There is a figurative way of attributing intense stupidity to an individual or a political party in the idiom, ‘He is his own worst enemy’. This occurred to me after the way the Centre handled the JNU issue. Clearly, this incident is being exploited by the BJP’s dirty tricks cell to malign opponents and harm the institution. The rowdyism and violence by BJP-affiliated lawyers is shameful. But all this pales into insignificance beside what BJP-controlled elements are doing to spread fear under the cover of fighting sedition.
It is well settled by SC decisions that mere speech, howsoever strong, against the government is not sedition, unless accompanied by some violent act, of which there is not even a whisper. Let me quote what Gandhiji said when he was prosecuted for sedition in 1922. “Section 124A, under which I am happily charged, is perhaps the prince among the political sections of IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen.... If one has no affection for a person, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote or incite to violence”.
Human rights can never be violated under any circumstances. Malcolm Muggeridge once warned, “The choice for us is between security and freedom. And if we ever ceased to prefer the latter, we should soon find that we had nothing of any worth left to secure anyway.”
The top BJP leadership has acted so stupidly in the JNU affair that it has allowed the Congress to be seen as champions of the dignity of Afzal Guru and Kashmir, when in reality the Congress’s conduct in the Afzal Guru case had incurred it massive condemnation in J&K. Most shamefully, the Congress hanged him in utter secrecy, against the well-accepted law that convicts’ families must be allowed a last opportunity to meet him. Protests then justifiably demanded that Afzal’s body be allowed to be buried in Kashmir. But the UPA government rejected it cynically, because of pending general elections. Likewise, the BJP’s false pretence of patriotism when it is in government with the PDP, which has condemned Afzal’s hanging, is apparent. In that context, proceedings against JNU students in the name of patriotism seem to be the limit of hypocrisy.
The happenings at the Patiala House courts would have pleased Marx, who envisaged the ultimate victory of proletariat when the “state will wither away”. This, having not happened in USSR and China, has occurred in India. This is the only excuse which the Modi government can put forward at the shameful spectacle of having to convey Kanhaiya Kumar from the court to prison in disguise, under police protection, for the fear of being attacked by a coterie of BJP lawyers and goons while in the custody of the mighty Indian State.
(Rajinder Sachar is retired chief justice of the Delhi High Court)