A Bareilly-based Muslim organization, All India Faizan-e-Madina Council, has announced a bounty of Rs 5,000,786 on the head of senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy. The mainstream media did not find worth reporting the murderous call made by Mooen Siddiqui Noori, the Faizan-e-Madina Council president.
Was Noori’s exercising his right to the freedom of expression or inciting people to commit an illegal act? Let us examine. In the case of Arup Bhuyan vs State of Assam, the Supreme Court distinguished between free speech and incitement to violence in a most liberal and comprehensive manner. On February 3, 2011, the apex court Bench comprising Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra agreed with the US Supreme Court’s verdict in Clarence Brandenburg vs. State of Ohio (1969).
The US apex court had ruled that mere “advocacy or teaching the duty, necessity, or propriety” of violence as a means of accomplishing political or industrial reform, or publishing or circulating or displaying any book or paper containing such advocacy, or justifying the commission of violent acts with intent to exemplify, spread or advocate the propriety of the doctrines of criminal syndicalism, or to voluntarily assemble with a group formed “to teach or advocate the doctrines of criminal syndicalism” is not per se illegal. It will become illegal only if it incites to “imminent lawless action.”
Our Supreme Court said that “mere membership of a banned organization will not make a person a criminal unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence or creates public disorder by violence or incitement to violence (emphasis added).” Noori is clearly inciting people to violence and, therefore, cannot be defended citing this verdict. Further, he is a serial offender; in February this year too he had announced a bounty on Muslim cleric. Besides, along with Swamy, Noori has promised to pay Rs 2,500,786 to anybody who kills Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut.
Yet, nobody has bothered to prosecute Noori. The real big news is that Swamy’s own party has not reacted to the incitement. On the face of it, the silence of the BJP and cognate groups is deafening; a closer examination, however, reveals that the deafening silence is not without rhyme or reason; there is a pattern in the way the ruling dispensation deals with him—the pattern of neglect, suspicion, and fear. This negative attitude is the product and function of two facts: one, Swamy is a sincere leader committed to the Hindu cause, who works for a Hindu renaissance; and, two, the BJP is full of people who masquerade as the champions of Hindus but are little different from the leaders of other parties. For Swamy, Hindutva is an article of faith; for the BJP, it is a ladder to reach the top—and to kick it off as a use-and-throw contrivance.
The fact that Swamy continues to stick to the Hindu agenda is anathema to the BJP. He continues to demand the repeal of Article 370, while the BJP joins hands with jihad-compliant PDP. Swamy still talks about the uniform civil code; the BJP has practically forgotten about it. Swamy is persistent in his crusade against corruption, and is single-handedly pursuing the National Herald case against the Gandhi family; the BJP has done little to end corruption in the country. For Swamy bringing back black money from overseas banks is high on priority, whereas for the BJP it was just an election gimmick. For Swamy, promises made to the middle class should be redeemed; he wants to scrap personal income tax. The BJP, on the other hand, regards Middle India, its core constituency, as a traditional housewife who has all the duties and no rights, who can be neglected without consequences, who can be taken for granted.
Interestingly, the saffron party is the only one in India, perhaps in the world, which cavalierly rides roughshod over the aspirations of its supporters. It did that when it was in power the last time: there was scarcely any change in income tax slabs; taxmen continued to find means to extract more and more from salaried people; little relief was provided to the victims of US-64 scam. The denouement was 2004.
Swamy is the only BJP leader who wants to avert a similar catastrophe. Those who matter, however, are still reveling in last year’s impressive electoral victory; much like in 2004, they are convinced that now—with an erratic Rahul Gandhi and a ragtag Janata outfits as Opposition—they are invincible.
Wallowing in smugness, the ruling party finds Swamy as an annoyance. So, why bother about him?