Dissent, Nationalism and Dakshinayan

By Cleofato A Coutinho
17 November 2016 22:37 IST


Cleofato Almeida Coutinho

The unprecedented decision (now kept on hold) to off-air NDTV India for a day is a dangerous step for Indian democracy. The central government’s action has been condemned by the journalists and editors of all press councils drawing parallels to the emergency of 1975. Why do we suddenly feel that the ban is reminiscent of the 1975 emergency? The 1975 emergency may be known for regime of terror but the darkest patch   was the suppression of dissent.

The emergency provision borrowed from Germany’s Weimer constitution found its way into the Indian constitution after the constituent assembly opined that the young country would require such draconian powers. A provision to restrict freedom of speech and expression based upon security of the country was also provided for. Laws like sedition are sustained under that provision. We can acquit the founding fathers as the constitution was formulated against the backdrop of the partition riots. Possibly they lost track that the post world war II constitution of Federal Republic of Germany does not vest the government with such emergency powers.

Mrs. Gandhi came to power in 1971 with the great slogan of ‘Garibi Hatao’ after the banks were nationalized. It was thought the money of the rich lying in banks would now go to the poor. But after four years nothing of that sort happened and her creditability started eroding.  As the increase in prices of essential commodities soared, Mrs. Gandhi’s popularity started dropping. The Supreme Court’s refusal to grant a blanket stay on the Allahabad judgement unseating her from the Rae Bareilly constituency was the last straw. She was advised to suppress all dissent which was made possible by the imposition of emergency. Fali Nariman tells us that Mrs. Gandhi was herself surprised that the country’s intelligentsia has not reacted adversely. 

 At the heart of the controversy is NDTV not following that ‘nationalist’ line. We are passing through a phase where every violation of a citizens’ right to dissent is sustained on security of the country and nationalism planks. The attack on the NGOs or a sedition charge against Kanhaiya Kumar is supported by the right wing class by the measuring rod of nationalistic vigilantism. Various Facebook groups and WhatsApp groups are loaded with posts proclaiming that nationalist line with the flavour of country’ security and patriotism. Flash back to 1975. As the ‘achhe din’ times peter out, the need of sustaining suppression of dissent by looking for terrorists and anti nationals in your backyard shall increase.   Amidst a clamour to closedown NDTV Nikhil Wagle rightly summed it up in a tweet. ‘Today it is national security over freedom, tomorrow it could be national security over democracy itself’.

 The building of hate and spread of venom against progressive thought and free thinking has always been the agenda of the right wing forces. It is under such an atmosphere that Pune’s Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute could be vandalized. It is in this atmosphere of hate that country’s three leading progressive rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi became easy targets.  Dadri’s Mohammed Akhlaq’s   is a shining example of lynching resulting from atmosphere of hate and religious fanaticism built around Hindutwa and cow and beef. The venom is  spread by the self votaries of Hinduism   with the patronage of the ruling dispensation. The   minister for culture  Mahesh Sharma, Sakshi Maharaj and  Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti are the new messengers of jingoism with the likes of Tarun Vijay providing ideological support.

 What sort of a freedom is it when renowned film maker Karan Johar had to pay five crores  rupees to Army Welfare Fund for buying peace for screening his film which  had a Pakistani actor. And   peace is brokered by a chief minister! The images of the Wankhede Stadium being vandalized by the Sena and the black paint on Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face for appearing at a public function with the former Pakistani foreign minister must have flashed  in the his mind when he  crawled  to proclaim that he would never work with the Pakistani artist.

 The problem here is, any stupid and erratic action is justified with impunity under the guise of ‘nationalism’.   The fringe elements’ belief that their brand of nationalism gives them a right to take law in their own hands.  True Nationalism is subverted to justify any attack on freedom of speech and right to dissent. It is in that context that we have to understand the  justification of attack on  NDTV India .   

Suhas Palshikar, political scientist tells us that Indira Gandhi did not abandon democracy but mixed it with her personal authoritarian traits but today’s democracy is laced with that nationalist line coupled with security of the country.  Nikhil Wagle’s tweet is so apt. Imagine an emergency provision in the hands of right wing forces. Any dictatorial regime can be flavoured by that nationalist line. For past 25 years we have witnessed that our society is getting less tolerant to diversity and secular principles.  It is in that context that Palshikar predicted that we could have anti diversity majoritarian democracy. That is certainly against very idea of India.

If Indira was surprised that the country’s intelligentsia did not react adversely in 1975,Dakshianyan Abhiyan  led by Ganesh Devi is now poised to take on the pseudo nationalists. 

A three day event shall be held at Ravindra Bhavan Margao from 18th Nov. to 20th Nov. 2016 where country’s leading intellectuals like Swmaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar, Suresh Dhwadashiwar, Amol Palekar, Dr. Kumar Saptarshi, Yogendra Yadav, Adv. Prashant Bhushan, Rajdeep Sardesai, Shri Nikhil Wagle and others shall deliberate  various issues that affect the country. Goa is poised to provide a new direction to national discourse.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

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Previous Comments

What is your solution to the menace rogue TV channels such as NDTV who compromise national security under the guise of journalistic freedom.

Probably you missed what happened during 26-11 attacks by Pakistani terrorists in Mumbai. Burkha Dutt was explaining in minute details on air all the plans of police and army who were working hard by putting on line the lives of their force. And the entire plot was made available to the public and ones controlling the terrorist through phones by your darling Burkha.

Do you at least believe in a professional line that journalists should not to cross on sensitive matters, or is your opposition blinded by the hatred to BJP and their policies alone?

Tuka Dev Bore Korum.

- Jagat, Mapusa | 07 th December 2016 03:10


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