In India, it appears that the left-of centre Indian National Congress (INC) and Right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are competing one another on who can slap more sedition charges (Section 124A of the Indian Penal code). The decision of the Congress government in Karnataka on 15 August 2016 to book the international human rights NGO Amnesty International India for sedition on the complaint of ABVP points to the fact that the state´s authorities are seeking to curry favour with the RSS and the BJP in the state. It appears rather ironical given that it was Congress that was shooting anti-sedition rhetoric against the BJP earlier this year on the JNU incident. That raises one important question – what exactly is the Congress´s own history on sedition law ?
- In 2012, Aseem Trivedi, the cartoonist, then only 25, was arrested for sedition for representing in his work the widespread corruption among India’s political elite. His arrest by the then Congress government in Maharashtra was prompted by complaints from private individuals including Congress leader and advocate R.P. Pandey.
- In 2010 Arundhati Roy was booked for by the Delhi police for delivering “seditious” speech at a seminar held in the national capital. Roy had questioned the accession of Kashmir to India. The Congress was in power in both Delhi and at the Centre at the time. The directive to book Roy was sent to Delhi police by none other than the Ministry of Home Affairs, then under the Congress led UPA government.
- In 2005, the Congress governments in Punjab and Haryana filed an FIR against Simranjit Singh Mann, president of Shiromani Akali Dal, Amritsar, for raising pro-Khalistan slogans at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on the 21st anniversary of Operation Blue Star.
- In 2003, the Ashok Gehlot led Congress government in Rajasthan slapped a sedition case against Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia for defying its ban on tridents.
- In 1962, Kedar Nath, a member of the Communist Forward Party in Bihar, who accused Congress of corruption, black-marketeering and tyranny, attracted the same charges.
- In 1954, the Congress wrongly framed one Ram Nandan for sedition. Nandan had crticised the Congress regime for not being able to address extreme poverty in the country. The court held that he was not guilty.
Sedition laws are not the only example of such hypocricy. Every time the INC´s political rivals invokes Article 356 to impose President’s rule in a state, the INC runs to the roof-top to scream – “murdering democracy”. Yet as a party that had power in the Centre for the longest period, it has invoked Article 356 no less than 88 times in 54 years !! .If the Congress is serious about projecting itself as a viable alternative to the BJP in 2019, then it better start acting differently.