Sedition and the common man

An increasingly scary trend has emerged in our country – people being put into prison on charges of sedition for voicing their opinions about governments. As with the TADA law in the 90s, there is a lot of discussion around the usefulness and effectiveness of such a law. While everybody seems to be agreed that we do need anti-sedition laws, not everybody seems to agree on what exactly amounts to sedition.

The word sedition derives its roots from a Latin term which means ‘to go’. Sedition is exactly that, a person willingly gives up their nationality because of disagreement with the government or the constitution of a nation. So basically every person who gives up the citizenship of one country to take up the citizenship of another is committing sedition.

Unfortunately, the way the world is structured today, it is impossible to not belong to any one nation. It is no long possible for one individual to renounce their country and just walk away into the sunset, or more practically to go roam about as a nationless person. This is indeed a huge loss to mankind as a whole. What we are saying is that everybody has to take at least one side.

The modern definition of the word had to do with undermining the authority of the state. Here the line gets blurred because how does one differentiate between the state and the government. This really is the bone of contention. For example, if a person were to burn the effigy of an elected minister, is it an act of sedition? In fact, if you were to drive a car without a valid license that too can be considered an act of sedition because in doing so you have undermined the authority of the state which claims that only a person with a valid driving license can drive within its boundaries.

Do the agitators at Kumbakonam or the Narmada dam qualify as seditionists?

Well, if the word is taken in its strictest sense then they do. But then we all know it is wrong.

Today we depend on the courts to decide whether such act are seditious. But for how long? It is of pressing importance that the highest court in the land define in clear unambiguous terms the meaning of the word sedition.

I propose that we define sedition as an act against the constitution of the country. This will take away the ambiguity between state and government and maintain the right of individuals to legally protest what they believe is a wrong.


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