Taming of a Serpent: The Case of Nupur Sharma and the Supreme Court

nupur sharma 1

What a surprise! Even the Supreme Court of India can uphold justice today in India. For a while, I had a feeling that these institutions are slowly decaying in India. But that is not true. Though we have witnessed many judgments which indirectly provided space for further injustice, there are also many beautiful judgments which upheld the value of justice, peace and harmony. The present judgment on ‘the loose tongue of Nupur Sharma setting fire on the entire country’ is an example.

While deploring her arrogance, the court said: `These remarks have led to unfortunate incidents in the country. These people are not religious. They do not have respect for other religions. These remarks were made for cheap publicity or political agenda or some other nefarious activities. Thanks! You said it!

The court also touched upon a significant aspect of the functioning of the nexus between our executive machinery and the institutions of legislature, by saying: `When an FIR like this is registered and you are not arrested, this shows your clout.’ It would have been more appropriate, if under the present circumstances, the court had ordered her arrest also. Because,  Nupur Sharma is still a free bird while thousands of innocents, human rights defenders, activists and media persons are languishing in our jails. But the comedy is on the reaction from the court for the reference from her side that she has a security threat. The court asked: ‘whether she has a threat or she has become a security threat?’ This is a key point for a public debate.

In the name of security, violence has been unleashed in this country and the human rights defenders who oppose such violence are arrested and placed in jails in the name of national security. National security as a term has become a cover for authoritarian governance to suppress all dissent. The arrests of human rights defenders like Teesta Setalvad and many others have nothing to do with national security. It is just that their activities are a hindrance to the free flowing violence initiated by the State and the Hindutva forces. The arrests of Teesta Setalvad and others are providing a signal to all activists that `if you go on questioning our fascist politics, your place will be in jail.’ But the fact that Nupur Sharma is not arrested despite the fact that even the Supreme Court of India is telling loud that she has set fire to the entire country, is also a signal to the perpetrators of the crimes, telling that even if you spit venom in public and even if you commit a crime against the people of our country bound by the Indian Constitution, you will be eligible to walk freely in this country.  Nupur Sharma should be arrested at least now.

The judgment was strong enough when the judiciary asked her to apologise to the country in public. When the advocate of Nupur stated that she had already apologized, the judges retaliated by saying that such an apology is not enough and the apology should be made through the same TV channel in public. That was not all. The judiciary made a strong criticism of her who held the power of being the spokesperson of a political party for making such a menace to the country. Now, this is too important for the BJP to reflect their strategies so far. This is a counter message from the highest judicial court in India that the strategies of igniting hate politics to divide people for maintaining their power may not sell in future. I wonder whether they have received the communication of this message.

On this specific issue, we have no option but to congratulate the bench who took a position to restrict the fire of communalism. The judgment was certainly fearless in a country where fear is constantly used as a tool to rule. However, this is one judgment among several judgments on communal issues so far. An analysis of such judgments would reveal that the secular consciousness of the judges also become a determining factor to provide judgments to protect this country free from the politics of hate. It is not always necessary that such judges are always there, with similar secular consciousness

However, the judgment provides hope for the minorities in India who are forced to prove constantly that they are Indian citizens, due to the emergence of Hindutva communal politics. Here lies the challenge for the judges in all courts in India. The court represents justice. Without truth, there is no justice. Without justice, there is no peace. And without peace, there would only be widespread violence in India. The responsibility to speak the truth is not just limited to the judges. It is the responsibility of every citizen in this country.  Said Albert Einstein: `The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.’

And finally, when there are thousands of cultures and millions of Gods in this subcontinent called India, the challenge for the Supreme Court of India is to provide justice for all these diverse cultures. It is not an easy task. We have communities which worship diverse Gods and they are totally unknown to  mainstream civilization. I am aware that the snake is also worshiped in India. The snakes contribute a great deal to protect ecology in agriculture or forests. Comparing Nupur Sharma to a snake is an insult to the species of snakes. Therefore, I must apologize to the snakes in India, for the title of this article. The snakes are not as dangerous creatures as Nupur Sharma. It is just that from the 1970s onwards, as a cartoonist, once in a while I used the symbol of snake to express something.  Many other cartoonists have also used the same symbol. Our apologies for insulting the snakes!

K.P. Sasi is a film maker, writer and cartoonist

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K P Sasi

K.P. Sasi is a film maker, cartoonist, writer and an activist

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