Monday, April 20, 2009

Is the freedom of speech and expression being challenged?

Article 19 clause (1) sub-clause (a) of the Constitution of India guarantees to its citizen the right to freedom of speech and expression subject to reasonable restrictions (as laid down in Article 19, Clause (2)) on the exercise of this right relating to:

  1. defamation;
  2. contempt of Court;
  3. decency or morality;
  4. public order;
  5. incitement to an offense;
  6. security of the state;
  7. friendly relation with foreign state;
  8. maintenance of sovereignty and integrity of India.

But recently when Nabam Tuki, Minister PWD and UD and APCC President threatened to lodge an FIR against one Tana Takang for expressing his views in a popular local press media, it made me wonder if the 'Freedom of Speech and Expression' conferred to its' citizen by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution has been challenged.

A brief history of the issue

In it's April, 08 edition, The Arunachal Times published a letter of one Tana Takang in its' 'Readers' Forum' column, wherein the author, apparently fed up with the political rhetoric dished out by the political parties and their candidates; allegations and counter-allegations during their campaign for LS polls appearing in the local dailies, had asked both the parties-ruling and opposition (read INC and BJP) to debate it out in a common platform in line of Presidential elections of US of A, so that the common masses could decide better and select the right candidate to represent them in the parliament. Well, this seem the core of the letter to me.

The letter, however, did not go down well with the ruling Congress Party and a press statement appeared the next day where APCC President Nabam Tuki threatened to lodge an FIR against the said person terming the letter was written with the intend to malign the area.

"Tuki further referring to a Readers' Forum published in this daily by one Tana Takang said that as per their observation, there is no such person residing in the said locality. He said that whoever is behind the letter was doing it with intend to malign the area and it needed to be punished as per law. The party will lodge an FIR against the said person to trace out the reality, he added."
-The Arunachal Times, 09-04-09 issue
under heading 'Sonia to address Itanagar rally'

After going through the statement of the Minister in the paper, my first reaction was how could anyone try to curb one's 'Freedom of Speech and Expression' by threatening. However, instead of reacting to the statement instantly, I decided to put aside my emotional outburst and try to see if the author had put reasonable restrictions as laid down in Article 19, Clause 2 while expressing his views or not. So I went through the said letter again, and I could not come up with anything objectionable that could have suggested that the author have not put 'reasonable restrictions' while expressing his views. Or have I missed something that others may find objectionable in the letter that might suggest that the author had not put reasonable restrictions? Go through the letter (reproduced below) for yourself and put in your comments if the letter was objectionable to attract the ire of APCC President and an FIR threat.

Letter of Tana Takang

Was the letter intended to malign the area as put by the Minister?

Now coming to the Ministers' allegation that said person does not reside in the locality and that the letter was written with the intend to malign the area, in which case I guess the area under question is Chimpu, Itanagar, I could not quite comprehend how the letter was intended to malign Chimpu. Apart from mentioning Chimpu, Itanagar in the address, there is no mention of Chimpu, not even once in the body of the letter itself, whether with good intend or bad intend. :) And on their observation that letter was written by a person not 'physically' residing in the locality; does it really matter? In fact, I found the allegation quite flimsy and childish. The charge seem more of to bully the person who quite openly appreciated the opposition candidate through his letter.

So, is it the case of curbing one's freedom of speech and expression by bullying tactic or indeed the author of the letter has not put restraint while expressing his views?


  • buru

    Well,I expected the usual garbled 'lucal-English' seen in the Readers Forum but the said Letter is a great specimen of good writing--near perfect in grammar, diction ,style and purpose.It was definitely written by a high-calibre person with good education, with pro-BJP and/or anti-INC leanings, not necessarily an Arunachalee.

    The minister found the grapes sour LOL! In the 21st century Newspapers publish letters arriving via emails and here we have our dinosaurs asking for address 'proof'.Still I would say its a great improvement--a few years back his henchmen would have ransacked the AT office first then asked questions later.

  • dani sulu

    hmmm! buru.

  • taj

    I agree buru, its quite a improvement....!

  • AG

    It would be unfair of to assume that majority of Arunachalees can't write 'good enlish' or that they are unable to put their thoughts properly. It was only that earlier the Reader's Forum would be populated with letter of appreciation or thanks by 'XYZ' organization to 'XYZ' politicians and people would not come forward to express their views through that media other than for appreciation or thanks letter. But what I've observed off late is that people are coming forward to express their views/opinions or resentment in this forum and yes with a very good writing clearly expressing what they want to express, which I feel is an welcome change.

    Now when people are starting to come forward to express their views and opinions, I was quite shocked by this bullying tactic, so the post.

    And yes the act of asking for address proof is quite laughable and it indicates that the act was just to bully the person or to send message across that don't mess with us or be prepared to get harassed.

    @Taj & Buru,
    I would not say that there has been a great improvement. What I felt was that they had 'Hobson's choice'. During election time, they could not have gone on ransacking the office at the risk of giving the opposition a chance to make an issue out of this. They had to send message and they sent via threatening to lodge FIR against the person.

  • AG

    Correction * 'good english' *

  • abu

    I totally agree and infact me & my friends were discussing the same topic after seeing the article by mr.Tuki. These politicians take we citizens as granted and they do not know that the coming generation are much more aware, sharper,intelligent and patriotic then them, Now these politicians cannot easily take us for a ride

  • buru

    I don't know if 'all' Arunachalees are poor in English, but the ones writing to the local papers definitely are;)

  • AG

    Nice to know that it was not me alone who had noticed about the topic and you people too did discussed about it earlier. Hope people would rise and put their views forward when people at the helm of affairs tries to throttle the voice of the masses.

    Here I agree with you and for the same reason I did ignored or never tried to read the letters in the readers' forum of the daily not till recently when I found quite few good letters being published in the readers' forum :)

  • tdtara

    There is nothing wrong in T.Takang's letter, its all fact, whether it is "Zig zag of chopper,or of medieval arab Sheikhs or 300 crores ",
    Ha ha ha....FIR lodge against those who says "Rise, People of Arunachal, rise and decide your own fate"....any logic ???

    "Tuki further referring to a Readers' Forum published in this daily by one Tana Takang said that as per their observation, there is no such person residing in the said locality.".....
    So, our honorable(lets consider)minister Tuki Saab did sent his agent to hunt for this "Tana Takang" ??? but who might be his agents.. his PS/PA ?? or police personals ?? or local Goonda ??....It is obvious, first two will not be, but third one(the real face of dirty politicians).

    And our dirty politicians are still thinking we younger generation too are like our illiterate forefathers. We are not going to sell our precious vote for "a GOLDEN DHIBA" or "a Pack of Salt".

  • buru

    One thing to be noted though: Arunachal Times being Apang-centric, it has lately carried pro-Rijiju and/or Anti-Khandu/INC/Sanjoy letters similar to the above specimen on a near-daily basis.Most of them appear well-written with a good grasp of the language and with a similar thrust.
    Hence it is not impossible that it is the same 'culprit' or a group of 'culprits' carrying out a well orchestrated campaign.Maybe even the paper itself.Of course it is their democratic right to do so anyway..

  • abu

    Rightly pointed out, by obviously sending goons or chamchas to trace out the author of the article it shows the frustration, anger and bullying nature of these leaders and their working they think that we r on their mercy. what a pity for us as we have elected them as our leaders and representative.

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