No More Knee-jerk Reactions! Actions, Not Slogans, Point to Orientation

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The Detention of three students of a private college in Bengaluru for merely raising slogans in favour of a neighbouring country only reflects the fragility of our nationalism.

Rashaé K | Clarion India

THESE days hollow sloganeering seems to have become the be-all and end-all of nationalism. Those who wear nationalism on their sleeves remain under the illusion that by simply shouting Vande Matram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai they are rendering great service to the nation.

What’s more, they judge others’ nationalism.  Ask these worthies what they did for the country; the answer that invariably props up is that they have voted a particular party, which swears by nationalism, to power.

Against this backdrop, the detention of three students of a private college in Bengaluru for merely raising slogans in favour of a neighbouring country only reflects the fragility of our nationalism.

Students booked for slogans

As the story goes, the three students shouted ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ at their college’s cultural programme. Following this, other students, who took offence to it, asked them to say ‘Jai Hind’ and ‘Jai Karnataka Mate’ instead and apologise. On-lookers made videos of the incident and circulated them, which quickly went viral on the internet.

As the video of three students raising pro-Pakistan slogans has gone viral on social media, the college management lodged a complaint with the police. The police, in turn, booked a case against the students under sections 153 and 505 (1) B. The college management, on its part, suspended them.

In their defence, the students claimed to have shouted the slogans for fun, yet they are treated as anti-nationals. It won’t make much of a difference even if they had raised slogans against the country. They would have been invariably charged with sedition. We have seen in the recent past how innocent people were incarcerated in jails on trumped-up sedition charges, that too, on flimsy grounds.

However, the mitigating factor, in this case, seems to be the identity of the three students, Aryan, Dinakar and Riya Ravichandra that saved the situation. Imagine what would have happened if any one of them had turned out to be Muslim. The entire community would have been labelled traitor if not a Pakistani by now.

Silver lining

The silver lining about the entire episode is that a Kannada actor, Chetan Ahimsa, who came forward in defence of the hapless students, called out the hypocrisy of those whose macho nationalism owes it anti-Muslim and by extension anti-Pakistan sentiments. At a time when chips are down for sanity, few could muster enough courage to stand up and take on the might of the tyrants around. But the actor took upon himself to expose the fascist face of such hate-filled nationalism when he said people of Pakistan are our kith and kin in connection.

“For sloganeering ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ for fun at their college fest yesterday (Friday), three Bengaluru students – Aryan, Ria and Dinakar – have been bullied and taken into police custody… ridiculous and dangerous. The people of Pakistan are our kith and kin – not our enemies. Freedom of speech must be upheld,” Chetan posted on social media.

What is noteworthy about the whole episode is that the police booked the students under sections 153 and 505 (1) B, a law that applies to an offence of wantonly provoking with intent to cause a riot, and with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public. Can the sections be invoked in a case like this where the accused have no intent to do any harm?

Pertinent to recall

It’s pertinent to recall here what the Supreme Court had once said about Section 124A pertaining to sedition. In 1995, when violence was sweeping throughout the country after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, the apex court, while dealing with two public servants who had raised slogans such as ‘Khalistan Zindabad’ and ‘Raj Karega Khalsa’ ruled that casual raising of slogans, once or twice alone cannot be said to be aimed at exciting or attempt to excite hatred or disaffection towards the government as established by law in India and, hence, the law would not be attracted.

What’s more, even as the prosecution had claimed that they had also chanted ‘Hindustan Murdabad’, the court had stuck to its stand saying that raising of some lonesome slogans a couple of times by two individuals, without anything more, did not constitute any threat to the government of India.

It’s high time the public in general, and the police in particular were sensitised about the sensitivity of the laws that deal with such sensitive offences as sedition and public order in the light of the Supreme Court’s ruling. In a country where hate mongers are spewing venom in the atmosphere with impunity, at least innocents should not pay for a crime he has not committed.

__________

The views expressed here are author’s personal.

Photo: Tudents booked for Pakistan Zindabad slogan in Bengaluru. — Instagram pic

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