oppn parties Booking Celebrities For Sedition: Where Will This Lead To?

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  • Citizenship Bill to be tabled in the Lok Sabha today. Heated debate likely
  • Domestic tourism in Kashmir slumps by 87% in August-November period
  • Prime Minister Modi says police must make women feel safe
  • West Indies beat India by 8 wickets in the second T20 at Thiruvananthpuram
  • Rahul Gandhi says the NDA government kept Chidambaram in jail for so many days in order to take revenge
  • Kohli reclaims the top spot in ICC rankings from Steve Smith
  • Cabinet clears the Citizenship Bill. It will be placed in the Lok Sabha in a day or two
  • Hindu Jagran Manch members clash with the police in Kolkata after being refused permission to take out a rally
  • West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar says important files were sent late to him and his delay in signing them draws criticism from the TMC. It also brings the state assembly to a halt
  • 92,000 BSNL & MTNL employees apply for early retirement taking advantage of the new government offer. It will result in an annual savings of Rs 8.700 cr for the merged entity
  • Dengue deaths multiply in Kolkata even as the CM, Mamata Banerjee, asks the opposition not to politicize the matter
  • Government orders inquiry into the breach of security at Priyanka Vadra's house
  • Chennai-based engineer Shanmuga Subramanian helps Nasa find the pieces of Vikram lander on the Moon's surface
  • New Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray says his administration will take back cases against Dalits and activists in the Bhima Koregaon case
  • Dhawan calls his dismissal "nonsense"
43 killed in a fire at units in illegal building in heart of Delhi
oppn parties
Booking Celebrities For Sedition: Where Will This Lead To?

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.

Does writing an open letter to the Prime Minister of the country highlighting certain unpunished criminal acts amount to sedition? Yes, if an FIR lodged in Bhagalpur in Bihar is to be believed. The police in Bhagalpur has registered an FIR against 49 celebrities, including filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan and historian Ram Chandra Guha, among others, for writing an open letter to PM Modi in July this year where they regretted the fact that mobs were lynching people over religion and food habits and these acts were going unpunished.

When things happen in a nation, there will be hundreds of different views. Some people will support the acts, either passively or actively while others will remain neutral. But there will always be a minority (or even a majority) that will not support the acts and will protest against them, again either through words or by even actively resisting the miscreants. But none of the above can be truly called sedition, which is defined as "conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of the state". But as the ruling dispensation becomes more allergic to the dissenting view, the definition of sedition will become dangerously narrow.

But can the open letter that was written to the Prime Minister count as conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of the state? It was an earnest attempt by thinking Indians to put across their views to the highest authority in the government about something that was happening with alarming regularity in the country which they did not like. They just pointed out that such barbaric acts tarnished the nation’s image and the perpetrators should be punished and the Prime Minister should speak out against such acts. It was an appeal from the heart and there was no sedition involved.

If such dissenting view and appeal for sanity are to be considered sedition then no civil dialogue is possible. The letter did not tell the Prime Minister that if he did not act or if the administration did not act the writers would take the law in their hands and stop the miscreants. It asked the Prime Minister to use his office to put a stop to the heinous crime. There is nothing wrong with that and the signatories did not break any law. The Bihar police should immediately withdraw the FIR and desist from registering such FIRs before understanding the matter.