By Aamir Raza
The sedition law in India has colonial origin and served as an effective tool in the hands of the British imperialist rulers to suppress dissent against its actions and policies. In the last few years, the number of sedition cases filed against the individual has risen substantially. The Sedition law has been repeatedly used to harass the dissenters who question the state or expresses views contrary to that of the government on issues ranging from citizenship to nationhood.
In the current ecosystem of suppression, Mohammad Naushad’s Qaul-e- Faisal: Insaaf Ki Baat (published by Setu Prakashan), a Hindi translation of Maulana Azad famous speech, is a timely intervention and a strongly argued case against the this antiquated and undemocratic tool of repression. Despite focusing exclusively on Maulana Azad’s speech, the book concisely captures the entire 150-year journey of the law of sedition from its insertion in the Indian Penal code in 1870.
Qaul-e-Faisal is a famous speech delivered in law court of Calcutta when Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was facing trial on the charges of sedition for his role in the khilafat movement. His understanding of nationalism transcending religious denomination was evident in this speech. He said,
I believe that Liberty is the birth right of every nation…I do not recognize the present government as a legitimate Government and would consider it my national, religious and personal duty to liberate my Country and my nation from its rule…I am a Muslim and it’s my duty as a Muslim as well.
His speech clearly reflects his understanding of the political implications of Islam in the context of existing British rule in India. He said that Islam doesn’t approve any form of Government unless it is based on democracy and freedom. It has been revealed to mankind to restore the lost liberty and freedom of human race. It always promoted the supremacy of Haq (truth) and denied the right to any except of equality among human beings and forbidden any differentiation on the basis of race, color and nationality. He asked Muslims to perform their religious duty by uniting with Hindus.
Talking about sedition, he said:
I have been charged with sedition. But allow me, please, to understand the meaning of ‘sedition’. Is sedition a name for freedom struggle which is not successful? If that be so, I would fully agree with it. At the same time, however, I would remind you that its name is also the highly respected ‘patriotism’, once the movement becomes successful.
Azad felt that his imprisonment was too easy for him and admitted that he is not guilty of agitation against government because he feels that nothing can be a higher crime against the domination of Government than the agitation which seeks to terminate its illegitimate absolute authority in the name of library and justice. In his speech, he is quick to remind us about the role of the court as, in the time of great injustice, the courtroom has served the interest of the ruling establishment either by remaining silent or supplemented the suppression of dissent through the legitimization of the sedition law.
In his extended chapter of this book, Naushad argues that misuse of sedition law challenges our notions of what it means to be a liberal democratic state, as these sets of laws challenge our notions of one of the key frameworks in which we understand the right to freedom of speech and expression.
Qaul-e- Faisal: Insaaf Ki Baat is a must read in today’s socio-political time, where sedition as an undemocratic tool is used by elected governments to suppress the voices of people. On a topic as dense as sedition one would require multiple books to understand but this book covering the exclusive situation of Maulana Azad offers a compelling case for the repeal of section 124A.
Aamir Raza, a former post-graduate in Political Science from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, is an Independent Researcher. He was previously associated with Lokniti-CSDS.
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