Free Speech Ends Where Sedition Begins
When free India’s first Constitution became the law of the land in 1950, it included an article treating freedom of speech and of expression as a basic right. The very first amendment to that text, passed by the republic’s founding fathers in 1951, added “reasonable restrictions” to the free-speech clause, partly in order to protect the “security of the state.”
This happened while India’s prime minister was Jawaharlal Nehru, a self-proclaimed socialist and a liberal icon, after whom J.N.U. was named. In 1963, while Mr. Nehru was still prime minister, Parliament passed another constitutional amendment clarifying that the security of the state meant “the sovereignty and integrity of India.” Mr. Nehru had good cause for caution. During the volatile 1940s, during which India won its independence from Britain, he saw how Islamism posed an existential challenge to the nation’s unity, and Communism to its democracy. Pakistan was born in 1947, at the same time as India, becoming the first Islamic republic of the postcolonial era. A year after that, the Communist Party of India, instead of joining Mr. Nehru’s efforts to build up the fledging Indian nation, declared its independence a “fake” and began an armed struggle.
Many Indians today are still wary that religious separatists and Maoist extremists continue to threaten India’s unity, and that they have supporters among students. Some try to explain away such activism by pointing to anti-Vietnam War protests at U.S. universities in the 1960s and 1970s. But to do this is to overlook the scars that terrorism’s long and lacerating history in India has left on us here. Mr. Afzal, whose rights the J.N.U. students were rising to defend, was involved in the 2001 terrorist attack on India’s Parliament. I wonder how Americans, after 9/11, would react to a “cultural evening” celebrating Osama bin Laden.
... it is whether freedom of speech should be stretched to include the adulation of terrorists and calls for the destruction of India, or if it ends where sedition begins.
... freedom of speech is not a license to undermine the sovereignty and integrity of India.
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