The Narendra Modi government’s loathsome affidavit in the Supreme Court favoring the retention of penal provision for hate speech and the trial of Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy can be seen purely in terms of petty politics: some beneficiary of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Swamy’s archrival within the party, has done what he was told to do. But this viewpoint, though not incorrect, does not capture the big picture; it is a blind man’s concept of the elephant. The big picture is: the ruling cabal of the Prime Minister, Jaitley, and BJP president Amit Shah is not interested in furthering the Hindu cause, which is the reason that its government cannot stand the last standing Hindu political leader, Swamy.
The coterie is emerging as a bigger enemy of Swamy than the Congress ever was; we shouldn’t forget that Sonia Gandhi and her flunkeys never made the Manmohan Singh government to prosecute Swamy despite his incessant attacks on her. But the cabal wants to throw him behind bars.
Here is a man who, after having crusaded against the tyranny during the Emergency, has been equally heroic in his fight for the Hindu cause in the recent past—the Kanchi Shankaracharya case, the Rama Setu, the Ram Temple, the campaign against Islamic banking. Other achievements include the work in the 2G spectrum and National Herald cases. It was Swamy whose relentless war against the Sonia Gandhi regime paved the path for Modi.
And what a payback the crusader has been offered! In its affidavit in response to a notice by the top court, the Ministry of Home Affairs contended that Swamy, in his book titled Terrorism in India, had made a “hate speech against a community of India.” In a petition, Swamy had challenged the very constitutionality of hate speech provisions—Sections 153, 153A,153B, 295, 295A, 298 and 505 of the Indian Penal Code.
“The book (is) to be considered in all aspects as it contains matter which ‘promotes feeling of enmity and hatred between Hindus and Muslims in India.’ Therefore, the petitioner (Swamy) has violated sections of the IPC,” stated the affidavit. “If people were permitted to freely attempt to commit acts promoting feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India, the result would be public disorder. There may be riots or commission of offences. There may be disharmony and ill will between various classes, affecting the peace and order of the society.”
But what, pray, are the “acts promoting feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes” that Swamy has committed? He has expressed views that are considered offensive by liberals, but then right to freedom of expression is vacuous without the right to offend and even to blaspheme; free speech without offensive speech is like omelet without eggs. Galileo’s views were offensive to the contemporary Establishment, as also were those of Raja Ram Mohan Roy to the orthodoxy of the time. The march of civilization is predicated upon discovery of new truths and their expression.
By targeting Swamy, the ruling troika has exposed itself as an illiberal and thankless caucus.