Colonial legacy of the sedition law

Sedition law must be repealed 

British imperialism introduced many repressive and draconian laws to curb the dissent in British India. The main purpose of these laws was to suppress the resistance and freedom struggle of Indian people against imperialist occupation and exploitation.

Both India and Pakistan kept these repressive and draconian laws even after the independence in 1947. The colonial legacy and mind set still dominates the both states.  Both the states have been following the colonial legacy and using these laws to curb and suppress the dissent. Both sides declared all those who dare to challenge the state narrative as traitor and foreign agent.

Every Pakistani who dares to stand up to the state narrative and policies is called raw agent while in India called the ISI agent. Despite having many differences- both states follows the same colonial legacy.    
The sedition law was enacted in 1837 to originally mean to prevent any incitement against British King. This law became a lethal tool in the hands of police to book dissenters and freedom fighters as opposition and resistance against British imperialism increased.

The sedition law was drafted in the colonial era in 1837 by Thomas Babington Macaulay. The law was introduced to suppress dissent against the British crown. Under the provision, anyone has seen create disaffection against the government can be imprisoned up to three years to a life term. India’s freedom icon Mahatma Gandhi was also charged and tried under sedition charges by the British in 1922.
The sedition law and other draconian laws are being used to registered fabricated and bogus cases to keep the accused in prison for long period of time. Mostly political and social activists are framed in fabricated and false cases.
The Indian state and Sedition law

 The political and social activists in India are accusing the Indian state for increased use of sedition law in the recent period. Its use has increased under Modi in last few years.  According to the data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of sedition cases registered across the country doubled from 35 in 2016 to 75 in 2018. Although official data of 2019 has not been released, activists fear the number could be in thousands.

In Jharkhand state of India, 10,000 tribals were booked under sedition for protesting against the government for issuing an order allowing commercial use of tribal land. “These people were booked for creating disaffection against the government. Four activists working on their movement, were booked under similar charges for writing on social media and sharing news clippings,” said Gunjan Singh, senior advocate at the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN).

“The bar for charging someone with sedition is set very high in the legal books. And most of these FIRs are bogus, as there is no evidence. Putting people behind bars on such charges is only an ad-hoc measure to suppress dissent,” adds Singh.
In February 2016, radical socialist student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on sedition charges. Shehla Rashid, another radical student activist, was booked for sedition over her tweets accusing Indian Army officers of torturing civilians in Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistani state and Sedition law

Pakistan is not far behind from India as far as sedition law is concerned. Pakistani state continues to book political activists under this draconian law. The progressive activists, intellectual and Professor Dr. Ammar Ali Jan- well known left leader Farooq Tariq and few others were booked under this law in Lahore in November 2019 for organising a peaceful student solidarity march.

Last month-the Islamabad police booked 23 political activists of Awami Workers Party and Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) under the sedition and terrorism charges. Their only crime was that they were trying to organise a peaceful protest against the arrest of PTM chief Manzoor Pashteen.

The Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court Justice Athar Minallah dropped the sedition and terrorism charges and released the all 23 activists. The chief justice reprimands the Islamabad police and administration for charging highly educated young activists with sedition law.

Now Ammar Jan and other activists have challenged this sedition law in the Lahore High Court. This law is clearly violates the basic human-democratic and political rights enshrined in the constitution. There is no justification of such repressive laws. They must be repealed.
                                                                   Khalid Bhatti

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