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Why India's So-Called Patriots are More Dangerous Than its So-Called Anti-Nationals?

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 1/03/2016 Ash Murthy
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We live in strange times. Bollywood actor Aamir Khan's comments on the rising intolerance in India created a
firestorm. The recent protests in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus against the death sentence to Afzal Guru, who was convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, has left the public seething in anger. Yet the social media that takes umbrage at the mere mention of 'intolerance' has been eerily silent about the lynching of a man accused of storing beef and the recent mob attack on a Tanzanian student mistakenly believed to have been involved in an accident.
Far from condemnation, the self styled vigilantes of patriotism that assaulted the JNU students charged with sedition outside a Delhi court, were hailed as heroes. Over 455 international academics who have signed a letter of solidarity with the JNU students have received threats. Has India become a society that is tolerant of intolerance and intolerant of tolerance?
Freedom of speech is guaranteed as a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution. Despite holding an office under an oath of allegiance to the Indian constitution and raucous self proclamations of patriotism, the incumbent B.J.P. has time and again deferred to party ideology over constitution, sometimes using sedition charges to quell those who disagree with its ideology.
In a move that would embarrass the ISIS, the B.J.P. endorsed sedition charges against students who had cheered for the Pakistani cricket team in an India-Pakistan cricket match. Early this year, Hardik Patel, a young activist protesting the government's draconian reservation policies was charged with multiple cases of sedition.
Early this week, popular opposition leaders Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi were charged with sedition for protesting the sedition charges against the JNU students accused (and not even convicted) of sedition. Clearly, the country is undergoing a tectonic shift from a democracy to join the ranks of North Korea.
Dissent is the hallmark of a democracy. We all value freedom of expression in the abstract. We all agree that India can be an global economic powerhouse only if it is a vibrant and secular democracy first. But only a few of us would stand up for the right to express the ideas that we dissent.
It is easy to ignore (or even cherish) the censorship of voices that make our blood boil, but if we don't call for all voices to be protected, we will lose our own too.
As far as national interest goes, India's national interest lies in protecting the constitutional rights of all Indians. The anti nationals are not those who express their constitutional right to free speech, rather those who seek to override our constitution rights through violence or persecution.
India's national interest lies in constitutional rule. Let India be the country it was conceived and it is beloved, rather than the country imagined through the eyes of self proclaimed patriots.

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