Deceit and hypocrisy are not the preserve of the Bharatiya Janata Party. In her speech at India Today Conclave 2018, former Congress president Sonia Gandhi made it evident.
Had an observer landed from Mars and heard her singing paeans to liberty, they would have been moved by the solicitude of the lady who presided over a most illiberal regime (Well, we must shed the fiction that she was advising prime minister Manmohan Singh. It is time we said unequivocally that she ran the government, while Singh was a puppet). Besides, it was the most corrupt government India has witnessed since Independence—a truly stupendous achievement by any reckoning if we take into account venality in other regimes.
Yet, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson has the cheek to talk like a champion of freedom. She said, “Ours has been an open, liberal democracy… It has allowed for disagreement, dissent, and protest. It has demonstrated its capacity for dialogue and compromise.” Come to think of it, such pontification from the mother of the draconian Section 66A?
“The public’s right to know is directly affected by Section 66A.” – Justice R.F. Nariman
Section 66A of the Information Technology Act provided that “any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device: (a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or (b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device; (c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.”
Introduced in 2009, when Sonia Gandhi was the Empress of India, Section 66A became a convenient tool in the hands of those who had power and pelf at their command. Guess who was the first beneficiary? Karti Chidambaram, son of P. Chidambaram. Ravi Srinivasan, a middle-aged businessman in Pondicherry, became the first person in India to be arrested for a tweet against Karti. Srinivasan had tweeted that Karti had “amassed more wealth than Vadra.” An outspoken man spoke the truth and was thrown behind bars, while Chidambaram Jr kept amassing wealth the magnitude of which our agencies are still trying to figure out. So much for the “open, liberal democracy” under Sonia.
The Supreme Court invalidated the odious section in 2015, calling it unconstitutional and a restriction on freedom of speech. “Section 66A is unconstitutional and we have no hesitation in striking it down,” said Justice R.F. Nariman, reading out the judgment. “The public’s right to know is directly affected by Section 66A.”
The Bench of Justices J. Chelameswar and Nariman pointed out that the offenses laid down under Section 66A did not lay down clearly defined lines. This, the apex court said, has resulted in the misuse of the provision. It also refused to accept the government assurance that misuse would be curtailed.
the journalists didn’t scream that there was ‘an undeclared Emergency’ in the country.
Section 66A was a most flagrant and visible violation of the spirit of democracy; there were many more violations. Media barons were bullied; journalists were terrorized; P. Chidambaram openly threatened reporters. But assaults on the press seldom became a big issue when Sonia was in power. The biggest reason was that her politics and economic policy were Left-leaning and most top journalists are pinkish. So, they didn’t scream that they, as they do these days, that there was ‘an undeclared Emergency’ in the country.
Under the UPA’s watch, the voice of writers like Taslima Nasreen and Salman Rushdie was suppressed in a bid to pander to the most retrograde elements in the Muslim community.
In other words, the Sonia Gandhi regime did everything to throttle open society and suppress liberty, and yet she has the audacity to lecture the world on openness and liberalism. Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai E. Stevenson once said, “A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.”
Sonia Gandhi fits the bill.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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