S Shamim Ahsan
History reminds that India was and is still being referred as the Land of Unity in Diversity. This very phrase signifies unity among people with diverse, cultural and other demographic differences. The history further endorses the Indians to be the ambassadors of harmony and unity as they have exhibited Diversity of life by Tolerance and Unity of life by Sharing. We have been united without uniformity and there has been the diversity amongst us without fragmentation.
Eventually, as against the historical accounts of facts, intolerance was a very popular subject and material for Media in a very recent past. Communal hatred, mob lynching, hate speech, riots and many other negative instances and incidents formed the part of daily routine of Media particularly and Social Media generally. There has been a planned supervision and monitoring of negativity being publicised and administered within the Society and masses so that the negativity shall result into the circumstances favourable to the strategy designed for communal polarisation.
Some in Society have been eager to falsify the historical heritage of unity by initiating the move of intolerance so that the very spirit a United India gets injured. Political patronage to the divisive forces has been on record and surprisingly the elected representatives of the people have been actively involved in accomplishing the goal of divisive strategy by inciting communal flare up through provocative and hate speeches.
The people in power never felt it necessary that intervention of State is necessary to control or check the activities of hatred that adversely affects the unity and security of the Nation. Inaction against hate speech has been in the interest of those who are in power as it necessitates polarisation which resultantly facilitates division of Society on religious or other count. Manipulation of electoral process as such becomes possible for them to reach to the destination of unethical journey for power.
The messengers of hate having remained unchecked, have reached to the stage of glorification by a section of masses. They have taken the hatred to the level of Constitutional Right. They have tailored the definition of hate speech to suit their convenience. They reject the idea that any communication that promotes violence is hate speech. There has been evolved a war between Free Speech and Hate Speech. They in such circumstances claim to be protected from any prohibition and restriction of the nature whatsoever.
Intolerance has also acquired the unwritten legitimacy from the corridors of Power. Any criticism or dis-agreement against Government or ruling class is being listed and classified as Crime. Penal provisions are being applied and mis-used against citizens for democratic right of critism and agitation being resorted. Coercive action against anti CAA agitators and the arrest of prof.V Rao, Dr. Anand, Sudha Bhardwaj and Dr. Kafeel Ahmed are the glaring examples that can be cited for the vindictive behaviour and intolerance on the part of regime.
Courts, it seems, have accorded silent confirmations to intolerant acts and activities of regime by rejecting the bail applications of ailing senior citizens. The considerations for bail are being interpreted in the tune the regime sets. Sound legal principles for bail are being overlooked for punishing the disagreement with government. Matters are being heard selectively to suit the convenience of regime. Arnab Goswami gets priority over poor migrant laborours for hearing of petitions. Many more instances of judicial insensibility have formed the part of record.
We have unfortunately reached to a stage where intolerance has found its way to tresspass into the boundary of Judiciary too. Hon’ble Supreme Court was pleased to issue Contempt Notice to human right activist and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan for he having exercised the right to speach and expression. A statement that was judged to be Criticism against former Supreme Court Judges, served the base for notice.
Interestingly, on the very next day of issuance contempt notice aforesaid, Hon’ble Supreme Court, in the matter of Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan episode, held that criticism or dis-agreement is necessary for a democracy and this right can not be curtailed. Prashant Bhushan had shown his concern over Supreme Court having not acted or interfered in many matters of national importance.
In the set of circumstances that have happened, we shall certainly stand justified in treating Contempt Notice as an act and reaction of intolerance. An honest assessment of the state of affairs shall lead us to a logical conclusion that the concept of intolerance has entered a zone that is dangerous.
The Supreme Court upholding the right of citizen in Sachin Pilot’s matter shall be the guiding principle against regime for intolerance tomorrow, if not today.
Advocate Saiyed Shamim Ahsan is a criminal lawyer, practicing in Thane District court.