Tag Archives: Shiv Sena

“Their threats chill free speech”

Salil Tripathi on the Shiv Sena’s book-banning campaign-

Mistry’s is not the only novel to show Mumbai’s parochial patriarchs. Earlier this year, Murzban Shroff, coincidentally another Parsi author, faced a lawsuit from an activist called Vijay Mudras, who was upset that a character in one of his stories referred to Marathi-speaking people as ghaatis. Shroff’s collection of stories has been widely acclaimed—it was called Breathless in Bombay, but it was disliked by the mindless and mirthless in Mumbai.

Shroff didn’t think poorly of Marathi-speakers—a character in his story did. If all characters in every work of fiction are to behave impeccably, what will become of our epics? Will the Mahabharata be withdrawn because Duryodhana asks Dushasana to drag Draupadi by her hair? Doesn’t that scene humiliate women and glorify violence against women?

The views of a character are not the same as those of the author. This was the point deliberately misrepresented during The Satanic Verses saga, where the Ayatollah declared a fatwa on Salman Rushdie who had written about the hallucinations of a character losing his mind, imagining that he was founding a great religion.

Hindu nationalists get riled when they are compared with Muslim leaders declaring fatwas. But the difference between those who want Such A Long Journey or Breathless in Bombay banned and the clerics who hate Rushdie—and the cartoonists of Jyllands-Posten—is marginal. Their threats chill free speech.

What if the views of a character were those of the author? Even that doesn’t give philistines the right to ban what they don’t like, or to attack the author.

The problem is, even if India fixed article 19(2) of the constitution and scrapped the laws related to libel, the chilling effect will not disappear. The mere threat of physical violence, time and place unspecified, is enough to silence a vast majority of people who would rather stop speaking than stop living. It takes just one “example,” like Theo van Gogh. To paraphrase a line from Body Snatchers that expresses the sentiment quite well, “Where you gonna go? Where you gonna run? Where you gonna hide? Nowhere….”

Free?

Yesterday’s Times of India carried a news report on a Supreme Court judgment on freedom of speech. A bench that included the Chief Justice of India has reiterated the fact that the Indian constitution does not guarantee the fundamental right to free speech-

It will no longer be safe to start a blog and invite others to register their raunchy, caustic and even abusive comments on an issue while seeking protection behind the disclaimer — views expressed on the blog are that of the writers.

This chilling warning emerged as a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam refused to protect a 19-year-old Kerala boy, who had started a community on Orkut against Shiv Sena, from protection against summons received from a Maharashtra court on a criminal case filed against him.

[…]

A computer science student, Ajith pleaded that the comments made on the blog were mere exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of expression and speech and could not be treated as an offence by police.

Unimpressed, the Bench said, “We cannot quash criminal proceedings. You are a computer student and you know how many people access internet portals. Hence, if someone files a criminal action on the basis of the content, then you will have to face the case. You have to go before the court and explain your conduct.”

For completeness’ sake, here are articles 19(1) and 19(2) of the Constitution of India as of sometime in 2008-

19. (1) All citizens shall have the right—
   (a) to freedom of speech and expression;
   (b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;
   (c) to form associations or unions;
   (d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;
   (e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and
   (f) [deleted]
   (g) to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
  (2) Nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

This was not originally the case. This article was amended because our late great socialist Prime Minister – Jawaharlal Nehru – found that fundamental rights were making it difficult for him to go about his plans. So, while proposing an amendment, this is what he wrote

During the last fifteen months of the working of the Constitution, certain difficulties have been brought to light by judicial decisions and pronouncements specially in regard to the chapter on fundamental rights. The citizen’s right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by article 19(1)(a) has been held by some courts to be so comprehensive as not to render a person culpable even if he advocates murder and other crimes of violence. In other countries with written constitutions, freedom of speech and of the press is not regarded as debarring the State from punishing or preventing abuse of this freedom. The citizen’s right to practise any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business conferred by article 19(1)(g) is subject to reasonable restrictions which the laws of the State may impose “in the interests of general public”. While the words cited are comprehensive enough to cover any scheme of nationalisation which the State may undertake, it is desirable to place the matter beyond doubt by a clarificatory addition to article 19(6). Another article in regard to which unanticipated difficulties have arisen is article 31. The validity of agrarian reform measures passed by the State Legislatures in the last three years has, in spite of the provisions of clauses (4) and (6) of article 31, formed the subject-matter of dilatory litigation, as a result of which the implementation of these important measures, affecting large numbers of people, has been held up.

The main objects of this Bill are, accordingly to amend article 19 for the purposes indicated above and to insert provisions fully securing the constitutional validity of zamindari abolition laws in general and certain specified State Acts in particular. the opportunity has been taken to propose a few minor amendments to other articles in order to remove difficulties that may arise.

If you want the right to free speech, you need to be a political party like the Shiv Sena, or the Samajwadi Party, or the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, or the head of one of the many goon squads. Then you can say and write and do whatever you want and public sentiment will see to it that an exception is made for you under law. Everyone else, however, is bound to face criminal charges if they dare to speak or write something that “hurts” some one else’s sentiments.

Over the past couple of days, I am having a debate on “Consistency and liberty” and the importance of philosophy here. I will continue to do that till it reaches a logical conclusion or someone tires out, whichever happens first. But this “freedom of speech” issue signifies the importance of philosophy. Why did Nehru think, and why do so many “popular bloggers,” lawyers, constitutional experts etc think that defamation and libel is an exception to freedom of speech? What is the basis of such a law? I don’t know if either the dead man or some of the others will have any satisfactory answers. Rothbard had it though, and so does KM; I have linked to this post many times in the past and I will continue to do it every time I think it is necessary. That’s why philosophy is important people. Without philosophy you cannot defend a single issue, or right, because you won’t know how, or why.

The government has changed in the US, but its policies remain the same. Reason reports that Bush’s “War on Terror” has just been made into an indefinite one

“I don’t think there’s any question but that we are at war” with terrorists, [Attorney General] Holder said at his confirmation hearing last month. We did not notice when the war began, he said, and we may never know when it ends. The battlefields are not only in Afghanistan, where U.S. forces continue to fight Al Qaeda’s Taliban allies, but in countries around the world, including the United States.

Holder was not just speaking figuratively. In response to a question from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), he said that if someone suspected of helping to finance Al Qaeda were captured in the Philippines, far from any scene of combat, he would still be considered “part of the battlefield.”

The implication—acknowledged by Holder and by Elena Kagan, Obama’s choice for solicitor general, at her confirmation hearing this month—is that such a person could be held as an “enemy combatant” until the “cessation of hostilities,” which in this case effectively means forever. So could, say, leaders of a U.S.-based Muslim charity suspected of funneling money to a terrorist organization or a graduate student at an American university accused of helping Al Qaeda raise funds and attract followers by maintaining a website where incendiary anti-American messages were posted.

Both kinds of suspects have been successfully tried in criminal courts, with one case resulting in convictions and the other ending in acquittal. But under Holder’s theory, which was also the Bush administration’s, the government need not have bothered; it could simply have transferred these defendants to military custody, where they could be held indefinitely without trial.

Peter Boettke at “The Austrian Economists” says that we are not heading towards socialism, but 20th century’s other “ism” – the F-word – fascism. He then tells the story of a German girl who was put to death by the na-zi regime-

We are in trouble but it is a crisis of ideas that is most troubling. We are marching toward corporatist system as fast as the votes will take us. Who will say NO to this?

I know this sounds dramatic, and I don’t know the full story behind the history, but in watching all of this unfold before my eyes these past several months I was reminded of the White Rose student led resistence movement in Nazi Germany. A group of students from the University of Munich, inspired by an activist theologian and a philosophy professor, took pen to paper and challenged Hitler’s regime, exposed its crimes, and challenged the German people to wake from their fear induced stupor. Sophie Scholl was one of the leaders of this group and she along with others were executed by beheading in 1943. But her words are an indictment of complacency in the face of encroachment on human freedom and human decency. Sophie Scholl wrote the following about teh damage to the German people caused by fascism: “The real damage is done by those millions who want to ’survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”

A wrote about a similar case, this time in the Soviet Union, a couple of months back – “Three minutes of freedom”.

I will end with some words from Karl Popper-

It is wrong to think that belief in freedom always leads to victory; we must always be prepared for it to lead to defeat. If we choose freedom, then we must be prepared to perish along with it. Poland fought for freedom as no other country did. The Czech nation was prepared to fight for its freedom in 1938; it was not lack of courage that sealed its fate. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 — the work of young people with nothing to lose but their chains — triumphed and then ended in failure. … Democracy and freedom do not guarantee the millennium. No, we do not choose political freedom because it promises us this or that. We choose it because it makes possible the only dignified form of human coexistence, the only form in which we can be fully responsible for ourselves. Whether we realize its possibilities depends on all kinds of things — and above all on ourselves.

Victoria’s children

Fuck them all. Be it Yediyurappa, or Gehlot, or the Sri Ram Sene, or the KRV, or the MNS, or the Shiv Sena, or the Bajrang Dal, or the VHP, or any other pea-brained “leader” or group, they all have one thing in common. They are Victoria’s children. People who’s sense of history and culture is limited to the 19th century – the Age of Victoria. That’s why they can only see obscenity where none exists, and that’s the source of their prudishness. Given the way they go about behaving in public, one can only imagine how they treat their women. Do they cover them in jute bags, keep them in cow sheds, make them wear chastity belts, and wear it themselves? I don’t know, and I don’t want to either. All these practitioners of Victorian Hinduism should go back to their native country – Britain. Or else they can go and hug their cousins – the Taleban from Afghanistan.

There is no single “Indian culture” or “Hindu culture,” and if these illiterate idiots had ever bothered to read history, or stopped rewriting it just like the Marxist historians do, they would find that everything from prostitution to pubs to drinking to gambling to beef eating is part of “Indian culture.” Sauvik has written a post on the same, and he refers to Kautilya’s (350 B.C.E.) magnum opus, “The Arthashastra”. I have read a bit of it, and given the long list of regulations prescribed in the treatise, I don’t completely agree with Sauvik’s “ancient Indian culture was closer to the Goa Model of Liberty than the Taliban.” Kautilya was no liberal, or libertarian – he was a paranoid consequentialist who saw every bit of public policy from that viewpoint. And the punishments he prescribes for some crimes (like adultery) are as brutal as those of Hammurabi. But the fact is, he didn’t declare “pub culture” as anti-Indian. And that’s why all those people I have honored above should be tied to their chairs and made to read each and every word of the Arthashastra.

In his political economy, Kautilya has a place for the “Chief Controller of Entertainers, Courtesans, Brothels, Prostitutes, and Other Entertainers.” The Kautilyan State trained and protected prostitutes, laid down rules of contractual behavior, and appointed “madams” to run brothels. There is also a provision for “independent prostitutes.” Then Kautilya writes about the “Chief Controller of Gambling and Betting.” This person is charged with “ensuring that gambling is carried out [only] in designated places under the supervision of honest gambling masters.” Then there is the “Chief Controller of Alcoholic Beverages.” It was this fellow who organized the sale of [many varieties] of alcoholic beverages and the construction of pubs for the purpose. “The drinking rooms shall be made pleasant in all seasons by providing them with perfumes, flowers and water.” And “the liquor seller employed beautiful female servants” for spying. Apparently the pubs performed a dual role.

Its obvious that these idiots have no idea of what “Hindu culture” is. I have previously written about how even the sari is a recent phenomenon – “‘for millennia’, Indian women went about bare from the waist upwards.” But then, you cannot reason with donkeys. They only understand one language – that of mob warfare – the big fat stick. Form a violent group with a thousand members ready to vandalize anything at the drop of a hat – show “brotherly love” by molesting women – and people like Yediyurappa and Gehlot will come and worship you. Talk to them in a civilized manner, and they will spit on your face and throw you in jail.

Scumbags

Karachi is a city in Pakistan. And Pakistan is not a country the average Indian is too pleased with at the moment, the Mumbai terror attacks and all. But Raj Thackeray’s goons – with or without his knowledge – have gone a step further. They threated the owner of a shop in Mulund, Mumbai – “Karachi Sweet Mart” to change the name of the shop because its named after the Pakistani city. And the threat has had its effect because the cops of the city – the “heroes” – don’t want to do their jobs willingly. The owner of the shop has changed the name to “Jai Shri Krishna”-

A person close to the Sachdev family told TOI, “Sachdev is a 60-year-old man suffering from diabetes and continues to live in fear. He apprehends that his shop could still be targeted and he could be attacked while commuting from home to shop and back.”

Despite police arresting six MNS activists, including Deshmukh, and also providing security cover, Sachdev apparently took a “personal decision” to rename of his shop to Jai Shri Krishna.

People close to the family said he did not have faith in the local police, which had initially favoured the MNS. It was only after TOI wrote about his plight that the police did a volte face and gave him security cover. Sachdev and his business partner decided to give in to the MNS demands a few hours before Raj Thackeray was to address a massive rally in Thane.

The Indian police machinery is highly politicized and corrupt and you can’t trust them to protect you when you need it the most – they will sell you out to the goons the first opportunity thy get – unless the media spotlight is on them, of course. But that’s the least of the problems. The main problem is that we have too many donkeys in India, and most of them are humans. And as everyone knows, you can’t reason with donkeys. They will either bite you or kick you in the teeth.

If Karachi is in Pakistan, so is Takshashila. And its a city that’s supposed to have been established by Lord Rama’s nephew King Taksh. Maybe we should burn all history books that mention any Pakistani cities, or leaders, even if they have “Hindu” connections. We should compel Advani to get his birth certificate changed. Karachi is the capital of Sindh. Maybe we should force Sindhis to change their community’s name to something “Indian”. But Hindu, India and Indus too have their etymological roots in Sindhu. However that didn’t stop some crackpot from demanding that the Indian national anthem be modified and any mention of Sindh be removed from it – on the grounds that it infringed the sovereignty of Pakistan!

In another display of ass-headedness, a man has filed a case against AR Rahman and Anil Kapoor for “insulting” slum dwellers because their movie calls them “slumdogs”. Another case has been filed in Gujarat because the title is “demeaning.” Then the Shiv Sena has attacked multiplexes because the film hurts Hindu sentiments.

Sometimes I wonder what these people think they are doing. It seems their parents abdicated the responsibility of teaching them what civilized behavior actually is, they way they go about beating people, and troubling others so that they get their fifteen seconds of fame. I have been seeing incidents like these since I was three – starting with people running after each other with swords in their hands. Nothing has changed in all these years. You can’t reason with donkeys. The only language they understand is that of the big fat stick.

Irony in “bridal wear”

Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh calls former CM and current revenue minister Narayan Rane a just married, confused daughter-in-law in Congress. Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackrey’s newspaper Saamna publishes a morphed picture of Rane in bridal wear. Rane supporters get angry. They ransack the Pune offices of Saamna. Tit for tat some would say. I call it irony.

Now Thackrey is pissed off. In his editorial, he has demanded that Rane be arrested. Listen to him-

“As a cartoonist I have caricatured Pandit Nehru, Comraded (sic) Dange, Y B Chavan and also Sharad Pawar in the same manner. But all of them never expressed their anger over it rather took it in a good humour as it should be.”

So, even Thackrey believes that people should swallow insults with good humor. A case of preaching what one does not practice, if the innumerable occasions on which his party men have intimidated journalists, professors and god knows who else, and vandalized their properties are taken into account.

I don’t support the violence. But I can’t stop smiling either.