Paradox of Our Time

Arup Kumar Sen

In his valedictory address on “Law of Sedition in India and Freedom of Expression”, delivered at a workshop of lawyers in Ahmedabad on September 7, 2019, Supreme Court judge, Justice Deepak Gupta, reportedly said: “Criticism of the executive, judiciary, bureaucracy or the armed forces cannot be termed sedition” (The Telegraph, September 9, 2019). He observed in this connection: “The foremost thing that one must keep in mind is that this (sedition) law was introduced at a time when we were ruled by a foreign imperialist, colonising power…Their sole aim was to deprive the people of this country of their rights, including the right to express their views”. He further observed: “Majoritarianism cannot be the law. Even the minority has the right to express its views…Even governments which come in with a huge majority do not get 50 per cent of the votes. Therefore, though they are entitled to govern or be called (the) majority, it cannot be said that they represent the voice of all the people” (Quoted in The Telegraph, ibid).

In her opening statement at the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said on September 9, 2019, that she is “deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions by the Government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris, including restrictions on Internet communication and peaceful assembly, and the detention of local political leaders and activists”. Regarding the recent developments in Assam, she said: “The recent National Register of Citizens verification process in the North-East Indian state of Assam has caused great uncertainty and anxiety, with some 1.9 million people excluded from the final list published on August 31. I appeal to the government to ensure due process during the appeals process, prevent deportation or detention, and ensure people are protected from statelessness” (The Indian Express, September 10, 2019).

The above discourses on constitutional rights and human rights enlighten us about the promise of democracy and social justice. The paradox lies in the fact that recent developments in the Kashmir valley, particularly after the abrogation of Article 370 of our Constitution, and publication of the final list of the National Register of Citizens in Assam have forced a large number of people in Kashmir and Assam respectively, to live a “bare life” without rights.

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Sep 17, 2019

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