“Hey Ram!,” and the man fell down from the steps of Birla House where he had been conducting multi-faith meetings every evening. The crowd roared in panic and several RAN towards the man who had played a vital role in winning India her independence from nearly two-hundred years of British rule.
“kisko chahiye aazadi, mai doonga aazadi,” and the man fired a shot at a protest in New Delhi outside an educational institution injuring one student. Fortunately, the man was pinned down by the law enforcement and the weapon disembodied from his before he could fire another shot.
The two illustrations, although more than 70 years apart, underline the hatred and the intolerance that people in India have against those who dare dissent.
Seventy-three years ago, on this very day, Nathuram Godse, member of Hindu Mahasabha, aggrieved on the Mahatma’s silence against the atrocities Hindus were facing in Pakistan and his demand to release payment to Pakistan even when the State was at war with India, shot Mahatma Gandhi.
In his court deposition, during the much-hasted proceedings, he said,
“I thought to myself and foresaw I shall be totally ruined, and the only thing I could expect from the people would be nothing but hatred … if I were to kill Gandhiji. But at the same time I felt that the Indian politics in the absence of Gandhiji would surely be proved practical, able to retaliate, and would be powerful with armed forces. No doubt, my own future would be totally ruined, but the nation would be saved from the inroads of Pakistan.”
Today, India finds itself split into two factions: those in favour of the Union’s decision to implement CAA and NRC in the nation and those who oppose due to multiple reasons. There are views on both sides of the aisle, but what Delhi witnessed today was nothing short of a violent restriction on the freedom of expression, stifling a right guaranteed by our constitution to every citizen. The right to a protest, that too a peaceful one, cannot be and should not be restricted, let alone by an individual via violent means.
This incident must force our politicians and leaders to introspect. The shooting happened merely days later after a prominent leader from the ruling party encouraged in a public gathering to chant“desh ke gaddaro ko, goli maaro saalo ko”. The politician, in this case, has been barred from campaigning for three days by the Election Commission of India. But the larger question here is whether public figures encourage such chants that are inherently violent? Our politicians need to understand that words cause actions and actions have consequences.
Dissent and democracy are considered synonymous in a liberal-democratic State like India. Our democratic framework is flexible enough to allow all voices to be featured and heard. Today’s incident has a sound resonance in the Gandhi assassination and is an example of how India has failed to mature as a democracy and secure free voice for all her citizens.
Contego Humanitas Foundation strongly condemns violent restriction of the constitutionally exercised right to freedom of speech, whether by individuals or by the State to muffle dissent.
Authored by: Gyan Prakash Tripathi
Student of Law | Symbiosis International University