Freedom Of Speech

The General Elections are on in India and in the heat of political campaigning, leaders of political parties sometimes get  carried away and say things they ought not to. Yes, we do have the freedom of speech and expression but that does not give an individual an unfettered right to say whatever comes to his mind, more so if it is detrimental to his political opponents .

I am reminded of our lecturer, Mr Clarence Motha who taught us Political Science. He used to tell every batch the same story every year : ” I have the right and freedom to swing my umbrella as I walk,” he would say, ” but that right  and freedom ends where the finely chiseled nose of my young friend here begins!! ”

In the space of the last few weeks, in my view, the Congress President Rahul Gandhi no less, has been guilty of breaking the law with regard to the freedom of speech. He recently implicated the Supreme Court when he suggested that they too supported his political campaign  and endorsed his “Chowkidar Chor Hai” line of attack against Prime Minister Modi. Only a few days ago the highest court of the land was not satisfied with the regret expressed by Mr Gandhi and asked his lawyer to file another affidavit with a proper apology.

If that were not enough, Mr Gandhi in a political rally in Jabalpur, used the expression, “Murder Accused” against Mr  Amit Shah, the President of the Bharatiya Janata Party several times in his speech.  It is no surprise that a defamation suit has been filed against him in an Ahmedabad court as facts indicate that Mr Shah, was acquitted in 2015.

Politicians are guilty of gross exaggeration in their speeches. I was shocked to hear Mr Rahul Gandhi claim that Mahatma Gandhi ( no relation to him whatsoever) had  been in solitary confinement for 15 years during the Freedom Movement. This is untrue. The details of Gandhiji’s imprisonments, first in South Africa and later in India are listed in this comprehensive website about him.  Also, it is widely accepted that unlike the common political prisoner, the British treated Gandhi and Nehru with kid gloves. They were typically kept under arrest in reasonable comfort and not thrown into some dingy cell and made to do hard labour like the convicts depicted in the old Hindi movies.  The Mahatma, for example, was interned in the Aga Khan Palace in Pune in 1942.

In another case, the Savarkar family have filed a case against Mr Rahul Gandhi for casting aspersions on the character of Veer Savarkar, a freedom fighter, while glorifying Gandhi and Nehru.

Mr Gandhi is not the only politician  guilty of this. Mr Arvind Kejriwal, the IIT educated Chief Minister of Delhi was sued in a criminal defamation case for the remarks made by him against the country’s Finance Minister  Mr Arun Jaitley. In that case, he was compelled to render an apology in the Court which was accepted by the complainant.

I believe there has to a salutary punishment for defamation. If the accused is allowed to get away with a written apology, as happened in the case of Delhi Chief Minister following his remarks against Finance Minister Jaitley, what is the deterrent to prevent him from doing such a thing again?

In a recent case, the Punjab and Haryana High Court fined singer and composer Vishal Dadlani and political activist Tehseen Poonawalla, Rs 10 lakhs each for hurting the religious sentiments of a Jain monk Tarunji Sagar through their tweets.

Now, that is a deterrent. I am sure they will be more careful when they tweet next time!

 

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Nehru, China and the Indian General Elections

The dates for the General Elections in India have recently been announced. We will know on May 23, 2019 as to who will form the new Government to rule the world’s largest democracy with a population of over 1.3 billion people, for the next five years. It is natural that there will be a huge spike in political activity. Opponents of the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance will lose no opportunity to take pot shots at the ruling Government and its policies. However, judging from recent comments made by leading people in the Congress party, the quality of debate (if one can call it that) will be in the pits this time around.

Pawan Khera, the Congress Spokesperson said some disgraceful things about Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently in a debate that was televised nationally. He said M-O-D-I was for Masoor Azhar, Osama Bin Laden, Dawood Ibrahim, and the ISI!!!  The Congress which in the last General Elections was reduced to 44 seats in the Lok Sabha seems to have decided that this will be a no holds barred contest. The rank and file are probably taking a cue from Congress President Rahul Gandhi who has been very vocal in his criticism of the Prime Minister.

In the recent past, he accused the Government and the Prime Minister of lying about the Indian Air Force strike against Jaish E Mohammed terror camps deep in Pakistan. He asked for proof, ignoring the fact that details of top-secret strikes like these are never revealed by any country. His accusations left many shocked as the country has to come together to fight terror. They did not go down well with everybody including some in his own party. Binod Sharma, a Congress leader left the party after three decades saying Rahul Gandhi’s approach was all wrong.

Rahul Gandhi has been equally vocal about the Rafale deal, claiming that Prime Minister Modi had gifted Rs 30,000 crores to his crony, the industrialist, Anil Ambani. He has not been able to substantiate any of these charges of virtually calling the Prime Minister a ” chor” or thief.  The reputed columnist Tavleen Singh wrote that to get more credibility for his claims it is about time that Rahul Gandhi produced some evidence of his accusations.

What shocked me more was Rahul Gandhi accusing Narendra Modi of being scared of Xi, the Chinese President. “Weak Modi scared of Xi” he tweeted. Most observers would testify that Modi has shown more sagacity than his predecessors in dealing with different countries of the world including China. The fact that China, which backs Pakistan so strongly, did not object to the Indian strike against terror camps in Pakistan speaks for itself.

The irony was that Rahul Gandhi chose China as the topic to criticize the Prime Minister. The track record of the Congress has been dismal when it comes to China over the decades since India became independent. Rahul’s great grand father Jawaharlal Nehru died in 1964 a broken man following the debacle against the Chinese in 1962. His policies of appeasement and grand standing on the international stage as a great statesman came crashing down when the Chinese humiliated the Indian Army in the 1962 war.  The people of Tibet even decades later feel totally let down by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. Here’s one example of their feelings captured in this article in the website of the Tibetan Association of Southern California titled, ” Nehru and the China-Tibet Blunder.”

The battle has just begun. I am sure in the coming weeks we will see much mud being flung on both sides. The Indian voter has to judge for himself about the political party he would like to see in power. Would he like to give Prime Minister Modi a second term which will continue the stability of the Government or will he opt to give a combination of parties the opportunity to form a Government despite their differing ideologies?

 

“India After Gandhi” by Ramachandra Guha

Although this book was published in 2007 by ECCO, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, I must confess rather sheepishly that I just read, “India After Gandhi” by Ramachandra Guha-in October 2016. The by line is an apt description of the book, “The History Of The World’s Largest Democracy.”

The hard bound edition ( which my friend Divakar Kaza said would improve my biceps before I was done with this tome) runs into 759 pages, followed by nearly 100 pages of well-researched notes.  The cover flap says, “massively researched and elegantly written, India After Gandhi is at once a magisterial account of India’s rebirth and the work of a scholar at the height of his powers.” I would agree. It certainly is extensively researched and most elegantly written though I would have said, “height of his prowess” speaking of the author’s talents rather than his “powers.”  Continue reading ““India After Gandhi” by Ramachandra Guha”

” The Holocaust of Indian Partition: An Inquest” by Madhav Godbole

In 1947, a few parts of undivided India, primarily Punjab and Bengal, were torn asunder and a new nation came into being: Pakistan. This event, directly or indirectly, affected millions of people in India and is still talked about although nearly 70 years have gone by since then. The turmoil of those times and the events that led up to these epoch-making events are captured in Dr. Madhav Godbole’s book,  “The Holocaust of Indian Partition: An Inquest” . Continue reading “” The Holocaust of Indian Partition: An Inquest” by Madhav Godbole”