India now wants to ban Bajrang Dal, a Hindu outfit which had allegedly participated in the recent spate of church raiding exercises in Karnataka, and allegedly allied with its partner organization VHP to destroy many churches in Orissa and kicked Christians out of their homes. Of course, as usual, many people died in these episodes.
Some Indian readers have voiced their opinions in newspapers while some dignitaries paraded on Indian TV all asking for a ban on these outfits. Samajwadi Party, an ally of UPA government, demands a ban on Bajrang Dal. They reason – if SIMI, a Muslim outfit can be banned, why not a Hindu outfit? Sharad Pawar of NCP asked how come we are not banning Hindu outfits while we are arresting Muslim terrorists. There are many leaders within Congress Party who would like to see a ban on Bajrang Dal and VHP.
This is exactly what I am against – this knee jerk reaction to everything and anything that we don’t like. Ban this, ban that! That’s how we try to deal with things we don’t understand. Educated and elite of India keep asking for a ban on things they don’t like as vehemently as frenzied mobs. All Indians look the same when they start asking for bans on things they detest.
I am completely against all such quick-fix bans, even if it means they are banning an outfit whose actions I completely disapprove of, the case in point being VHP and Bajrang Dal. These are unilateral bans, promulgated by a legislative body without recourse to law. Such bans stifle the most cherished right that we obtained after thousands of years of struggle in mankind – our freedom to express.
Some people say that Bajrang Dal has violated many laws and committed many crimes and hence it should be banned. If you know that it has indeed committed crimes, and if you are sure about it, why don’t you take it to court? Why do you need to pressurize the government to enforce a ban?
I don’t agree with such ad hoc measures, wherein we get into a sentimental frenzy to go about banning organizations, books, plays, and art shows that we dislike. When we do that, we are not very different from the nations we criticize, the organizations we denounce, and the terrorists we abhor. We will not fight terrorism with terrorism, oppression with oppression, irrationality with irrationality.
What India needs is the rule of the law. Even if it is a painful exercise, we need to make a case for banning outfits, and that case better be good. Let’s go through the rigorous procedures, let’s follow the law of the land, and if laws don’t exist, let’s have a debate and discussion to introduce the necessary laws. Let’s set a good example for all such future debates on bans. Let’s not resort to unilateralism when it comes to serious issues such as our freedom to expression.
I am against banning Bajrang Dal, not like this. I want a comprehensive policy on how we are going to ban an organization and let there be a case made. Let Bajrang Dal defend itself in that court. We already have enough laws in this country to convict individuals and organizations who resort to violence and crime. Let’s give the accused a chance to defend themselves. Let there be a debate. Let the evidence come in. Let it conform to the rule of the land. Let such decisions be taken up in a court of law, not in an Assembly or a Parliament, where opinion rules the roost.
Let me end this with one of my favorite quotes: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. (attributed to Voltaire)