Monday, 29 October 2012


 The admission, cardinal occupation in Hegelian Dialectics and a substantiation of Dependency Theory comes in far less breathless mode for the idea of Neo-Colonialism than its almost ubiquitous  logically modelled tautological termination. Where the allotment is non-amplified and where not? Does the umbilical relation with method of investigation or empiricism, afford to ignore Historicism?

The impact of Neo-Colonialism estuary was never intended to be homogeneous owing to predominant nature of local soil. Extension in categories is without push when third law of Newton enters. How geographical segmentation authenticates Cause-Effect analysis, is very peculiar to Neo-Colonialism. Embracing the whole spectrum of theoretical and practical framework makes the vision holistic one. Domination can't be offered to either as there exist very rich interdependence in the categories of tools employed.

Both, gradual and rocket propelled, supply of Democracy by Liberal World Polity as being fit into every local demand of human rights and self-rule is the central etiology for metamorphosis of Neo-Colonialism Into a NEW GLOBAL ORDER.  Its in least dilemma, thanks to attached provisions of  automatic manipulation of essence if not nomenclature. Options are not given, only solutions. The response got differentiated from being institutional success of experiments in some South/South-East Asian states to application of monetarism filled injections into stubborn infantile democracies of newly independent states of Africa post 1960s. The former experiments though still struggling to prove it on public policy and proportional representation facets of this idea. Projected as last resort of every civilized society, Democracy was made to lose deliberately and intentionally, in efforts to inculcate the diversified ideas of existence (ethnic/communal) in these newly independent states(who were among the first subjects of Neo-Colonialism) because as an idea of governance, it was implicitly( overt in some other cases) fueled by Imperial-Comprador ruling class nexus, Neo-Patrimonialism, Clientalism, Persistence of arbitrary border divisions, Military coups, Elite pathology, Augmented social cleavages  and Authoritarianism. But no fuel was ever made available, either by nationalist elite leaders or those who initiated the process, for its fruitful application at domestic front. The civil  wars of 1970s (Angola, Mozambique), 80s (Liberia, Somalia), 90s (Algeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone), beginning of 21st century (Ivory coast, Darfur) projected the conception of such polity to be either out of context for thesis states or pathologically manifested. For multiplication of wrongs, the disinfection process got initiated in the hierarchies of various International Conferences, World summits, UN collaborations, further alienating the subject masses from an appropriate engagement with their desirable idea of leadership and norms of governance, something which is core of democracy. This diversion of Life Forces from internal to external factors only contributed to lubrication of Mechanical Instruments Of Neo-Colonialism than organic growth of grass root democratic arrangements. A Fundamental right of SELF RULE was taken away without much realization on anybody's part.  On other end of string, well framed opportunities was lost by the biggest Intergovernmental Organisation on this planet from realizing the soul of World Parliament on number of occasions, something which would have pushed this assembly of democratic ideas to a palpable level.

The glimpse of Cold war chicanery and sophistry found their appearances motivated toward such ends of Neo-Colonialism which were quite "in-hand" ties with its other characteristic. Resistance from backyard (Latin American countries), Arabian Peninsula, South/South-East Asian states through measures like NAM(NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT) were further diluted by planting economic and military (CENTO, SEATO etc) ideas in these regions which till date is breathing normally in MENA segment of world. Reincarnation after collapse of Socialist citadel isn't much different.

Political Processes of such arrangements never got completely meta morphed into a defunct instrument in some of Asian countries like India which further left no ground for experimenting with other form of rule.  This was a kind of vindication to speak for, though in far more louder pitch than reality.

Economically, how shifting of economic thoughts from International Keynesianism to Neo- Liberalism and Monetarism, had its stems in domestic economic conditions of erstwhile colonial master states ( when idea of Welfare state failed to meet the aspirations of middle and working classes in these countries, the tool was changed to Neo-liberalism considering it to be panacea) than anywhere else in the world, rotate between  16th-first half of 20th century  productive economies and a stagflation suffered unproductive economic activities of post 1970s period.  Both the eras of these economic thoughts were never a demand driven supply for underdeveloped states. Implementations of neo- economic paradigm through well opinionated institutions like IMF, WORLD BANK, UNDP, all over the world was meant to meet the ends of neo-colonial masters than the upliftment of vast poverty ridden population of south. The very regional models of these institutions (ADB, ASEAN etc.) have the same game played among the states of South. Big dominate small here as well even if small has more natural resources. If empiricism is the best way to reality, the anticipated magnificent economic outcomes have eluded to appears on the horizons of countries in south even after trillions of dollars were stashed into the deep pockets of MNCs and corporate speculators which never gets transformed into EQUAL amount of employment opportunities and GDPs in subject states . Neither did the much sought after domestic model of economic activities was allowed to take birth. The debated attachments of technology and management who wear the face of New, have actually been the outmoded products for neo-colonials, rendering nourishment of indigenous R&D in competitive over-nourishment and financial undernourishment. THE RECIPIENTS AND BENEFICIARIES ARE DIFFERENT IN THIS ARRANGEMENT. A form of RAW-MANUFACTURED equation hasn't ceased to exist.  Back home are the common citizens in grip of Austerity measures who have now started feeling the back-heat of Neo-Colonialism, be it PIIGS or any other developed state in North. Channelization of funds under the banner of Climate Change is just a mirror reflection of foreign aid and its impact,  something which alone has the capacity to describe the whole idea of Neo-Colonialism. Such aids which has brought every kind of pleasures to the FAVORITE heads of  former colonies, doesn't even trickle down to third layer of social and economic strata of these countries. Its not a Dichotomy where Forbes List of Billionaires is on one end and Hunger Index is on other, ITS A CONTINUUM.

The two fabulous debutantes   in the club are China and India. Though struggling hard back-home for penetrating livelihood options into the lives of millions of poor natives, they have their hawk-eyes glued on Dark Continent, Latin America and some other regions of Asia ( CAFTA is assumed to be the biggest FTA in the world with trade equation in the favor of China through  manner of conventional colonial "input-output" equation.). The Institutions of Bilateralism, Multilateralism and Diplomacy seems to have their ends somewhere in the gulf of Neo- Colonialism than in their original domain.

The Cultural and Psychological offspring of Neo-Colonialism is someone which has been brought up and raised by almost every country without any hesitation except a little cry from right-wing holders. Be it "Philippine Idol" or "Indian Idol", this kind of intrusion doesn't seems to ask for more in return when seen from the eyes of a common man. The "POLICY OF ASSIMILATION" of some of erstwhile colonial masters still can be referred to if one want to inquire about WHAT LIES BENEATH.  The native way of life, medicine, dance, exhibition of human emotions has got itself tagged under "CLASSIC" in most of its birth places. Is it an alternative way of addressing a human and societal ailment or just defunct, such positioning of inheritance speaks itself for the disposition already caused. The official propagation and manifestation is in the name of CULTURAL/PUBLIC DIPLOMACY, but equipment of measurements like " trade imbalance" are yet to be discovered and projected here. The Humanitarian interactions ( UNESCO-OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO INTERNATIONAL PRIZE FOR RESEARCH IN LIFE SCIENCES or various known personalities of west as ambassadors of UN bodies like UNICEF) and the Idea of Humanity are the machinations here. "The White Man Burden" or "Project Civilization" were well discreet in their means and ends, so for future picture, the inevitable comparisons can yield some result.


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Progressive Media: A posse ad esse (from possibility to reality)

"The era of defamation hath arrived," said the Minister. 
"No my lord, ‘tis the era of the Media….," replied the journalist.
The past two weeks have seen more than one politician resort to the aid of the judiciary against the guardians of the Fourth estate. A lot many journalists cried foul and pleaded the right to free speech and expression, principles embodied in the Indian Constitution. As citizens of a free country whose side are you on? This seems to be the major dilemma these days.

Before we can get to that it is important to understand what really is expected from a free and responsible media.

The phrase ‘freedom of the press’ dates back as early as the year 1644 at the height of the English Civil war when John Milton advocated the right to the  freedom of press in his celebrated speech Areopagitica, one of history's most influential and impassioned philosophical defences in favour of this hallowed freedom. In a Miltonian eloquence he defended this right which has long formed the principles and today are the basis for modern justifications of the right to free press.

Fast forward media history to the year 1947 and we see a new sense of urgency to put it in the words of Jo Bardoel and Leen D’Haenens. The American Press was ascribed with a new responsibility instead of a right. Four years of concentrated discussion and deliberation culminated into the Hutchins commission report 1947. The report attributed the new ‘Social Responsibility theory’ to the Media.

Now, the Hutchins Commission Report laid 5 pertinent principles on the Freedom of the Press:

·      The media should provide a truthful, comprehensive and intelligent account of the day's events in a context which gives them meaning.
·         The media should serve as a forum for the exchange of comment and criticism.
·         The media should project a representative picture of the constituent groups in the society.
·         The media should present and clarify the goals and values of the society.
·         The media should provide full access to the day's intelligence.

This report led to a forked theory of media responsibility where absolute liberty was pitted against responsible freedom. The Libertarians believed that this was a form of curtailment of freedom of the Press because for them responsibility opened the tiny window of accountability and accountability would further pave way for government intervention which was ‘unacceptable.’

Having given this background we move further home to India. The freedom of press in India was largely curtailed in the pre – independence era under the Vernacular press Act 1878.  Post –Independence India perceived a new sense of liberty and a ray of hope. The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution wanted to ensure that by no means was a citizen to live in the fear of punishment for expressing himself freely.

Part III of the Indian Constitution provides for certain fundamental rights bestowed on the citizens of the Indian Republic.

Article 19 (1)(a)  reads “All citizens shall have the righ to freedom of speech and expression”
Clearly this included the right to the freedom of the Press as well. Questions arose much later when it was perceived that the media was moving in a direction ad arbitrium. This of course stepped up with the onset of the visual media and the introduction of the internet in the country much later.

The  200th Law Commission Report on Trial by Media under the aegis of Justice Jagannandha Rao in 2006 states:

“If excessive publicity in the media about a suspect or an accused before trial prejudices a fair trial or results in characterizing him as a person who had indeed committed the crime, it amounts to undue interference with the “administration of justice”, calling for proceedings for contempt of court against the media.”

The report further states the need for Journalists and the media to be ‘trained’ in certain aspects of the law relating to the freedom of speech under Art. 19(1)(a) and the restrictions which are permissible under Art 19(2) of the Constitution, human rights, law of defamation and contempt.

However, the media seems reluctant to adhere to these guidelines.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
Article 12 deals with the person’s privacy rights and reads thus:
“No one shall be subject to arbitrary interference
with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to
attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right
to protection of the law against such interference and attacks.”

Commenting against the high drama of the broadcast media in an article written on 18th October, 2012 entitled ‘This show is injurious to health’ Shailaja Bajpai wrote:

“Here’s a new statutory requirement: anyone who goes near a media interaction or press conference, anyone who participates in a TV studio discussion, must arrange for an ambulance to be on standby outside the premises. You never know when you might need one.”

Such is the deduction of the media’s own representatives.

If a politician is expected to be accountable to the masses for his performance and his actions in office, the media too is vested with a responsibility to be accountable for its actions. Now it is difficult to draw up water- tight compartments so the key question that arises is how do we demarcate the spheres of influence of the government, the media and the public?

The Civil society was nothing but the creation of the media. The recent reports questioning the credibility of the members of India Against Corruption has left us with a very important question: Is the Indian public easily swayed by sentiments? Are we hasty decision makers when it comes to weighing the truth especially when it involves members of the political class?

In a democracy, progressive politics must be pursued but progressive media must be inherent.

There are three sides of every story today: The political version, the media version and the Truth. In the quest to get maximum TRP ratings for the channel (which I may add is not entirely wrong!) the media tends to go ad captandum vulgus. There is absolutely ‘zero’ variety in the type of news we are exposed to. Watch BBC or CNN and you will find special slots allotted for news related to different parts of the world, Africa, Asia, Latin America. Compare it with the Indian television channels. The same story being repeated, debated and re- debated like a wild goose chase ultimately ending with a missing goose is what the audience today is subjected to. Constructive criticism backed by at least some solution would make do but pure criticism without solution gets the country NOWHERE.

It is not a matter of dispute whether the Media should play an effective critique to the Government and the Opposition but what is wrong is the fact that the media cannot simultaneously seek to play judge and jury. As a citizen of a free country I expect to learn the news as it ‘Is’ not what the media wants it to be. Repeating the same visual snippets throughout the day is evidence enough of the bankruptcy of information in the media. A skewed television debate that seems a miniature version of the Indian Parliament with a moderator who seeks to cut off every sentence of the panellist doesn’t get  the citizen anywhere.

These lapses could be forgiven if the Indian media was learning independently but today when the viewer tunes in to the news one is exposed to a bitter face-off between panellists ranging from four to sometimes six in number trying to make themselves heard. Paucity of time cannot be an excuse for 24/7 news channels. A structured debate is what the audience prefers.

A typical modern day democracy is the result of the interplay between four major mechanisms : the political authority, the corporates and professional sector, the market and finally We the People.

Today the scenario is an apprehensive political class trying to make itself heard, a belligerent media trying to make a strong statement on the day’s events and a public that is torn between apathy towards the former and disbelief towards the latter.

No part of this article is meant to challenge the authority of the fourth estate, However, with power comes responsibility. In a working democracy, the media is one of the most important functionaries but what happens when the media fails in doing justice to all sides of the story? The public is being drilled throughout the day with one part of the story. The rebuttals and debates form a negligible amount of primetime. This is not to say that a political exposé is wrong. What is wrong is the media trial that is conducted within television studios to a point when the public can only remember the negativity that the media has quite successfully engraved in their minds. Every political and media circuit has its fair share of intellegentia and ignorantia.

The media proselytization has its worst effects on the youth of our country. Ask a young person if joining politics has crossed his mind. ‘No’ is the simple yet firm answer. Ask them why, and the first dialogue you will hear is, “Have you seen the newspapers or are you not having a television at home?” “Why should I dirty my hands in this political muck?” A major reason for this is our media today is a NEGATIVE Media which is far from inspiring young minds. It specialises in highlighting the negatives of the government kindling strife and anger in these gullible minds.

Today’s journalists may have a degree in journalism but why do they forget the difference between news, opinion and comment? Why is everything so convoluted? We are unfortunately living in an era of a performed media rather than an informed one. Not to sound demeaning but in the quest for truth journalists and reporters sometimes get so muddled in trivia that is irrelevant to the debate resulting in a juvenile display of lopsided information.

However in conclusion I must confess that today it is not only the media that is at fault. The members of the audience too are to be blamed for this. As citizens we share the responsibility of bringing out the positive aspects of our country. The world is watching us. We do not live in isolation. The repercussions of what happens within India allows for the formation of a negative international opinion of the country as whole.

The need of the hour is for the government, the opposition, the media and the people to work towards building the society but not by embittering the people against the State. The government deserves its fair share of criticism, but criticism must not culminate into a concordia discors.

With criticism must come appreciation. Credit must be given where due. It essential to show the working of various policies & schemes that are helping the people. After all no one can be 100% wrong, not even the government; a truth that may not go down well with many readers nonetheless the fact remains.

Perhaps the easiest way to overcome the impediments of an over- enthusiastic media is to allow them self- regulations with guidelines. To start with why can’t prime time debates have lesser panellists focused on the topic. This would give the audience time to appreciate the discussion. Without a proper understanding of the issue, the audience is unfortunately fed with only half the information. Half – knowledge is dangerous, in politics it is fatal.  The second more important point is to have a moderator who can allow the panellists to give their views without inhibitions. Specific time allotted to the speaker allows the audience to enjoy the debate with a free mind. The third point which also demands our attention is the congeniality between the debaters and the moderator. It has oft been observed that a few panellists simply choose to over- ride the moderator and a few media-persons who ensure that it is only their voice that gets heard.

It would be unfair to say that there are no worthy journalists. P Sainath tops my list of journalists par excellence. Dedicated, committed and inspiring work that they do is laudable. We just need more of them. It is this tribe which works on the principles aforestated in the Hutchins report which must bloom in this thriving democracy.

An uninformed political class, an ill -informed media and a mis- informed public is the perfect recipe for a modern Indian social disaster. We must ensure in whatever capacity we stand we must choose the path of reason. We are all gifted with the freedom of choice. Just as a certain amount of sanctity is accorded to the Constitution at another level there is a sanctity accorded to the media too.

It is with this thought in mind that this post is written for you. Here’s hoping the media will take cognizance of a concerned citizen.

Katherine. Abraham


Thursday, 18 October 2012

Sedition Laws in India: Why the “Prince among political sections of IPC” needs to go.

The recent arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi has generated a lot of debate on the sedition law of India and whether it is repugnant to the fundamental right of Freedom of Speech and Expression guaranteed by the Constitution of India. Let us first understand what constitutes ‘Sedition’ under Indian law. The expression ‘sedition’ does not occur in the IPC except as a marginal note to Section 124A

         Section 124A of the Indian Penal states that anyone who “brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government,” with disaffection meaning “disloyalty and all feelings of enmity can be sentenced for a imprisonment for a term of life imprisonment.

In Mr. Trivedi’s case, it was being used to punish cartoons deemed insulting to the nation, including one that replaces the four lions of the Indian national emblem with blood-hungry wolves and the inscription “Satyamev Jayate” (truth alone prevails) with “Bhrashtamev Jayate” (corruption alone prevails). Mr. Trivedi has also been accused of insulting national emblems and violating India’s information technology law.

Majority Indians would concur that the cartoons were crude and rather distasteful. But were they enough incitement to invoke public violence? What immediate danger did Aseem Trivedi’s cartoons possess that he had to be put away behind bars?

The Bombay High Court has pulled up the Mumbai Police authorities for arresting Aseem Trivedi “on frivolous grounds” and “without application of mind”, thus “breaching his freedom of speech and expression”. It required public outrage and a PIL to receive this judicial opinion. What constitutes an insult or causes offence and can be construed as hate are deeply subjective issues. This ambiguity gives governments the legal handle to exercise an insidious form of censorship and control that goes well beyond the “reasonable restrictions” on free speech that the Constitution allows under Article 19. 
Let us examine the origin and history of sedition law in India. The Indian Penal Code was originally framed in 1837 by the First Law Commission, chaired by Thomas Babington Macaulay, and it included similar wording to section 124-A in what was then section 113 of the draft law.  However, after subsequent revisions, the final draft of the Penal Code was enacted in 1860 with section 113 omitted.

This section was later re-introduced in 1870 on the pretext of dealing with “increasing Wahabi activities between 1863 and 1870.”  The section was amended in 1898 in order to expand the scope of the law by including the terms “hatred” and “contempt” along with disaffection.

From here on, the law was used to crush the Indian rebellion against the British rule which had been gaining momentum. In the 19th and early 20th centuries the sedition offense was used primarily to suppress the writings and speeches of prominent Indian nationalists and freedom fighters.  The first known instance of the application of the law was the trial of newspaper editor Jogendra Chandra Bose in 1891.

Many political leaders right from Gandhi ji to Bal Gangadhar Tilak were charged under sedition law. Gandhiji was infact jailed for six years for his columns he wrote for the journal “Young India”. Gandhiji pleaded guilty to the section and launched a scathing attack on the law of sedition stating that it was 

“designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite to violence”

In the draft Constitution of India, one of the heads mentioned for restricting freedom of expression under Article 19 was ‘sedition’. K M Munshi moved an amendment for its deletion. In the course of the debate in the Constituent Assembly, Munshi stated that “even holding an opinion against, which will bring ill-will towards government, was considered sedition once. … now that we have a democratic government a line must be drawn between criticism of government which shuld be welcome and incitement which would undermine the security or order on which civilized life is based, or which is calculated to overthrow the State. … As a matter of fact the essence of democracy is criticism of government.”

India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was also one of the fiercest critics of this law. He had stated in the parliamentary debate centred around freedom of speech in 1951. “Now as far as I am concerned that particular section is highly objectionable and obnoxious and it should have no place…in any body of laws that we might pass. The sooner we get rid of it the better.” But this was not the case, the law of sedition was retained and continues to be used against intellectuals, journalists and cartoonists.

The constitutionality of this section was challenged post Independence in the case of Kedar Nath vs State of Bihar in the year 1961,where SC upheld its constitutionality but  clearly explained that it  should be applied  only to cases where an accused person intended to create public disorder or incite violence. The constitutionality was challenged on the ground that it violated the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Supreme Court dissented from the Privy Council judgments which had construed sedition to include any statement that was liable to cause ‘disaffection’, namely, exciting in others certain inimical feelings towards the government, even though there was no element of incitement to violence or rebellion. It limited the application of the section to acts or expressions which have the tendency to create disorder or incitement to violence and on that premise upheld its constitutionality.
Accordingly, raising slogans against the government or uttering abusive words at a meeting or dubbing the government corrupt or inefficient and seeking its removal and replacement by a different political party is not punishable as sedition so long as there is no advocacy of overthrow of government by force.
The Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy and the Alternative Law Forum has also asserted the Court upheld the constitutionality of the sedition law, but at the same time was “curtailing its meaning and limiting its application to acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence.”

However the misuse of sedition to silence speech has a long and infamous history in this country. Critics have long asserted that the lower trial courts have disregarded or ignored the interpretation of the law as laid out by the Supreme Court of India. Moreover, it is asserted that state authorities have misused the law to target critics and activists who, rather then inciting violence against the state, are simply expressing legitimate criticism of state activities. 

 Notable among those charged with sedition in recent times are Dr Binayak Sen (Chhattisgarh), Dr E. Rati Rao (Karnataka), Piyush Sethia (Tamil Nadu), Manoj Shinde (Gujarat), and Seema Azad and Vishwa Vijay (Uttar Pradesh). Another recent example is the Tehelka report on approximately 8,000 people, including children, having been charged under IPC Section 124 for protesting against the planned construction of a nuclear power plant in the fishing village of Idinthakari, Tamil Nadu. Their crime was that as a sign of protest, on Independence Day this year, the villagers had refused to hoist the national flag, and put up black flags instead. Another case is of Sudhir Dhawale, a Dalit activist, actor and publisher-editor of the bi-monthly Marathi Magazine, Vidrohi. Despite continuous condemnation and demand of his immediate release, he is languishing in jail since January 2011. In his case, even the minimum legal requirements for arrest and seizure were not followed. Similar is the case of activist-journalist Seema Azad and activist Vishwvijay. They were released on bail, ordered by the Allahabad High court, after two and half years.

Binayak Sen, a doctor and human rights activist, was found guilty of sedition and sentenced to life imprisonment for his alleged links to Maoist rebels. He was later granted bail by the Supreme Court of India because of lack of evidence. After the ruling in the Binayak Sen case, the then Law Minister Verappa Moily had called for a review of the law. However the only reasonable thing to do would be to repeal it immediately. 

Even Soli Sorabjee the Former Attorney General of India had in his column in New Indian Express  wrote that “A better course would be to repeal Section 124A and replace it by another provision enacted in conformity with Supreme Court’s judgment in the Kedar Nath case. The newly enacted provision should by means of explanations expressly state that certain acts will not be covered by the Section. Most important, there should be no mention of the eight-letter dirty word, sedition, anywhere in the newly enacted Section. Prosecutions for sedition should become bad dreams of the colonial past which have no place in a liberal democracy.”

Hence the time has come to get rid of the section which Gandhiji rightly referred to as “The Prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen and be replaced with a more appropriate one.

Nilufer Bhateja  

The author is a student of law, pursuing BA.LLB (H) from Dr RML National Law University, Lucknow and takes keen interest in law, politics and religion.