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With Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi due to arrive in the UK, protesters of the Awaaz Network projected an image of Modi holding a sword with an "Om morphing into the Swastika" next to him. This has triggered a lot of outrage and offended feelings among many.

I see it as missing the woods for the trees. I am reminded of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons with their black humor that can show an innocent Syrian refugee child, one of many Syrian refugees no one wants, washed up on the beach, dead just short of reaching safer shores while a MacDonald's poster beckons garishly. Black humor it is called. No one took joy from seeing that innocent dead there in the middle of an otherwise beautiful photograph. No one enjoyed being reminded about it by a cartoon.

Today, there are those who look at the Om morphing into a Swastika and are going into eloquent flights of offense taken. On behalf of "Hindus who revere the symbol", of course, rather than saying "that offended me". As though those doing it were not Hindus with their own sentiments about the symbols - whatever they may be. I think, like that cartoon, the poster that Awaaz Network projected on the British Parliament is a description of reality.

This is what is happening today. People's faith is indeed being morphed into something dark. That is how from revering and worshiping a cow, our "faith" is manifesting as lynchings. That is how countless people with Hindu beliefs are being harnessed to power a political movement. That is how countless people are being conditioned to defend symbols and prevent "offences" to them - EVEN AS THEY OPPOSE THOSE DOING THE CONDITIONING.

The obscenity is not in stating it, the obscenity is in doing it. The poster merely points out that this is happening. I don't think anyone at all missed the meaning of the poster. In choosing to fixate on the specific use of the symbol and delegitimizing its use, we see even those normally opposed to Modi in effect implying "no, he isn't that bad". Because that is what it amounts to, to object to that poster.

Finally, in an atmosphere of overabundance of religious touchiness in India, I would say that even if it actually were an insult, a little responsibility would be welcome in not encouraging a wider audience to learn to take offence.

There is a need to recognize that taking offence is also contagious. When you are supposedly spreading tolerance, the constant stimulation of noticing intolerance will trigger touchiness in the same way one on a diet at a food festival may be tempted to try something that they wouldn't normally. It is up to the evolved mind to recognize where strong emotions arise from, and determine how they may be expressed without being sucked into a game you claim to oppose.

This is not to say that one may not have unfavorable opinions, but the independent mind should attempt to be relatively free of knee jerk reactions triggered by provocation. There are a million ways to object and yet, we find supposedly liberal people providing reasons that are not all that different from those who habitually react with disapproval to perceived insult to religions.

With the same result, probably the reason Awaaz Network chose to project this. It got a lot more attention and triggered a lot more discussion than the average anti-Modi content. Because it speaks an unpleasant truth. A truth that is so unpleasant, that many would shy of voicing it even in criticism. And those who disapprove, as usual, provided it the power to reach more people.

When you don't understand, you react.

When you understand, you respond.

 

The Maharashtra government advisory to the police on Section 124 of the Indian Penal Code make a mockery of democracy itself. Here is a translation of the five preconditions it has issued.

  1. Verbal or written, words, gestures or images or other content that expresses hate or contempt or dislike, insult or discontent or enmity or treachery or disloyalty towards the state or central governments in a manner that provokes violence or discontent.
  2. Written, verbal, gesture/signs or other communication that suggest that these politicians or public servants are representatives of state
  3. Criticism that intends to create change through legal means and that doesn't demean or create dislike for the government should not be prosecuted under this section.
  4. Only obscenity or indecency should not be applied with this section.
  5. Before this section is applied, opinion of Zilla officials should be obtained. Within two weeks, the the public prosecutor should be consulted.

This advisory has naturally generated significant outrage. The document being in Marathi has prevented many legal commentators who don't understand the language from commenting, while BJP supporters are attempting to discredit the outrage as false by emphasizing the third point and pretending that that is all the advisory contains.

I am not a lawyer, but my reactions.

  1. The vagueness of the parameters identifying sedition rival the notorious IT Rules. Similar to them, pretty much anything that reflects badly on the government could be described by such sweeping descriptors. Irritate normal people, get takedown notices was the UPA2 gift, irritate the government and get booked for sedition seems to be the summary of this point - it covers dislike - you don't even need to read the rest! Disliking a government could get you arrested? How about a government serving people as promised and not being disliked? Something like asking for your promised 15 lakh could now go beyond not just getting your promised riches, but also landing in jail for asking for it, because hey, people would be discontented because of this, right?
  2. This basically amounts to the words/signs being against government representatives.
  3. This seems very magnanimous of them with all the nice promotion by organized trolls, but the fact is that it is rather sinister that legal process to address problems gets covered under a law for sedition to begin with, and then you actually don't have a categoric endorsement of your right to engage the system, you have it as long as you don't demean the government or create dislike for it. It is actually taking a right you had without restrictions, magnanimously handing it back to you with restrictions, and then promoting the hell out of it because they gave it back at all.
  4. This is actually the real "magnanimous point". How generous the government is being, upholding your right to not be prosecuted for sedition over obscenity or indecency. Waitaminit, HOW in the big fat world would either of them be sedition to begin with that their not being has any meaning at all? I doubt that even the sexually repressed Hindutva brigade can anticipate an epidemic of indecency large enough to be a threat to the nation. This is a talking point basically to show that the advisory had a larger aim than creating a set up for people to be arrested and prosecuted for a crime against their motherland for pissing the government off. This point, not having any real stake could even be happily conceded to critics in a compromise.
  5. Nothing much to comment here. Procedural sho-sha. Let us not even pretend either entity cannot be managed to target whoever the government wants to put six feet under.

In my view, a document that advises punishing people for disliking their government or being discontented has no place in a democracy.

There seems to be an organized effort to present this draconian advisory as a requirement emerging from the Aseem Trivedi case. This is a flat out falsehood. This advisory contradicts the High Court guidelines, and as pointed out by Saurav Datta on Twitter, invites contempt of court.

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This article is second in a part of a three article series on Eve Teasing by Fazal Ahmad. The first part outlined the description and impact of eve teasing. The second looks at Eve Teasing under Civil Law.

We now look at Eve Teasing punishment in India in Criminal Laws

Very fairly speaking that in the Indian Penal Code, the word ‘eve-teasing’ does not exist. Eve teasing is an attitude, a mindset, a set of behaviours that is construed as an insult and an act of humiliation of the female sex. However, victims of eve teasing could take recourse to certain sections of the IPC.

The non-penetration sexual assault, under the section 354 of the Penal Code, is punishable with a maximum term of two years imprisonment of either description, or with fine, or with both.
eve teasing

Section 354. Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty

Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Punishment—Imprisonment for 2 years, or fine, or both—Cogniza¬ble—Bailable—Triable by any Magistrate—Non-compoundable.

Section 509- Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman- whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

III. Section 294- Obscene acts and songs Whoever , to the annoyance of others-

a) Does any obscene act in any public place, or

b) Sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place,

shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, with fine , or with both.

Being very fair to my readers of this Blog I as a lawyer should clarify that these sections make gestures or acts intended to insult the modesty of a woman or acts intrude upon her privacy a, crime, but it is very difficult to exploit these provisions to deal with various expressions of sexual harassment. Eve Teasing punishment in India under provisions of these sections of law and the procedural laws are complex and the type of proof that is required make it very difficult to get the culprit punished.

Conclusion

Eveteasing is a wrong against the honour, dignity and self respect of a woman. It hurts her at the core of soul.We need a strong combating for this fast growing problem.

So, I strongly recommend a strong and tough law either in civil or criminal, for the strong punishment of the Eve teasers.

I would also to say country like India where we are worshipping the woman like Gods, the behaviour is morally unjust. We should learn to respect woman and the Class starts at Home.

~ Fazal Ahmad

Follow him on Twitter @fzlsammy

Update: Since this article was written, there have been efforts to get more stringent laws passed after the Delhi Gang Rape case in which a medical student was brutally gang raped and fatally injured. This is a work in progress for India.