WHY HOLDING A VIOLENCE-FREE POLL IN BENGAL IS A HERCULEAN TASK - The Daily Guardian
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WHY HOLDING A VIOLENCE-FREE POLL IN BENGAL IS A HERCULEAN TASK

Violence has been wielded as an instrument of intimidation and domination by political regimes in West Bengal since time immemorial. What started with the Left and the Congress has now passed over to the Trinamool Congress.

Debaroopa Bhattacharyya

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On the way to Diamond Harbour from Kolkata last month, BJP president J.P. Nadda’s convoy was attacked allegedly by Trinamool Congress goons. Stone-pelting and open fights followed soon after. While it made the national headlines, Bengalis dismissed it as a routine pre-election skirmish. That does not come as a surprise considering how Bengal’s encounter with violence runs deep. It has seen far worse days.

The political culture in West Bengal invariably plays out in the colours of conflict and confrontation. Every rally, from a street corner meeting to a mammoth political march to any “not-so-significant” demonstration that makes its way down the narrow lanes of the state’s cities, towns and villages, has the potential to explode in violence.

In West Bengal, the reasons for confrontation have always been strictly political; the clashes are not disguised as caste or communal tensions. The reputation of the state as highly politically conscious has evolved in blood. By 1967, when the Naxalbari movement had become a ‘Spring Thunder’, in the description of the Chinese Communist Party, and adopted Mao Zedong’s slogan that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, the culture of violence as a means to the end in politics had ingrained itself in West Bengal.

Some events and movements which made a deep impact upon the collective consciousness of Bengal and remain etched in blood are the following:

THE TEBHAGA MOVEMENT

The Tebhaga Movement in 1946-48 was a peasant movement by sharecroppers demanding a two-thirds share of harvested crops. The confrontation between the peasantry and landowners, with the police stepping in to maintain law and order, soon became bloody, and thousands were arrested. It was a face-off between the landowning class and landless tenant farmers, with the Congress on one side and the opposition, including the Communist Party of India, on the other.

EK PAISA ANDOLAN

A fare hike for tram services in Kolkata by one paisa sparked off riots in erstwhile Calcutta in 1953. Trams were set on fire, tracks uprooted, public property vandalised, bombs lobbed, bricks hurled. The police opened fire and several people were killed, and around 4,000 were arrested. Student participation in the riots was notable. The ‘Ek Paisa Andolan’ turned the streets into a war zone. It put the ruling Congress in the dock and helped the Communist movement entrench itself deeper into the political consciousness of the youth and the working population of Kolkata.

THE FOOD MOVEMENT

The Food Movement was a historic protest that continued over several years, highlighting the problems of food insecurity in West Bengal and the rest of the country. The regime in power, the Congress, was blamed by the Left, the Communist Party of India, which later split, giving birth to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and other parties for failing to provide people with sufficient cheap food grains.

THE NAXALITE MOVEMENT

In the heyday of the Naxalite Movement after 1967, beatings, bombings and killings of perceived class enemies were regular events as was the brutal and repressive response of the state, with the police carrying out raids and picking up hundreds of young students, holding them in custody and carrying out encounter killings and mass murders of alleged Naxalites. The Baranagar, Kashipur and Barasat massacres, where around 100 young men were killed by the police (as some versions of subaltern history point out, aided by the Congress, which was the ruling party then) is a moment that defines the larger narrative of the movement.

In recent episodes of violence, mention must be made of the murder of Forward Bloc leader Hemanta Basu in 1971, who was contesting elections against the CPI(M) and the ruling Congress. It was never clear who killed Basu because the Congress pointed a finger at the CPI(M) even before details of the killing were investigated. After Basu died, Ajit Kumar Biswas was nominated and also killed. It was the most sensational murder in the 1970s. The Left coalition led by the CPI(M), which hoped to win and take over power, failed. In the annals of political violence, this incident is unparalleled.

The savage assault on Mamata Banerjee in 1990 when members of the Democratic Youth Federation of India, the CPI(M)’s organisation, surrounded her and hit her with rods and sticks and injured her skull, is one of the worst incidents of violence in recent years. The CPI(M) tried to explain what happened and failed to do so because the incident catapulted Mamata to the front lines of the political battle against the ruling party in West Bengal. It gave her star power and she became the face of the Congress’ fight back against the Left. It also gave her the ground and the image she needed to emerge as a gutsy leader, who then split from the Congress and formed her own, the Trinamool Congress.

The march to Writers’ Building on 21 July 1996 by Mamata leading the Youth Congress ranks as one of the most violent days in West Bengal’s long history of confrontation. To stop the march from progressing beyond the Section 144 line, the police first used tear gas, then batons, and finally, opened fire. Thirteen young people were killed and 21 July has since been commemorated as Shahid Divas by the TMC.

The series of violent confrontations between the CPI(M) and the TMC over land acquisition for the Tata Motors ‘Nano’ factory in Singur and the aborted land acquisition proposal in Nandigram in Midnapore between 2006 and 2008 revived blurred memories of West Bengal’s turbulent years and its clashes with industry in the 1970s.

According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data released in 2019, the state of West Bengal tops the country in political murder. Of the 18 recorded around the country in 2018, 12 were from Bengal. West Bengal witnessed at least 43 political killings between January and October in 2020, a period that encompasses the entirety of the Covid-19 lockdown. Of these 43, the BJP says that at least 20 were workers of their party. Most of these cases were reported from North 24 Parganas, Hooghly, Birbhum and Murshidabad districts in southern Bengal, and Cooch Behar in northern Bengal. The reasons behind most are area domination and political rivalry.

But why has the Bengali bhadralok taken a backseat to the agitation-loving, violence-spewing, bloodthirsty proletariat whenever and wherever there is politics?

The complicity of the bureaucracy and the police in sabotaging efforts to bring trouble-mongers to book is a major factor why Bengal fails to curb crime. Add to it is the government’s minority appeasement politics for the sake of electoral gains, ensuring that several anti-social elements belonging to a certain community go scot-free even after committing heinous crimes in the state. Also, curbs on the freedom of the press are also prevalent in West Bengal. The press, which has been rightfully called the Fourth Estate, is often prevented from expressing opinions, reporting full truths and asking pertinent questions.

Widespread unemployment further adds to the mix as joblessness breeds anti-social activities. The lack of industry and private enterprise has rendered lakhs of youths unemployed, who are roped by political factions into various kinds of activities, including unlawful agitation, vandalism and sometimes more serious forms of crime, lured by the promises of an attractive future. Also, because the political protection of the ruling regime means freedom from day-to-day harassment and a first claim to several government schemes and advantages, few are left with the choice to remain apolitical.

Lastly, despite being a highly politically conscious population, Bengal citizens seem to be particularly lackadaisical where their rights and their assertion are concerned. The legal and social rights of citizens who protest against or differ with the ruling regime seem to be in a permanent state of suspension owing to increasing harassment by both state agencies and rowdy elements who often seem to enjoy a tacit legal immunity in spite of the innumerable complaints against them.

So, can we expect a different picture in the upcoming elections in Bengal? Going by the skirmishes already unleashed on the streets of Bengal, it doesn’t seem like history would prefer a very different trajectory this polling season in Bengal. The lynching and consequent death of BJP worker Saikat Bhawal by alleged TMC party workers and the murder of Manish Shukla, an active BJP office bearer, in Barrackpore, do not portend a peaceful and violence-free election in Bengal. However, awareness of the volatility of the very precarious balance that exists between political factions in this state on the part of the police and the Election Commission can help the latter prepare for a more credible law and order system than what exists now.

Ensuring a violence-free election in 2021 is a Herculean task that can be accomplished only with all stakeholders playing their parts honestly and sincerely.

The writer is founder and editor-in-chief of Tribe Tomorrow Network. The views expressed are personal.

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Abhimanyu Dassani prepared himself for ‘Nikamma’

Uday Pratap Singh

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Touted as the biggest masala entertainer of the year, Abhimanyu Dassani’s Nikamma has created a huge buzz amongst audiences for its entertainment quotient. Packaged with action, romance, comedy, and drama, Abhimanyu Dassani encompasses all elements for the ideal massy hero, a space ruled by Govinda in the 80s and 90s.

Preparing for his role, Abhimanyu Dassani re-watched a lot of Govinda films to get into the skin of his character. Recently the trailer launch of Nikamma, Abhimanyu revealed the preparation for the role included watching Govinda’s films to immaculate the mannerisms and style of his character.

Sharing about his preparation process for Nikamma the actor said, “The genre of this film is so different from the other genres that I’ve done. I needed a lot of workshops with Sabbir sir, to cater to this character. I watched a lot of commercial cinema, I enjoyed re-watching a lot of Govinda sir’s films. He’s supremely talented and I enjoyed my afternoons, re-watching his films.”

Driven by Abhimanyu Dassani’s character Adi, Nikamma reveals the story of a young, jobless, carefree boy who transforms into a responsible and reliable person when it comes to his family. Co-starring Shirley Sethia and Shilpa Shetty, Nikamma is directed by Sabbir Khan and is slated to release on 3rd June 2022.

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IMPORTANCE OF GIVING MENSTRUAL HYGIENE EDUCATION AT AN EARLY AGE IN INDIA

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Menstruation is a normal physiological phenomenon, and the onset of menstruation is a sign of normal reproductive function. Menarche is the occurrence of the first menstrual period. Menstruation is the shedding of the functional layer of the endometrium that occurs when ovulation is not followed by fertilization. Menarche is a result of a complex interaction between hypothalamic, pituitary, and ovarian hormones. Physiological changes occur at the age of menarche. The pattern of menstruation is affected by genetic factors, age of menarche, nutrition, race, environmental condition, geographical location, health status, psychological factors, BMI, socio-economic status, parent education level, occupation of parents, loss of parents, child sexual abuse, physical stress, and smoking. Various studies indicate that the average age of menarche has reduced significantly in the last few years and there is a trend of early onset of menarche in developing and developed countries. Menarche is an important factor in health planning.

The mean age of menarche is 12- 13 years. The length of the normal menstrual cycle is around 24-38 days with bleeding around 4-7 days. The first experience would be fear, shame, or embarrassment. The problems faced include pain, heaviness in the lower abdomen, severe cramps, hygiene issues, infection, and anemia due to heavy bleeding or lethargy.

50% of girls in India know nothing about their periods until they start their periods. In India, it is reported that only 18% of women of the menstruating age have access to sanitary products. 82% lack awareness about menstrual hygiene. Every girl should know about menstruation before their first period; that is why girls should be educated by their mothers and teachers. From the time of the larch, i.e., appearance of breast buds, pubic and axillary hair, it is the duty of the mother of a girl child, to give her awareness regarding the forthcoming menstruation so that they will immediately report to the mother when first signs of bleeding occur.

This is the time family members or mother should teach the girl about change in sanitary napkins every 4 to 6 hours, discard the used sanitary napkins properly, wash the undergarments properly and wear clean and dry undergarments. If she is using cloth napkins, she has to be trained to use clean clothes, change them at frequent intervals, wash and dry it properly, and store them in a clean dry place before the next use. It is the responsibility of the mother or caretaker who has to find them a separate storage facility for this. In rural villages, they rely only on pieces of cloth, and may not have the facility of even washing and keeping it dry. These encourage microorganisms to grow and cause infection. Disposable pads are costly and not always available in rural areas. Only 5% of rural women are affordable to buy disposable pads.

Every school should have sanitation facilities that are safe, private and provide access to water, soap, and dustbin and enabling girls to change and dispose of their menstrual products and clean themselves. Schools should provide enabling environment where menstruation is treated respectfully by all. It is prudent to integrate sex education into the school curriculum so that children (girls and boys) learn about it at an early age and do not consider it taboo. Girls having better knowledge regarding menstrual hygiene and safe practices are less vulnerable to reproductive tract infections and their consequences. Schools can make facilities for sanitary napkins and vending machines.

Menstrual hygiene tips:

• Change your pads frequently

• Try to use cotton sanitary pads

• Clean reusable pads properly

• Keep the perineal area clean

• Wear comfortable, clean underwear

• Use correct washing techniques

• Discard used sanitary pads properly

• Consult a gynecologist in case of irregular or heavy bleeding

Menstruating days should be considered normal. Associating pain or mood swings should not keep girls away from going to school or work. They can consult a gynecologist in case of worrying symptoms, take an analgesic and get engaged in routine activities.

The author is Clinical Professor; Head, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Amrita Hospital, Kochi

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EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GOING THROUGH MENOPAUSE

Menopause is the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles. The term can describe any of the changes you go through just before or after you stop having your period, marking the end of your reproductive years.
This is a battle with the self. It is indescribable to another, except for another sufferer, who will comprehend your constant low moods, unexplainable fear, and a sense of feeling less about yourself. This is like a deep dive from a cliff that is jagged and cruel.

The womb and the woman which has a symbiotic relationship of a lifetime journey. It starts with a fullness found in rivers that charts its course to finally its resting place at its ebbing emptiness.

Just like the river a woman too has to come to terms with the end of the journey with her fertility. With menopause women often face a symptom of depression, called anhedonia, which is forgetting how to take pleasure. Yet women in spite of this trauma still feel ashamed and hesitate to discuss menopausal anxiety and depression.

Perimenopausal anxiety among women is considered normal. Therefore women are continually discouraged to discuss mental health issues. Symptoms associated with menopause are a given for us to endure. Only the strength of a woman is applauded, when she can overcome all odds with a smiling face.

Women who seek support are often subjected to judgment. She is often shamed into feeling guilty, as though she is baring her genitals and nudity, for everyone to get a glimpse of her weakness. The taboo attached to menopausal mental issues along with vaginal health remains repressed as a topic.

This suppressed anxiety that sometimes women face from their late 30s till they turn 55, can result in varying illnesses in their later years.

Therefore women continue to lie about their reproductive health conditions. They postpone the conversation in their heads about the end of their tryst with fertility. Often resorting to external methods of superficial measures to stall the trauma attached to their aging identity as a woman.

The society too has meticulously carved her sense of self-worth from the lens of patriarchy. Women are worried to be labeled anxious. So to keep up appearances, mum is the word. The message on the wall is “learn to bear the pain if you can’t bear any more.”

As an author and a podcaster, I have done multiple interviews with women. In one such interaction, an interviewee confided in me. She looked down as she uttered her secret. She said that once she had negotiated an overdose of her sleeping pills, her hormones took a nosedive into an unending abyss of feeling extreme loneliness and anxiety.

Everyone around her told her it was the empty nest syndrome as her children had become adults and had moved countries. Her mother told her, that she too went through this as she lost her fertility. This would soon be over.

But she was struggling with fear and panic attacks for the last 7 years. She told me she felt more worthless and inconsequential as she sought support within her four walls.

She also felt ashamed and wanted to hide her aging with the endless sessions at the Botox and filler routine to plump up her skin and look younger. Her friends told her the uterus was bidding her adieu. She must learn to bear the dryness in her vagina, which caused her pain during sex accompanied by the constant hot flushes.

According to the World Health Organisation report of 2021. Depressive disorders account for close to 41.9% of the disability from neuropsychiatric disorders among women compared to 29.3% among men.

Leading mental health problems of the elderly are depression, organic brain syndromes, and dementias. The majority are women.

The data increasingly indicates the need of the hour, to normalize conversations about mental health among women. It is to our benefit if we can delve into our collective consciousness to ease each other out of this saga of hormonal imbalances.

Maybe we need to take the initiative to form support groups. In these groups, women need to safely be able to discuss sleep loss, anxiety, weight gain, hot flushes, loss of interest in sex, and vaginal dryness. Sometimes as extreme as losing jobs due to forgetfulness which is also a byproduct of the hormone fluctuations.

As I researched further into the topic, I found that the fluctuation of estrogen and another key hormone, progesterone, in the body can cause feelings of anxiety or depression. Some women develop panic disorder too during menopause.

Possible treatments for menopause-related anxiety can include hormone therapy, antidepressants, psychotherapy, or supplements for a better mood.

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has proven to be effective as a treatment for menopause. This model is based on the belief that emotions arise as a result of how our experiences are interpreted, thereby suggesting that attitudes and thoughts related to menopause mediate how menopause is experienced.

But the question that comes up is, are we as a society, ready to address this in its bloody candor?

Talking to Srishti Sinha, a psychologist from the mental health team at an NGO called KHUSHII (Kinship for Humanitarian, Social, & Holistic Intervention in India).

She said “there are ways to recognise anxiety.

In the context of a stressful or threatening situation, experiencing anxiety is completely normal. Any negative emotional reaction, whether it’s anxiety, fear, anger, or sadness, is linked to our survival. Anxiety becomes an issue when it becomes unbearably intense, and persistent and starts being triggered by innocuous situations. When we experience excessive anxiety, it becomes all-consuming and starts to interfere with our wellbeing and daily lives and it is at this point that it can be seen as a clinical issue.”

As I delved further into the topic with Sinha about how do menopausal women feel with the end of fertility?

She says “it is the loss of the reproductive potential and the gradual transition into old-age that can be a difficult change to adapt to, even on its own, but this transition becomes particularly challenging in a society that lacks sensitivity and information.”

Mental health among menopausal women is not just mediated by hormones but also psychosocial factors like losing the “gender race”. The pressure to juggle motherhood and career, in the context of unjust patterns of interaction in a patriarchal society, is one of the biggest contributing factors to depression among women.

Women’s psycho education and awareness about their bodies should be promoted. Advocacy of seeking help among women should be encouraged.

The mental health of women going through menopause can benefit immensely from adequate psychosocial support, in the form of free/ affordable mental health services, change in the social attitude toward menopause, and starting a more honest dialogue about women’s experiences during this time.

I hope India soon wakes up to be better equipped in the mental health sector where women suffering from endometriosis and menopausal anxiety do not feel isolated, suffer in silence, and get conditioned to be alright to compromise the quality of their lives.

Mohua Chinappa is an ex-housewife turned author

‘Menopause is a natural biological process. But the physical symptoms, such as hot flashes, and emotional symptoms of menopause may disrupt your sleep, lower your energy or affect emotional health.’

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This is a battle with the self. It is indescribable to another, except for another sufferer, who will comprehend your constant low moods, unexplainable fear, and a sense of feeling less about yourself. This is like a deep dive from a cliff that is jagged and cruel.

The womb and the woman which has a symbiotic relationship of a lifetime journey. It starts with a fullness found in rivers that charts its course to finally its resting place at its ebbing emptiness.

Just like the river a woman too has to come to terms with the end of the journey with her fertility. With menopause women often face a symptom of depression, called anhedonia, which is forgetting how to take pleasure. Yet women in spite of this trauma still feel ashamed and hesitate to discuss menopausal anxiety and depression.

Perimenopausal anxiety among women is considered normal. Therefore women are continually discouraged to discuss mental health issues. Symptoms associated with menopause are a given for us to endure. Only the strength of a woman is applauded, when she can overcome all odds with a smiling face.

Women who seek support are often subjected to judgment. She is often shamed into feeling guilty, as though she is baring her genitals and nudity, for everyone to get a glimpse of her weakness. The taboo attached to menopausal mental issues along with vaginal health remains repressed as a topic.

This suppressed anxiety that sometimes women face from their late 30s till they turn 55, can result in varying illnesses in their later years.

Therefore women continue to lie about their reproductive health conditions. They postpone the conversation in their heads about the end of their tryst with fertility. Often resorting to external methods of superficial measures to stall the trauma attached to their aging identity as a woman.

The society too has meticulously carved her sense of self-worth from the lens of patriarchy. Women are worried to be labeled anxious. So to keep up appearances, mum is the word. The message on the wall is “learn to bear the pain if you can’t bear any more.”

As an author and a podcaster, I have done multiple interviews with women. In one such interaction, an interviewee confided in me. She looked down as she uttered her secret. She said that once she had negotiated an overdose of her sleeping pills, her hormones took a nosedive into an unending abyss of feeling extreme loneliness and anxiety.

Everyone around her told her it was the empty nest syndrome as her children had become adults and had moved countries. Her mother told her, that she too went through this as she lost her fertility. This would soon be over.

But she was struggling with fear and panic attacks for the last 7 years. She told me she felt more worthless and inconsequential as she sought support within her four walls.

She also felt ashamed and wanted to hide her aging with the endless sessions at the Botox and filler routine to plump up her skin and look younger. Her friends told her the uterus was bidding her adieu. She must learn to bear the dryness in her vagina, which caused her pain during sex accompanied by the constant hot flushes.

According to the World Health Organisation report of 2021. Depressive disorders account for close to 41.9% of the disability from neuropsychiatric disorders among women compared to 29.3% among men.

Leading mental health problems of the elderly are depression, organic brain syndromes, and dementias. The majority are women.

The data increasingly indicates the need of the hour, to normalize conversations about mental health among women. It is to our benefit if we can delve into our collective consciousness to ease each other out of this saga of hormonal imbalances.

Maybe we need to take the initiative to form support groups. In these groups, women need to safely be able to discuss sleep loss, anxiety, weight gain, hot flushes, loss of interest in sex, and vaginal dryness. Sometimes as extreme as losing jobs due to forgetfulness which is also a byproduct of the hormone fluctuations.

As I researched further into the topic, I found that the fluctuation of estrogen and another key hormone, progesterone, in the body can cause feelings of anxiety or depression. Some women develop panic disorder too during menopause.

Possible treatments for menopause-related anxiety can include hormone therapy, antidepressants, psychotherapy, or supplements for a better mood.

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has proven to be effective as a treatment for menopause. This model is based on the belief that emotions arise as a result of how our experiences are interpreted, thereby suggesting that attitudes and thoughts related to menopause mediate how menopause is experienced.

But the question that comes up is, are we as a society, ready to address this in its bloody candor?

Talking to Srishti Sinha, a psychologist from the mental health team at an NGO called KHUSHII (Kinship for Humanitarian, Social, & Holistic Intervention in India).

She said “there are ways to recognise anxiety.

In the context of a stressful or threatening situation, experiencing anxiety is completely normal. Any negative emotional reaction, whether it’s anxiety, fear, anger, or sadness, is linked to our survival. Anxiety becomes an issue when it becomes unbearably intense, and persistent and starts being triggered by innocuous situations. When we experience excessive anxiety, it becomes all-consuming and starts to interfere with our wellbeing and daily lives and it is at this point that it can be seen as a clinical issue.”

As I delved further into the topic with Sinha about how do menopausal women feel with the end of fertility?

She says “it is the loss of the reproductive potential and the gradual transition into old-age that can be a difficult change to adapt to, even on its own, but this transition becomes particularly challenging in a society that lacks sensitivity and information.”

Mental health among menopausal women is not just mediated by hormones but also psychosocial factors like losing the “gender race”. The pressure to juggle motherhood and career, in the context of unjust patterns of interaction in a patriarchal society, is one of the biggest contributing factors to depression among women.

Women’s psycho education and awareness about their bodies should be promoted. Advocacy of seeking help among women should be encouraged.

The mental health of women going through menopause can benefit immensely from adequate psychosocial support, in the form of free/ affordable mental health services, change in the social attitude toward menopause, and starting a more honest dialogue about women’s experiences during this time.

I hope India soon wakes up to be better equipped in the mental health sector where women suffering from endometriosis and menopausal anxiety do not feel isolated, suffer in silence, and get conditioned to be alright to compromise the quality of their lives.

Mohua Chinappa is an ex-housewife turned author

‘Menopause is a natural biological process. But the physical symptoms, such as hot flashes, and emotional symptoms of menopause may disrupt your sleep, lower your energy or affect emotional health.’

Continue Reading

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To have it or not: The sedition law debate

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The recent decision of the Supreme Court of India asking the Government not to make use of the sedition law till a decision is taken regarding its validity. The Supreme Court, the centre and states to keep in abeyance all pending trials, appeals, and proceedings with respect to the charge framed under  Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with the offence of sedition, till the central government completes the promised exercise to reconsider and re-examine the provision. This has come while the apex court was seized with the matter regarding the Constitutional validity of the provision and the centre made it a bit complicated first by supporting the law and then showing its intent to review the law. The afterthought came probably recognizing and realizing the public sentiment and the wider misuse of the law by party in power and the enormous power it provides to the state.

However, controversy is not new to the sedition law all over the world and more so in India during the last few years. The most recent being the use rather than the abuse of this provision of law by various governments to throttle any form of criticism. In response to the query of the Supreme Court, the Government of India has sought time to amend the law and get back with its position. In a relatively defiant posture, the Union law minister has caustically remarked about the ‘Laxman Rekha’ between various organs of the government clearly indicating the importance of the principle of separation of power. However, for the time being, the law is in limbo but the moot point is whether it will rise like the proverbial Phoenix or the case against Ranas will be the swansong of this section of the Indian Penal Code.

THE LAW AND ITS GENESIS

The Sedition law is a colonial creation and found its mention in 1870 as a special provision in the Indian Penal Code. The creation of law has clearly found its meaning in the expression that wanted to protect the interest of colonial administration by snuffing out any sort of opposition either through expression or act. The provision was extensively used to curb political dissent during the Independence movement. Several pre-independence cases involving Section 124A of the IPC are against celebrated freedom fighters, including Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Annie Besant, Shaukat, and Mohammad Ali, Maulana Azad, and Mahatma Gandhi. It is during this time that the most notable trial on sedition — Queen Empress v. Bal Gangadhar Tilak — took place in 1898.

Section 124A defines sedition as: “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added…” Part of punishment came through an amendment as the previous one mentioned of exile for life.

The provision also contains three explanations:

The expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity;

Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt, or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.

Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.

THE JUDICIAL INTERPRETATION

This law came into question as early as 1950 in the case of Romesh Thaper v. State of Madras where Justice Patanjali Shastri clearly underlined its limitation and quoting debates of the Constitution Assembly mentioned that it’s a colonial legacy and needs to be tempered with same. In the following years, several High Courts too were in favour of toning down the law. The major criticism of Section 124A is that it restricts our “freedom of expression” and is antithetical to the democratic norms. As a result, critics have asserted that this legislation of the Indian Penal Code is an infringement of the country’s Constitution. It was decided in a landmark judgment of Kedar Nath v. State of Bihar (1962), that Section 124A was constitutionally valid. However, the five-judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court while validating the constitutionality of the Act underlined that it should be limited in its application to acts involving the intent or inclination to create public disorder, disruption of law and order, or provocation of violence among other things. In fact, this attests the famous statement of Gandhiji which emphasized that freedom of expression includes the right to criticize the government when it does not incite any violence. However, cases like Dr. Binayak Sen v. State of Chhattisgarh, Aseem Trivedi v. State of Maharashtra and Arun Jaitly v. State of Uttar Pradesh brought this section into sharp focus as there has been clear excess by the state.

The Supreme Court of India, in the case of Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha v. Union of India (2021), that would discuss the validity of Section 124A, criminalizes sedition. In connection with posts and cartoons that were posted on social media platforms, two journalists, Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha and Kanhaiya Lal Shukla have been accused of committing sedition in India. They have filed a writ petition challenging the constitutional validity of Section 124A, which criminalizes and punishes sedition. 

The sedition law may have been repealed in U.K. and many other countries in Europe and may be a dead letter in U.S.A. in the presence of strong ‘freedom of expression’ rights but in the context of India to be my belief has some relevance. The stand of Government of India to have a review serves a larger purpose. First, it will allow the government to have a wider consultation including states, other stakeholders, and a comprehensive analysis. But what is important is that there must be a strong deterrence of its use in its present form. India has a different culture and political problem that includes terrorism and a lot of anti-State activities. The provision allows the elected government to protect itself from malicious, contemptuous, and unfair criticism. To quote a parallel if the top Court wants the sedition law to be repealed then first it should repeal the Contempt of Court Act. But the logic says ‘not to throw the baby with bath water’.

The author is the Dean, Department of Distance Education, National Law Institute University. The views expressed are personal.

The Sedition law is a colonial creation and found its mention in 1870 as a special provision in the Indian Penal Code. The creation of law has clearly found its meaning in the expression that wanted to protect the interest of colonial administration by snuffing out any sort of opposition either through expression or act. The provision was extensively used to curb political dissent during the Independence movement. Several pre-independence cases involving Section 124A of the IPC are against celebrated freedom fighters, including Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Annie Besant, Shaukat, and Mohammad Ali, Maulana Azad, and Mahatma Gandhi.

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PUNJAB FOREST DEPARTMENT BULLDOZES ILLEGAL FARM HOUSES OVER 30 ACRE PLPA LAND

Colonel Baljit Singh Sandhu encroached Punjab Forest land to construct 45 farmhouses illegally. Punjab Forest Department has taken cognisance of the matter and lodged an FIR against him.

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The Punjab Forest Department after filing the FIR against habitual offender Colonel Baljit Singh Sandhu, owner of Worldwide Immigration Consultancy Services (WWICS), bulldozed the illegally constructed 45 farmhouses in Nayagaon on Friday. This happened after The Daily Guardian Review published a story reporting illegal construction.

Punjab Forest Department sent three JCBs to the spot to flatten all illegal construction over Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) preserved forest land.

Just a few days after the Mirzapur road encroachment complaint action, Punjab Forest Department again received a complaint that in Nayagaon, there have been huge changes in the land demographics over the hundreds of acres of land by Col Sandhu. He has been a habitual offender in changing demographics of the PLPA preserved forest land earlier on and many cases are already in service against him.

From Masol Road to village Tanda, Col Sandhu has flattened the hillocks, axed many trees, and constructed a path towards village Tanda. In Nayagaon, on 9 May, the police had taken action on the allegation of illegally cutting mountains and making 45 big farmhouses and selling them at high prices. In this case, on the complaint of the Forest Department, a case was registered against Col Sandhu and Tarsem Singh, residents of village Nada, on the complaint of Forest Range Officer Ranjodh Singh.

On behalf of the Divisional Officer of the Forest Department of Mohali, a written complaint was given to the police through a letter-number 32, that Col Sandhu had illegally occupied the closed lands under PLPA-1900 and arbitrarily got the lands constructed. As per Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Punjab Parveen Kumar IFS, it is illegal to change the demographics of PLPA land and further construct commercially over this land. Legal action was required for what Col Sandhu did.

It is alleged that in this case, the mountains were levelled by cutting them with JCB. Around 30 hectares of natural forest land and about 500 trees have been uprooted. It was alleged that the forest department team was not allowed inside to inspect the land and the team suffered misbehaviour by the offender. Government work was obstructed. Now the forest department team is being continuously threatened by the accused. On which the accused Col Sandhu and Tarsem Singh were found to be in violation of Section 4/5 FCA 1980 of PLPA 1900, IFA – 1927, and the directions of CWP 202- 1995 dated 12 December 1996 of the Supreme Court. The Nayagaon police have registered a case against both the accused under sections 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Act. Nayagaon is situated in the Shivalik foothills. Col Sandhu did not answer the writer’s calls. On 9 May, based on a letter written by Singh to Nayagaon Police suggested to add sections 186 and 353 of IPC, sections 9,39 of Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and Environment Protection Act 1986, and Mines and Minerals Act 1957 in the FIR against the accused.

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Tejashwi Yadav refutes talks of alliance with JD(U), calls it ‘imaginary’

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RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav

Amid speculations of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) trying to forge an alliance with Janata Dal (United), Tejashwi Yadav on Thursday cleared the air saying talks about an alliance are “all imaginary”.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Yadav said, “This is all imaginary. When I went to Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it was my initiative and not of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Does it mean I was forging an alliance with BJP?” Both Tejashwi Yadav and CM Nitish Kumar attended Iftar hosted at each other’s place and also have similar stances on caste census.

Speaking about the recent CBI raids at Lalu Prasad Yadav’s house, Tejashwi said, “It is politically motivated. It was not the first time, and it is not going to be the last.”

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) FIR in the ‘land for railway job’ case named Lalu Yadav, his wife, daughters and several others as accused in the case.

On Friday, the CBI conducted searches at 17 locations belonging to Lalu Yadav and his family members in Delhi and Bihar.

The alleged scam took place when Yadav was Railway Minister from 2004 to 2009.

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