Indian newspapers range from the delightfully staunch supporters of journalistic integrity to the vaguely sycophantic. Often one has to read between the lines to find out if a person is condemning an action or not.
The fact remains is that different cultures have different boundaries on personal space and what is acceptable or not. However the fact also remains that in a civilised country mob rule is not encouraged. I see no action being taken about the assault of two people who for all intents and purposes probably had no idea about Indian Cultural and Social Rules. Hell even I didn’t the first time I came here and I am indian by ethnicity. I used to eat with my left hand back home because I found it more comfortable, in India I have to eat with my right. I am quite used to women treating you like you are normal in the UK, in India they treat you (IMHO) like you are a rapist with a contagious disease. The first few times it actually hurt my feelings but then I realised that it’s just the culture. I cannot change it and I am sure when they come to the UK they too think that british women are promiscuous simply because they treat men as equals. Cultural differences exist and sometimes they are insulting to other people. I genuinely worry about the instance in this case because the reporter’s relatively coy language belies the seriousness of the assault. The paper clearly shows two heavily bloodied men with head injuries and treated it as if the citizens of Tuticorin involved with this attack were upstanding citizens rather than brutal thugs.
It is however shocking that the police didn’t consider assault by a mob of people as an acceptable reason to issue a warrant for the crime of assault and grievous harm (Or injury as it is called in India – I have had to study Forensic Medicine in India as part of my course and it deals with junk like this).
What shocks me even more is that these men are being charged for a crime… Section 295A is a law that states that
“Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.— Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of [citizens of India], [by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to [three years], or with fine, or with both.”
Wait a second? Doesn’t that mean that any atheist can technically be charged for the crime of merely existing since a lot of faith treats us as an outrage? That I can technically be charged for speaking out against religion as I am critical of it’s actual flaws? I am deliberately criticising religion and I am sure this outrages many people. And many people do get insulted by what I write. It’s quite an insulting post to take when you criticise the many mores, follies and failures of any faith.
The scary bit is the use of the word attempt. This entire law has so much weasel words in it that it can apply to anyone. The mere phrase of “Goddamnit” if offensive to someone could theoretically apply the law to me. In fact I am pretty sure any damn person who has complained about a religious activity can be jailed simply because someone got insulted.
This law is the death of free speech and rational discourse. It is a law aimed at the heart of dissent and can be applied to anyone who doesn’t believe in a god at whim. It is a law that can be used to protect sadhus, priests and other charlatans from the derision of rationality and it is a law that can definitely be invoked to crush the freedom of speech.