Modi & dissent


Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah at the concluding session of the National Executive Committee meeting of the party at the Civic Centre in New Delhi on May 17.

The state has turned a libeller with intimidation as its weapon, inspiring mobs and using them as its tools. To what depths will Narendra Modi and Amit Shah not stoop in 2019 when the prize is the Prime Minister’s job?

Nisar main teri galyon ke, ai watan, ke jahan
Chali hai rasm ke ko’i na sar uthake chale,
Jo ko’i chahne-wala tawaf ko nikle
Nazar churae chale, jism-o-jan bachake chale;
Hai ahl-i-dil ke liye ab ye nazm-e-bast-o-kushad,
Ke sang o khisht muqaiyad hain aur sag azad.
Bane hain ahl-e-havas mudda’i bhi, munsif bhi:
Kise vakil Karen, kis-se munsifi chahen?…
Yun-hi hamesha ulajhti-rahi hai zulm se khalq,
Na unki rasm na’i hai, na apni rit na’i;
Yun-hi hamesha khila’e hain ham-ne ag men phul,
Na unki har na’i hai, na apni jit na’i….
Ye char din i khuda’i to ko’i bat nahin.
Jo tujh-se ‘ahd-e-wafa ustuwar rakhte hain
‘ilaj-e-gardish-e-lail-o-nahar rakhte hai.

O how I love your streets, my land of birth!
Where no one may now walk with head held high;
And those who venture out,
At the risk of life and limb,
Must keep their eyes to the ground.
New rules, new regulations have been laid down:
Dogs are free to roam,
But stones are locked away
No excuse do the oppressors need,
For they’re now both judge and prosecutor
But man has always fought oppression
The oppressor’s ways haven’t changed
Nor the ways of those who fight back
Our flowers have always bloomed through fire
Oppression never wins, and we never lose.
The oppressor rides high today
Playing God for a few days
But those who keep the faith,
Can deal with fortune’s ups and downs

This poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, which his friend Khalid Hasan translated so feelingly, accurately sums up the atmosphere in India today.

There was a time when the Supreme Court sharply exhorted the state to protect the citizen’s right to express himself freely. The film Ore Oru Gramathile concerned the policy of reservation. The government of Tamil Nadu defended a ban on the film on the ground that it would provoke hostile crowds. The court said: “We are amused yet troubled by the stand taken by the State government with regard to the film which has received the National Award. We want to put the anguished question, what good is the protection of freedom of expression if the state does not take care or protect it? If the film is unobjectionable and cannot constitutionally be restricted under Article 19(2), freedom of expression cannot be suppressed on account of threat of demonstration and processions or act of violence. That would be tantamount to negation of the rule of law and a surrender to blackmail and intimidation. It is the duty of the state to protect the freedom of expression since it is a liberty guaranteed against the state. The state cannot plead its inability to handle the hostile audience problem. It is its obligatory duty to protect the freedom of expression…. Freedom of expression, which is legitimate and constitutionally protected, cannot be held to ransom by an intolerant group of people” (S. Rangarajan vs P. Jagjivan Ram & Ors (1989) 2SCC 574 at 598).

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