Not a day passes when one is not reminded of the treachery of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Its leaders promised to end caste-based politics; but they continued with the quota policies of the previous regime; and now they are opposing the excellent Supreme Court judgment that disallows reservations for the politically organized communities like the Jats. The BJP railed against the draconian Section 66A of the Information Technology Act when it was in the Opposition; now, it wants to continue with it despite numerous cases of its abuse, the latest one being the arrest of a Class XI student for allegedly maligning the image of senior Samajwadi Party leader and Uttar Pradesh Urban Development Minister Azam Khan. Betrayal, thy name is BJP.
Immediately after the SC verdict on Jat reservations, 27 Jat Parliamentarians from all parties, under Rural Development Minister Chaudhury Birender Singh, met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to plead that the government should challenge the order in a review petition. Quite apart from the impropriety of opposing the apex court judgment, there is the absurdity of calling a community backward when its members ruled big states in the past and which still dominates politics in Punjab, Haryana, and other parties. In Punjab, for instance, there has been no non-Jat chief minister for decades. Besides, the demand for reservations for Jats undermines the very principle of affirmative action, which intends to benefit the communities that were discriminated against for centuries.
Further, what the BJP does not recognize is the fact that if it plays the game of quotas in politics, casteist parties and leaders will play it better. The saffron party can thrive only if caste is buried in politics. We expected post-Mandal politics after the rise of BJP last year; but the saffron party wants to revive what was its own bane in the not-so-distant past.
In the case of Section 66A, too, the BJP is supporting the views of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance which introduced it in the first place. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government has supported the validity of Section 66A, arguing that the provision is needed to “regulate” and “curb the misuse of communication devices.” According to the government, the “danger was present and clear” because of the nature of cyberspace. This was the official reply in the Supreme Court some time ago in response to the petitions against Section 66A.
Section 66A criminalizes “sending offensive message through electronic means.” The action that can be penalized includes: “sending any information through an electronic message that is grossly offensive or has menacing character and might cause insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will, etc., or sending such mail intended to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages.”
If a journalist exposes a corrupt politician or bureaucrat, he would surely insult and injure the latter; Section 66A could be used to harass, if not prosecute, the journalist. The term “grossly offensive” is even more problematic. A tetchy person or group can be offended by a joke; this could be used to throw anybody behind bars. Even the Supreme Court has pointed out that this term is “vague” and highly “subjective” term and thus prone to misuse.
But the BJP government remains stubborn. Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that Section 66A cannot be quashed or thrown out just because the provision is vague on defining the word “grossly offensive,” The Times Of India reported on February 26. Earlier, on February 3, Mehta had emphasized the need to continue with Section 66A, saying that it cannot be quashed or thrown out just because of its potential misuse. Evidently, the BJP regime wants to persist with the vile action of a vile government.
Is there any limit that the BJP will not cross in its shamelessness? Its spokespersons vociferously denounce the Congress for the curtailment of Fundamental Rights and civil liberties during the Emergency—and they also justify the infringement of the freedom of expression.
The shamelessness is ubiquitous and nauseating—be it the alliance with an Islamist party in Kashmir, the complete silence on Article 370 and the uniform civil code, reservation politics, or Section 66A.