New Delhi: A cult of nationalism is on the rise where anyone holding a view different from the government's "acceptable view" is dubbed "anti-national", Former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court A P Shah said on Wednesday.
Justice Shah, during the MN Roy Memorial Lecture in the national capital, spoke of the wellspring of democracy in free speech and other fundamental rights and liberties, barring which nationalism regresses into an "antiquated cult".
"Today, sadly, in this country I love, if anyone holds a view that is different from the government’s “acceptable” view, they are immediately dubbed as “anti-national” or “desh-drohi”.
Justice Shah pointed out that intellectual freedom and dissent is being curbed like never before.
"Today, we are living in a world where we are forced to stand for the national anthem at a movie theatre, we are told what we can and cannot eat, what we can and cannot see, and what we can and cannot speak about.
"Dissent, especially in the university space, is being curbed, and sloganeering and flag raising have become tests for nationalism. We have a 21-year old university student who is subjected to severe online hate, abuse, and threats, only because she dared express an opinion", he said.
Justice Shah also said that this marker of "anti-national" was used to intimidate and browbeat voices of dissent and criticism, and more worryingly, could be used to slap criminal charges of sedition against them.
Justice Shah also questioned RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat who called for nationwide ban against cow slaughter and also slammed the free hand given to cow vigilantes..
"We must be wary of forcing a single ideology or way of living on the entire country, especially a country as diverse as India, where states such as Kerala, or the various states in the north-east, consider beef a staple part of their diet", he said.
"Crackdowns that are primarily targeted at Muslim butchers are not only leaving lakhs of people with fear, but without stable employment," he said.
Taking forward the views of Justice AP Shah, Justice Jasti Chelameswar Thursday said that low levels of tolerance among the masses and rural-urban disconnect are the two key issues plaguing the country at the moment.
Speaking at the MN Roy Memorial Lecture on Free Speech, Nationalism and Sedition, Justice Jasti Chelameswar, known for his refusal to be a part of the SC Collegium system, said it was not just the judiciary but also civil society that plays a major part in determining the legal rights in the country.
“What is the renaissance that India has achieved over the last 70 years? It is that, as a society, we have become more intolerant and irrational. There is a huge disconnect between urban India and rural India. How cities like Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore perceive issues are completely different than what rural India thinks", Justice Jasti Chelameswar said.