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Sedition, devastation and the birth of a nation

Tuesday, 19 August 2014 - 5:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

In 1966, the Indian Air Force bombed Mizoram, including the present capital Aizawl. The sanitised term 'collateral damage' was not in vogue then. When Mizos were being attacked with incendiary bombs that only an Air Force raised on Gandhian ideology could provide, many of those bombed must have had a lot of thoughts rushing through their heads. I suspect that some thoughts were not exactly those of affection towards the Union of India. Legally, sedition involves incitement of disaffection towards the State. It's possible that some Mizo parents incited their daughters and sons to become disaffected towards the powers that were aerially bombing their town and villages. In doing so, they became serious criminals under the law of the Indian Union's land. MK Gandhi had famously proclaimed that affection couldn't be manufactured by law. However, it's quite possible to get the grandchildren of the bombed people to turn out in smart saffron, white and green uniforms for August 15 festivities in Aizawl. Schoolchildren under the watch of armed personnel seem to be a favourite setting for affection photo-ops.

An anxious Nation-State uses black laws to curb anything that tries to puncture its mythology and glorious Creation story. This weapon is typically used to shut up those who try to adhere to the official Hindustani slogan 'Satyamev Jayate' (Truth alone prevails). It isn't accidental that four lions stare down at anyone who takes the Satyamev pronouncement at face value. Lions hunt in packs. Too many undesirable people whose remains will never be found know this too well. That's the usual method of instant justice for sedition. It is only when a relatively powerful person breaks the silence that the lions appear unsure.

Kalvakuntla Kavitha, Telangana Rashtra Samithi member of Parliament, allegedly said, "Jammu & Kashmir and Telangana were both forcefully, and at the same time, annexed to the Indian Union. When I say I feel strongly, it's because we were both separate countries, but were merged with the Indian Union after Independence. In 1947, we were not a part of India." Her father is Telangana's Chief Minister. That, her MP status and the 1962 reading down of the sedition law will ensure no harm comes to her. No parliamentarian is naive, but even within cynical speeches, I would celebrate any opening provided to myth-busting.

Sedition is a law of the powerful against the powerless, of the coward against the brave. A humane State embraces people's will. A brutal State sends in the army. People who expose origin myths and crimes of the government under whose jurisdiction they live are typically sedition targets. They disrupt the long lullaby of the non-violent and consensual creation and unification of Nation-states. To consider a Nation-State and its political mythology holy is a slur to the sacred ­— the kind that predates all man-written books, laws and constitutions. The shrillness with which K Kavitha has been demonised shows the tense foundations of the India-making project. And she hasn't even gone half the way down the path of parliamentarian GG Swell who showed bomb-covers in the Lok Sabha when patriotic tricoloured lions refused to own up to their aerial hunt in Mizoram. I propose a statue for GG Swell. Let's call it the statue of integrity.

The author is a commentator on politics and culture @gargac




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