the police in their hands. Think, how a politician claiming to do politics of common man is working to end freedom of expression!

Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani’s classic case of how freedom of expression is suppressed or attempted to be suppressed using cyber laws and police. She made a tweet about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, against whom a case was registered in a remote district of Assam and the Assam Police went to Gujarat and arrested Mevani in the middle of the night and took her to Assam. Think why Mevani’s tweet was not sued in Gujarat? There is also a BJP government and if any BJP worker felt bad about the tweet, he should have sued there. But the trial took place in Assam and the police there caught them and took them away. After three-four days, the court granted him bail but the police arrested him again for misbehaving with a woman policeman. In this too he will get bail, but now he will continue to run from Gujarat to Assam i.e. from west to east.

Obviously the attack on freedom of expression is all-out. This is not the work of any one party or any one government, but whoever is in the government is using the same method to suppress the voice of the opponents. Where governments can use the IPC section, they are doing it and where IPC cannot be used, a new weapon of cyber law has been found. Keep in mind that a person in private always feels insecure and afraid. Only then, through such actions, a sense of insecurity is being created in the minds of the people and fear is being created. This is a violation of the right to freedom of expression and dignity given by the Constitution, but this violation is being done in a legal and democratic manner.

Shubham Bangwal

Shubham Bangwal is a Senior Journalist at You can follow him on Twitter @sb_0fficial
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