At a time when populism and autocracy are gathering strength even in established democracies, sedition laws have become a favourite weapon of the state. In India, where successive governments have used the sedition law to settle political scores, its extensive abuse to criminalise dissent in the past few years is an alarming trend. It could be a sign of both an erosion of democracy and the nervousness of the ruling dispensation.
The idea of sedition has an inherent connection with rabid, yet nebulous, notions of nationalism which is central to the public discourse of those in power. If the nation is under attack some people must be branded anti-nationals. These could be activists, artists, students, journalists, even comedians, to those involved in activities ranging from campaigning for environmental justice, protesting against nuclear power plants to opposing displacement of tribals from their ancestral lands. Even outlandish charges like plotting a grand conspiracy against the nation fed into the discourse of anti-nationalism.