What is sedition, anyway? Here's how the New Oxford American Dictionary defines it: "conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch." Here's the preferred tool of the Web era, Wikipedia: "overt conduct, such as speech … that is deemed by the legal authority to tend toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent (or resistance) to lawful authority. [It does not] consist, in more representative democracies, of peaceful protest against a government."
So am I going to get into a discussion of whether Arundhati Roy's words fit these definitions? Not on your life. Because it matters not a jot. Those who dislike the lady and what she says will believe she has been seditious. Others will not. Getting into the middle of that only detracts from the issue, which really should be what sedition means to us. (There are other issues too, but I'll stick to this one for now).
(Aside: I will, however, draw attention to that last sentence: peaceful protest against a government is not sedition. Even Ms Roy's greatest detractors will be hard put to suggest that, in what she did that has so upset them, she was violent and destructive. End Aside).
There is no country without dissent. This applies if you had two people in a country, it applies a billion times over if you have a billion people in a country. This is not, despite all you may have been led to believe, an esoteric liberal or leftist thing to say. Instead, it is just the way human beings are. You'll have an impossible time getting two people to agree on everything around them; with a billion, there's no way to even make sense of such an attempt. A country, by definition, is crammed with every shade of opinion. A country, by definition, is crammed with opinions you (and/or I) won't like.
Put it another way: a country where you agree with everyone around you is not a country. I'm hard put to even imagine such a place: perhaps some lala noddy land filled with inanimate toys might qualify.
Therefore the thing about living in this country is this: you have to get used to the fact that fellow-citizens have dramatically different points of view.
For example, I have to get used to the idea that some of my fellow-citizens actually believe the 1000+ Indians slaughtered across Gujarat in 2002 "had it coming" to them, that they "had to be taught a lesson". I hate it that people have such nauseating beliefs, but it is undeniable that many do.
For example, I have to get used to the idea that some people have spent over a quarter-century snuffing out any attempt to punish those who massacred 3000 Indians in Delhi in 1984. It burns me up that there are people as dedicated to destroying justice as this, but it is undeniable that they are out there.
For example, I have to get used to the idea that some people actually are afraid enough of words in a novel that they want it banned. It is simultaneously laughable and tragic that they are this insecure, but they too are out there. As are those who bow and scrape before them.
So I urge you too to get used to the idea that there are people who disagree profoundly with things you believe and hold dear.
Yes, that includes Kashmir. Get used to it.
And that there exist those differing views, that they are expressed, does not by any means equate to sedition. It is instead the definition of being Indian. Get used to that too.
October 29, 2010
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"Put it another way: a country where you agree with everyone around you is not a country."
There are at least two such countries- Saudi Arabia and North Korea. A case could be made for China, though in China, as long as you don't question the divine right of the CCP to administer the country or seriously oppose their policies, some leeway is allowed. Though it cannot be compared, by a long distance, to India.
Would you learn to live without pontificating to those who don't necessarily agree with your political leanings?
1)@October 31, 2010 9:44 PM
Standing ovation for that. Well done. No sarcasm. Really. Liked it.
2) @"About sedition" the post. Thou too! ... all this talk about whether she is seditious or whether free speech should be protected, nobody is talking about whether she is right?
Shouldn't that be the easiest and most obviously evaluable issue?
That exposes our media as complete minions of administrations and commissars of the state. All they care about is what Arundhati Roy's statements means to the Indian state, what about our people, what about our society. What does it mean to us?
on that note, sorry to spam your space but I want to reproduce this Roy quote.
"To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget."
also - that was intentional. I did read this
"So am I going to get into a discussion of whether Arundhati Roy's words fit these definitions? Not on your life. Because it matters not a jot."
I am nothing if not logical inconsistent to the point of borderline mental illness.
I also find it so difficult to understand that how can others not see it, when it is so logical and clear to me! But it is a hard lesson to learn this one, that no matter what, there are persons who think and believe differently. Actually it is impossible to learn, since every time I do keep banging my head.
Coming specifically to Roy and Kashmir, often I end up feeling confused. I agree about right of people of Kashmir to wish for azaadi. But then the idea that azadi could mean shariyat, more loss of liberties, more talibanization? In a meeting in Italy, Roy had once said that she knows that the people she is advocating for, they would hang her on the first opportunity! So how do you decide?
Sorry for silence, I had limited access to the web and was anyway preoccupied with other stuff, like hiking and wandering.
... whether she is right?
In a word, I think yes. For this reason: the Maharaja might have signed an instrument of accession 63 years ago, but it's the situation today that we have to address. And that situation is that so many Kashmiris feel profoundly alienated from India. I cannot see the point in waving the accession in their faces, that's not going to reverse that particular reality.
Sunil D, the point about freedom yearned for is that you can't second guess what might happen there afterwards. After all, Churchill believed that Britain would turn India over to half-men if they gave us Independence. White South Africa believed Mandela was a terrorist and there'd be widespread black revenge on the whites if they ended apartheid.
Dcubed - I would like to add something. Not just Apartheid South Africa, the United States thought Mandela was a t until 2008. He was removed from the list only in July 2008.
"After all, Churchill believed that Britain would turn India over to half-men if they gave us Independence. White South Africa believed Mandela was a terrorist and there'd be widespread black revenge on the whites if they ended apartheid."
That's a profound insult to the progressive anti-colonial independence movement, and to the anti-apartheid freedom movement, to equate them with this repulsive, disgusting travesty of a freedom struggle in Kashmir.
There were serious issues in the independence struggle of India, and equally if not more serious issues in South Africa during the apartheid era.
Those were not movements that waved religious difference in one's face to say "You see, we Kashmiris worship Allah, while you worship Ram"
There has to be something a lot more than that in a genuine freedom struggle.
India's freedom movement covered economic, political, social and ideological factors, and was geared toward progressive change in all these sectors.
It's also despicable to equate Churchill and paranoid, psychotic American state officials, to India's and Indians' genuine, heartfelt and really lived concerns about the whole Kashmir movement and its implications for India's security and ideology. Kashmir is a state within India, and any putative independent state will be on India's borders. Churchill, the lovely, endearing humanist, didn't have to wonder if these 'half men' Indians would be right on Britain's borders. And state department/pentagon officials similarly wouldn't be facing the 'terrorist' Mandela living next door.
Dcubed - It seems that you think
"whether she is right?" - yes
is a straightforward answer. And although I know little, I agree with you.
But my point is - the fact that you think the answer is so straightforward, a media that deliberately avoids the discussion of a vividly clear fact and instead contemplates on whether a person who is only talking about a straightforward fact is entitled to saying so, is a media that is afraid of the disseminating that fact
If you agree that the media is afraid of disseminating that fact, then almost by definition the media becomes a conglomerate of apparatchiks for the Indian government with the congruent interest and hence a propaganda wing.
that is my point. this incident proves that our media, almost entirely including The Hindu, acts as a propaganda wing for the political establishment.
"If you agree that the media is afraid of disseminating that fact,"
If you mean the fact that there is "alienation" in Kashmir, that fact has been disseminated. But there's also a broad consensus among politically aware people( even those not so aware) that Kashmir should be within India for political, ideological,historical, legal cultural and economic reasons. And moreover, it is beyond dispute that the Kashmir movement itself, confined to the valley, is not progressive i.e that it is not striving for more democracy, freedom, openness, tolerance and pluralism in the face of an entity or force that is actively preventing these qualities from developing.
Rather, it is a struggle based purely on religious hatred, religious separatism and ethno-chauvinism. India is right to put it down.
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