May 23, 2007

Weighed in gold

Much talk of the freedom of expression, as perhaps you've noticed. A few quick questions, then:

  • Does freedom of expression extend to Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of the Dera Saccha Sauda in Punjab, who appeared in an advertisement dressed like a revered Sikh guru?

  • Does freedom of expression extend to the Sikh jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh, who said this about Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh a few days ago -- Jo ohda sar kalm kar ke liaega ohnu sone, chandi nal tol diange? (Punjabi, translates as "Whoever brings his head will be weighed in gold and silver").

  • Would you say that perhaps some particular sections of the Indian Penal Code -- criminal intimidation, abetting a crime, etc -- should apply to the jathedar? (More about that in an upcoming longer piece). Or do we let him be, citing freedom of expression?

    Nanana said...

    Hi Dilip,

    The issues you have mentioned cannot be seperated in 0s and 1s or black and white. A deeper analysis of what is happening might a give you a weighted perspective, wheras a purely surface reading might be misleading.

    There is something to be said for the spirit of the law, that the letter cannot fully capture. You might recall the "I can't define it, but I will know it when I see it" judgement about obscenity by some American judge.


    Melody said...

    Hey Dilip, sorry this comment is not related to the post - just thought I'd give you a heads up on the Blog Party happening in Mumbai on June 9th 2007.

    Please check my blog for more details:

    Hope to see you there! And DO spread the word!

    Rukmini said...

    And does the freedom of expression apply to the Danish cartoonist?
    Glad you brought this up because I remember feeling appalled by the M S University incident, but a little disconcerted to see the same people who had stood by the cartoon protests lining up outside Jahangir art gallery.

    Anonymous said...


    Have you heard of the Qadianis? The Mormons? Although the Sikhs are not followers of a doctrine - and hence are not religious, like the Buddhists, Jains, and Hindus - taking offence is not unnatural. Beyond that there is nothing else that can be done. Apostasy, blasphemy, excommunication, etc. are all Christian-Islamic ideas. While the State shd enforce law and order, it shd not in any way accord legitimacy to any efforts to close down the DSS, or collaborate witht eh Akal Takht to declare the DSS beyond the pale. That would violate India's professed ideas of secularism. The Simranjit Singh Mann led provacateurs having been roundly defeated in the latest election are simply rousing the Sikh masses against both the Congress (which played sneaky first in propping up DSS) and the Akali Dal.

    As for the Danish cartoon thing etc., D-Cubed, how about piping down? You hae a v.warped notion of FoS and aren't in any position to hold forth on the subject.

    Dilip D'Souza said...

    Rick, I'm not sure I fully understand what you mean. What is the spirit of the law that I'm missing? Thanks for any clarification.

    Big wave, of course it applies to the Danish cartoonist. Please read what I wrote about that whole episode here.

    machalka, you want me to "pipe down" and not "hold forth", but it's me who has a warped idea of FoS. Got that down pat, thank you very much.

    Taking offence is very natural indeed. Which is why I don't even care to get into who or what causes offence. FoS means the freedom to offend, it also means the freedom to (be offended and) protest. (as I wrote here).

    As for Qadianis and Mormons and Akali Dal and apostasy and the rest, I couldn't care less and it matters not a fig. I'm simply asking, should the IPC apply to a man who says "Whoever brings his head will be weighed in gold and silver"?

    Ritwik said...


    The IPC SHOULD apply to the second example but not the first. At present, it can technically apply to both. The second example is 'hate speech' - it is unprotected by freedom of expression anywhere in the world.

    Anonymous said...

    A society that does NOT erupt into violence at offensive experssion acts as an enabler for lofty laws that maximize the freedom of that expression. There is some chicken and egg here.

    We probably deserve our IPC that makes it possible for our govt to go after both (1) and (2).

    I am hopeful that we will gradually climb out of this.

    Yes it is a requisite to be absolutely impartial and treat Danish cartoons/ Baroda art at the same level. Danish cartoon protests are the wrong way to go, its competitive intolerance setting in.


    Dilip D'Souza said...

    zen babu: actually I don't think the IPC can apply to the first (Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh posing as Guru Gobind Singh). Or at least, it would have to be a perverse and creative interpretation of the IPC. (Which has been known to happen).

    But that's the reason I juxtaposed it with the second (Balwant Singh Nandgarh). Because to my mind, what he said clearly must attract various sections of the IPC. I would like to see action taken on that basis (not that I'm optimistic).

    Like I said, I'm hoping to have a longer piece on some of this soon.

    Anonymous said...

    machalka, you want me to "pipe down" and not "hold forth", but it's me who has a warped idea of FoS. Got that down pat, thank you very much. So biddoo, you have the FoS to write whatever you want and I can't call you for that, and don't have the FoS to ask you to pipe down? If you have the FoS to write something I have the FoS to ask you to pipe down. As long as we trade admonition, rebuke, insult etc., but do nothing to prevent each other from talking we are fine. There are plenty of Law and Order issues in this DSS jhamela. Every one of them can be dealt with without entanglement in religious issues. Death threats, violence, intimidation are all v.serious matters, regardless of who is involved. Is that even a religious question? Disagreements within communities are legion. Take the Smarthas and Vaishnavas of TN. There are plenty of stories (apocryphal of course) about how adherents of one group appropriated the murtis of the other, inflicted cruelties etc., For instance some Smartha will tell you how Venkatesa is actually Paramasivan! And you can find the occasional Vaishnava bhakta who will not step into a Paramasivan sannadhi. But today the two groups agree to disagree and leave it at that. Hope things stay that way. The state shd in no way step into religious disputes

    Dilip D'Souza said...

    The state shd in no way step into religious disputes.

    But just to get this clear: the minute we start seeing such calls as the jathedar's as something out of a religious dispute, we're in trouble. What he said should be seen as purely a law and order issue, that's it.