After a series of hullabaloo on students and instabilities in several universities in India the debate on freedom of expression or nationalism gained a lot of attention both at media and at the political front.Before digging into the core of which of the following to be chosen lets first briefly understand on what grounds these ideas stand upon.Freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution Article 19(1)(a) as a fundamental right,but it is not an absolute right, there are qualifiers.The Indian Penal Code has several clauses that make it contingent upon a person "expressing " himself or herself not to hurt sentiments or cause public discord, promote dishamony,feelings of enemity, hatred between groups,making obscene publications or pamhlet. Whereas Indian nationalism is a modern phenomenon, but it came into exsistence during the british period as a result of actions and inter-actions of numerous subjective and objective forces. The process of growth of Indian nationalism has been complex and multi-faceted. India's peculiar socio,economic and political structure, religious history together with its territorial vastness and teeming population made the rise of nationalism more interesting. The recent JNU row created a lot of hype when few students were arrested on sedition charges, JNU's sloganeering mystery is yet unsolved,JNU incident revived so much hype about nationalism in such a way that, we, the people of India,was in absolute affair of unfamiliarity.Freedom of expression surpassing an Indian's duty to uphold security and integrity of India. Everybody was having a new opinion about India's new avatar. The biased coverage of media and chaos created by social media is a new threat and challenge to our strength. Freedom of speech and expression does not allow us to challenge the sovereignity of India. The solgans raised in JNU is indeed condemnable not allowed under the shadow of freedom of expression, but targeting the innocent and letting the culprits go free is also not patriotism.
The freedom of expression cannot justify anti-nationalism is the sole mantra of our political front. But keeping in mind that the concept of free speech and expression layed a very prominent role in attaining independence. The writings in vernacular languages helped in mobilization of the public which indeed created the spirit of nationalism to rise. The british were offended and leveled sedition charges on the nationalists expressing their love for their country. The law of sedition which was framed by the british to make the Indians succumb to their domination, despite of its unconstitutional nature is still in practice.this has indeed led to the big confusion of what exactly anti-national and anti-government stands for. The right to debate and discussions on various issues by intellectuals and students were considered to be liberal. But sudden involvement of sedition laws on these practices shows why there is a urgent need to reframe our colonial laws.
India is a democracy therefore nationalism demands dialogue, involvement of public opinion is must, the present government solely being the pseudo safeguarders of nationalism is in itself condemenable. Stressing on the secular and cultural diversity it is duty of the government to instill in its citizens a sense of belongingess to this diversity. Nationalism without a nation is worth nothing. The idea of what is exactly nationalism signifies should be kept in mind. Preventing raising of solgans stigmatized as anti-national and arresting future minds on sedition charges can it restore nationalism?
The whole idea to choose between freedom of speech or nationalism cannot be accepted. It should be rather a single domain on which freedom of speech and nationalism works together. It is need of the hour to focus on our economic upliftment, fight social evils, improve health services in our country. Policies should be framed keeping in focus improvement of strategic developments. India has a long way to go, it has full potential to become a strong developed self-sufficient nation. The debate on freedom of expression challenging nationalism should be dealth with a more objective point of view. As we cannot stigmatize our future minds as anti-nationals. Laws should be reframed keeing in mind the changed scenario of india as a nation. Disrepecting nationalistic feeling cannot be ever justified on grounds of freedom of expression,but arresting the young minds behind the bars is evn not a justified action for it. A clear conceptualization of what is nationalism to us in 21st century and following guidelines to strengthen our democracy is exactly the most logical conclusion to the given debate.
- Poulami Banerjee