Is this is a slippery slope? Yes. But we cannot allow our fear of a dystopian future keep us from acting on our dystopian present.
(With inputs from Prof Ramesh Rao)
Nothing can quell the rage of Indians horrified at the cowardly attack by the Islamic terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad at Pulwama, killing more than 40 of our CRPF men. Even as benumbed Indians took to social media to express their anger and anguish, several hatemongers also took to social media in a repulsive celebration of this ghastly act. This phenomenon, now seen almost every time terror strikes India, is a grim reminder of the enemies within and hence warrants a serious discussion.
You can also read this article in Hindi- वामपंथ के विरुद्ध सशक्त राजद्रोह कानून और अभिव्यक्ति पर अंकुश की आवश्यकता
Even as the first shocked and angry reactions started pouring in, several of the self-styled liberals tweeted, preaching “peace and dialogue” as a response to this act of war. They also mocked those asking for a strong, quick response taunting them to get off twitter and join the Army. These elite Indian liberals think an issue like trolls on social media requires the full force of the state machinery to deal with, while religious extremists killing our soldiers can be solved through dialogue.
Once you look past the virtue signalling, it is not too difficult to see the reason why these liberals posture as they do.
Military action requires domain knowledge and expertise. That is why, even those seeking retaliatory action are perfectly willing to let the Armed Forces decide the time, nature and intensity of such action. On the other hand, peace and dialogue, being vague terms, can mean anything from cultural exchange to literature festivals, the natural habitat of most of these liberals. While more sinister motives can always be ascribed, we know that what really fuels this rhetoric is good old “attention seeking disorder”.
While needling people on social media to join the Army is pure malice, their advocacy of restraint in dealing with stone-pelters is mischief: these people do not have the guts and the commitment of the police and the Armed Forces dealing with the deadly stone-pelting mobs. Anger and grief are our common, natural emotions expressed in response to murderous assaults. Seeking revenge in these instances is human. Mocking this response only underscores the elite liberal’s callous indifference to and alienation from the masses.
An alt-left website reported yesterday that Dar, the suicide bomber, was asked to rub his nose on the ground by security forces, humiliating him, and thus making him turn to extremism. People have correctly pointed out the fact that the Kashmiri Pandits, in spite of great suffering, have not been similarly radicalised. What kind of a psychopath, allowing for a moment the accusation about Dar being humiliated, avenges by killing 44 people? What will be the elite liberal reaction if a Hindu husband humiliated by police during a domestic violence case, blows up his wife’s workplace with 350 KG of explosives?
Dar’s video refers to Hindus as “cow-piss drinkers”. From stand-up comedians to communists, the left-dominated Indian opposition has been spreading hatred against Hindus by using the same language. Since 2014, the hateful rhetoric against (primarily) North Indian Hindus has been ratcheted up to unprecedented levels and the fulcrum of all this hate vocabulary has been built around the Hindu’s reverence for cows. The disregard for the Hindu and Hinduism seems a far likelier cause for the kind of blind hatred and barbarism.
The attacks on and the belittling of Hindus is not new, and is not a surprise therefore that not one liberal commentator in the mainstream media has so much as made a minor reference to this aspect of the nature of supremacist religions and the pathological violence of such of their adherents.
After 2014, the Indian left, in a deliberate attempt to distort, started labelling everything from cow vigilantism to trolling on social media as “terrorism”. These false equivalences serve the dual purpose of blurring the lines between the oppressors and victims, and masking real violence from imagined hurt. This needs to stop. The left/liberals cannot get away by comparing a jihadist-terrorist with cow vigilantes, even if such vigilantism leads to the killing of cattle thieves as there are enough characteristics to discriminate criminal acts, even serious ones like murder, from acts of terror. Doing this isn’t condoning murder but to bring rigour to our understanding of the varieties of criminal acts. While all criminal acts, especially violent ones, are reprehensible, only a few of them pose a risk to national unity. A different set of rules and laws are needed to deal with those who countenance terrorism.
One of the major challenges we face in discussing the twin issues of sedition laws and free speech in a roiled atmosphere is that the entire conversation on these issues has been hijacked by elite liberals who seldom have to suffer the consequences for taking the positions they do. Adopting modern Western precepts of free speech might serve elite liberals, in their pursuit of a grand human experiment, but in reality, we have adopted a form of government that is fundamentally flawed, based as it is on the presumption of common identities culture, religion, civilisational history, etc. When faced with threats from those who owe their allegiance to supremacist, monopolist, and exclusionary ideals there is no way out politically and administratively to counter them.
Part of the advantage the Indian left enjoys in this debate comes from the fact that unlike free speech and civil liberties, sovereignty or territorial integrity are not considered as fundamental rights or absolute values that need to be upheld at all costs. Part of this is due to domination of academia and intelligentsia by the left, some of who not only seek the dismantling of a nation but who are avowedly Hinduphobic. However, if you consider that a large majority of Indians would place India’s territorial integrity above almost everything, the power structures have a responsibility to acknowledge it and place restrictions on those trying to dismember the country.
The ideals of national integrity and nationhood can no longer be ignored either. Whenever nations have gone through Balkanization and dismemberment, the same elites who preach personal liberties have used their wealth and influence to escape the worst of the fallout while the masses have invariably suffered the debilitating consequences of war and anarchy. Like the mad scientists of the old science fiction movies, the irresponsible and the entitled Left has allowed monsters to unleash suffering and widespread violence on the masses in order to test its flawed ides of liberalism, liberty, and civil rights. We pay the price if we fail to stem the ignorance and the hubris of these mad scientists.
One of the cleverest sleights of hand the left has used to control both discourse and narrative is fighting against government controls on free speech, while actively advocating increased policing of the same by private entities. This has created a situation where free speech is no longer the fundamental right that it should be, but a privilege of the rich/powerful few, and they are using it as a club to beat the masses into submission.
Once you acknowledge territorial integrity, not as one side of the debate, or even worse, a decision to be arrived at the local/community/individual level, it will be easier to see how a carefully crafted sedition law is actually both pro-citizen and adhering to raj-dharma.
The cosmos is fundamentally violent, and curbing one’s own violent tendencies and controlling societal/group violence is part of our dharmic worldview. An intervention by government on these lines will also serve the purpose of restoring some sorely missing balance in this ideological warfare. The left has gone after speech they do not like using their immense institutional strength and strong academic, media, and bureaucratic networks and alliances. They don’t need government intervention because they can muzzle dissent by having you fired from your job, getting your twitter handle deleted, and having you disinvited from foreign college campuses and literature festivals. In this asymmetrical warfare, a neutral government will inevitably favour the stronger of the two.
There is nothing more profoundly immoral than to have a popular government stand by and do nothing, while the elite minority continue to wield their immense power with impunity and malevolence. Strong laws against sedition and reasonable restrictions on free speech with regards to national integrity is a start in the right direction.
This of course leads to the not altogether unreasonable fear of the slippery slope. What if allowing restrictions on free speech leads to an authoritarian government? In an empowered democracy, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. We, the citizens, need to watch over the government lest it turns tyrannical. However, we cannot allow our fear of a dystopian future keep us from acting on our dystopian present.