Friday, January 30, 2009

Banning the VHP, the Sena and such......

India is a conglomeration of nations, of ideas, of religions, of beliefs and of ways of life in constant flux. The very act of trying to define what India stands for, destroys the idea of India. Because any definition would be just a snapshot in time, from a particular point of view, of an evolving organism.

Various movements try to define India according to their own viewpoint and try to influence the rest of the population with the ideas that they personally espouse. Some of them try to bring about change with peaceful means while others resort to violence and hooliganism.

As long as you hold a belief and are using civilized democratic means to spread it, I have no problem with you. But when you use violence or hooliganism to enforce your point of view on others, I would want the law and order machinery to track you down and penalize you to the full extent of the law. I would expect the government of the day to prevent you from violating the liberty of others, but I would not want you banned.

What does banning an extremist organization achieve? Are they reformed overnight by a ban? From a practical point of view as well, banning an organization would just result in sending it underground and resort to furthering their cause through clandestine activities. I would rather have them above ground and monitor their activities and try to counter their arguments in a civilized way.

I am against banning any organization whether it is SIMI or the VHP or lately the Shri Ram Sena of Mangalore fame. I would not deny them the liberty to preach their ideas and viewpoints without resorting to violence.

Voltaire is credited with the saying 'I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to death your right to say it.'


Usha Pisharody said...

I do understand why you would not want them banned, but given the fact that they would continue to inflame, with physical violence, when they are recognized, should there not be some way in which they are discredited for indulging in those kinds of acts?

Should there not be some form of accountability brought to be? The quote from Voltaire is a wonderful way to underscore the openness of India, but, the problem is that, they do not just say. Time and time again, they have done, then said, then done again... in endless vicious circles, have they not?

And if the government machinery is the one to monitor their activities above the ground, we know the usefulness [read futility] of that action. Till such time the scourge called corruption has been dealt with, Sir, your suggestion, very pertinent too, I must hasten to add, would be just another ideal way of life, would it not?

Am troubled, the more I think of it!

Vinod_Sharma said...

The first paragraph of this post is one of the better 'definitions' of India - for those who absolutely need them - that I have read.

Voltaire spoke of the right to say what you want to...forget these so-called organisations which do not believe in speaking, but 'doing', something that is beyond what Voltaire spoke of defending, we have a saddening example of a 'liberal' defender of free expression doing something equally, if not more, disgraceful.

Sagarone said...

@Usha and @Vinod, thanks for your comments.

This is not about them but about us. Should we compromise with the idea of 'liberty with safeguards in place to see that the liberty of others is not trampled upon'?

What we have seen is that the safeguards in place have not been efficient or sufficient to curb the extremists from resorting to violent methods. That is what needs to be improved upon, instead of resorting to ineffective and counterproductive bans.

Indyeah said...

Your whole post is amazing but specially as Vinod sir says ,the first para is in a class by itself!...and in that para this line is brilliant and defining..''The very act of trying to define what India stands for, destroys the idea of India''
How very ,very true!

I agree partly with what you say...that is..that banning them will just send them underground and make them change their name...
An extremist organisation will merely change d in all probability further hasten their journey towards extreme fanaticism......atleast being in full public view and with constant monitoring they remain under the scanner...

But to come to the part whre I disagree would be that in some cases an example has to be set so that others learn a that organisations learn that there are consequences dire ones for their actions...
some of the actions border on being traitorous to the country...not to mention being a threat to individuals' liberty...

in the end I think constant monitoring and extremely strict punishments are required for those who indulge in such hooliganism...
But what if the state IS part of this crowd of hooligans??

Sagarone said...

@Indyeah, In a democracy no olitician is able to ignore the voice of the people. What we have to do is make sure that our collective voice is strong enough to make an impact and be heard. And if those in power continue to ignore us, we have to work to make sure they are not re-elected and help elect those who share our idea of 'liberty with responsibility.'

Sanjeev said...

Dear Sagarone (using the blog identity)

Well said. Coincidentally, I was writing about precisely this issue in my current revision of (the second chapter of) 'The Discovery of Freedom', available at: for public comment.

While there is a problem where people advocate evil (like Mein Kampf), in general all messages, including messages of hate should be allowed to purveyed in the marketplace, for then others can write back and demolish such arguments. The real problem arises when someone physically blocks another person’s freedom or incites others to direct violence. People like Hitler can be immediately picked up in free societies when that happens, and locked up at after due trial.


The solution to the VHP problem is simple: Let them write and promote their ideas anyway they wish. They can hold seminars as well. The moment, however, they even once (a) threaten violence against anyone, or (b) participate in violence of any sort (including demolishing buildings like the Babri Masjid)then they must be picked up by the Police and locked up. If, on the other hand, they are preaching falsehoods, they can be sued in civil courts, for preaching falsehood is not a crime (else most religions would have had to be banned).

The test of free speech is this: anyone can say anything so long as it is (largely) true and spoken in peace. Everyone, even Hitler, has a right of free speech. But anytime there is even the slightest aggression or violence, a crime is committed and the person has to be picked up and punished appropriately. That is the test of accountability.


Sanjeev Sabhlok

Sagarone said...

@Sanjeev, the idea of responsible freedom should not be compromised with and I am glad that we are in agreement here.

Balvinder Singh said...

Sagarone, nice food for thought but your idea of not banning an organisation will work only if we adopt the policy of zero tolerence against violence perpetrated by such organisations. Yes by putting ban on one it goes underground and continues its activities in a clandestine manner. So keep them on the surface but behind the bars and not in open to leash out violence on innocent citizens every now and then on flimsy pretexts. I saw your blog icon on my blog. Thanks.

Sagarone said...

Thanks and welcome Balvinder. I have visited your blog and have found that our thinking has much in common.

1conoclast said...


Well argued again!

I too have maintained that the way to get thru to them is not to kill/ban/lock-up extremists, but to engage them in dialogue.
I therefore, half-agree with the point that Sanjeev makes.

I just have a few points to make:

1. What do we do in case "propaganda" goes around in the name of freedom of speech? Do we allow malacious gossip? Legal action is fine, but what do we do with repeat offenders, like the al-qaeda or the sangh parivar?

2. Corrective action (or punishment if you prefer calling it that) does seem to yield results. You may recall the 1 year ban that Shane Warne had to endure at the peak of his playing career. You may recall that after being being thrown out of the Aussie Open for abusive behaviour, Mc Enroe never repeated it! You may also recall that banning the rss, helped gowalkar hurriedly put a constitution in place (Not that that has stopped them from their not that clandestine activities).

3. How does the same person advocate one extreme action (War) in one post, yet advocate restraint WRT exercising another extreme option (Bans) in another???

Vinodji, very well said... mostly! (The Barkha potshot was too hard to resist, wasn't it?)

Sagarone said...

1con, very good question!

The difference in approach is because one is an internal problem, while the other is an external one.

Indyeah said...

You are tagged!:)

1conoclast said...

Thank you Sir. :-)

a. I notice you've addressed only one of the questions asked by this eternally curious soul.

b. Why do we have different yardsticks for what is basically the same problem?

Pangala Nagendra Rao said...

I do agree with the blogger. Banning will not stop the people's mind set. They will come up with other name if not VHP,.. bajrang dal, if not that, .. Sri Ram sena so it won't stop in any of the way. As I have been close to these organisations once in my college days, all these people do is have different names of organisations so that in case one is banned other can work freely!!
And look at the statements of Sri Ram Sena cheif!! He says those who molested are not of Sri Ram sena, and for that reason why the arrested got bail. And he argues that cause is is right. How coward he is!!!? The whole footage in TV became pointless in bringing justice. So it seems nothing can stop them.
There are many people who support either the act or the cause of act of this incident. How can it be banned?

hitch writer said...

agreed, banning doesnt solve anything.

They should be allowed to air their views...

But when they resort to violence they must be given very very stern punishment... unfortunately that doesnt happen :-(

Indian Home Maker said...

I don't think most of these groups have any genuine ideology, all they seem to be trying to do is gain some votes. Banning them would mean newer groups will not be encouraged to use their methods.

If these Senas do not find hate speeches or violence a convenient way to win elections, we might discourage this new trend.

Maybe then they will be forced to do something else, hopefully better, to win elections.

Sanjeev said...

Dear All

The best way to deal with a bad set of ideas is to win over the people who are promoting the bad ideas.

As a first step, one would want to list and publicise the improprieties of thought and action committed by such groups.

I've consolidated a significant amount of material re:RSS at my blog:

I'd welcome your comments at that blog, plus sending me links to relevant material.

After this is done, we'd need to establish a separate blog/ blog post to win over the members of the RSS to a more freedom-based world view which will help India the most. After all, members of RSS are also our own brothers and sisters. We don't abandon our family members if they advocate misguided views.