Shouting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ at an Anti-CAA rally may have been ill-advised but was it seditious?

The Amulya Saga is a clear indication of how a large section of our society has brainwashed themselves into buying into the stupidest form of right-wing propaganda and are willingly serving themselves up to be used as pawns to fulfill their nefarious agenda.

Its 4 am and I have lost both the ability and willingness to sleep because while several of our news channels are in a Trumpian mood of their own, the capital city of India is under a constant state of siege and rioting where no one knows if the day they are looking forward to is going to be better or worse than the day that went by. The past 2 months (starting from the 15th of December last year) have been spent in a constant state of sleep-deprivation because almost every day has brought out at least one piece of news that literally shakes you up and makes you question the sanity of your fellow citizens.

One of those terrible events relates to a girl who is currently serving time in jail on charges as serious as sedition, only because she wanted Indians to ‘Love thyself and thy neighbours’

What really happened?

Amulya Leona Noronha, a 19-year-old student activist, was at a program, along with several other leaders, to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Bengaluru on 20th February. She decided to speak at the event and the first two words that came out of her mouth were ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ (Long-live Pakistan). She said the same thing a few more times but replaced ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ with ‘Hindustan Zindabad’ and was trying to explain the difference between those two slogans before she was forced off the stage and later sent to judicial custody.

I do understand that there are people who come to these rallies with the specific purpose of discrediting it and as such the organizers would have been well within their rights to have asked Amulya to politely leave the stage or have women constables escort her out and then later disassociate their platform with whatever she had said.

Are two words enough to spook you?

Instead, the organizers and the police force went into a state of panic and first took the microphone away from her without allowing her to complete the sentence and then literally forced her off the stage with the audience cheering their actions. Later on, the police and courts decided that associating Pakistan with words like Zindabad are sedition worthy. In a country where our politicians and the Lapdog Media spew venom on a daily basis and saying one despicable thing after another (there are tonnes of examples but watch hate speeches like this, this and this and then ask yourself why they are not in jail for inciting hatred), here we are in the 21st century sending a teenager to jail for something like this.

The first thing that should have alarmed anyone was how so many men were grabbing a lone woman and that the female policewomen came in much later. But the second thing that is even more worrisome was how her parents, the politicians and the moral police brigade around Karnataka reacted to the whole incident.

Some idiots belonging to a right-wing organization showed up at her house and started pelting stones because apparently getting outraged at something allows you to cross all boundaries of civility and decency. Then her father completely disowned her and said things about Amulya that makes you want to bang your head against the wall. Whether he did that out of fear of those protestors or did he genuinely believe in each and every word that he uttered is best known to him. And if that was not enough we have another nutbag from the highly controversial Sri Ram Sene declaring a bounty of Rupees 10 lakh to kill a 19-year-old. But wait!!! There is more insanity in store for us because the Honourable Chief Minister of Karnataka then used Amulya’s statement to draw a link between her and the Naxals. He actually said those very words and for those of you who refuse to believe this, here is the actual tweet. Have we completely lost it or is the worse yet to come?

Is free speech a crime in India?

Amulya may have made a mistake of trying to put across a point of view that would have been suited to a more nuanced audience. I have used the word ‘may’ because perhaps there were people in that audience who would have understood her argument if she was allowed to complete her point. But is that reason enough to treat her the way we did? The reality is that we are shit-scared of anything that does not match our point of view and that we will do everything we can to first silence and then malign that person. Anyone should be allowed to say what they want to, as long as it is not blatant hate speech, regardless of whether we find it to be politically correct or even if it is a 180-degree contrarian point of view. Because if you have not been arrested, beaten up or even heckled by anyone to this day for what you have said or believed in, maybe it is because there are people who didn’t agree with you but we’re gracious enough to accept your argument or at least your right to free speech without wanting to stifle your opinion.

Therefore would it be too much to ask our fellow citizens to extend the same courtesy to someone like Amulya? Or are we beyond redemption?

Image Source : National Herald