The film “Lal Salam” has not been allowed to be shown in Orissa because its story is supposed to be regarding maoist activities even though it has been produced by a professional film maker and certified by the Censor board. Cast in the film includes renowned actress Nandita Das &others. Exhibiting this picture attracts the offence of “sedition” for which six Kui tribal cultural activists of Adva under Gajpati district of Orissa were sent to jail on 23rd Sept 2006.
The Orissa police along with a section of CRPF seized a number of
revolutionary booklets, notes and songs on Charu Majumdar and
Kalinganagar issue, video CDs of “Lal Salam” film from the Kui cultural activists. The police also seized traditional musical instruments like Khanjani, Ghungura etc to substantiate the allegation of sedition under 124-A IPC. Two female activists aged about 18-20 also include the group who went to jail and are still in jail.
AS per the FIR story which was lodged by the police itself the police and CRPF surrounded a tribal village on 22nd Sept at night and apprehended six Kui tribals who were performing cultural programme by singing , dancing and exhibiting the film “Lal Salam”
It is said by the police that the film is on the maoist activities,
which is a banned organisation as declared under the Criminal Law
Amendment Act-1908. Besides, the offence “sedition”, the police has also implicated the cultural activists u/s -17 (2) of the above Act. The police paper speaks that Dasuram Majhi @ Pangi is the leader of cultural team who fled the spot.
The Criminal Law Amendment Act was enacted during British colonial rule,the operative provisions of which were declared void by the full bench decision of Madras High Court and Constitution Bench of Supreme Court (A.I.R. 1952 S.C. 149).The allegation of “sedition” against the Kui cultural activists which was showing the film once again reminds the Constituent Assembly debate on “sedition” wherein K.M. Munshi pointed out “the word sedition has been a word of varying import and has created considerable doubt in the minds of not only the members the House but of courts of law all over the world. On the notorious section – 124 A of Penal Code (is still in force) he further pointed out that It “was ometimes construed so widely that I remember in a case, criticism of District magistrate was urged to be covered by section – 124 A”. Due
to objection from the members of different quarters the provision for “sedition” was dropped from the constitution. But, confirming the apprehensions of the framers of constitution this provision in the Penal Code is rampantly abused by the law enforcers to silence the voice of opposition.
Freedom of speech, ex-pression, thought etc. are the basic rights should be made available to all individuals under the democratic principles. …………….
U.N. Declaration on Human Rights – 1948 provides that “every one has
the right to freedom of opinion and ex-pression; this right includes
freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and
impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of
frontiers.” The declaration also guarantees every individual of his
“cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and free development of
his personality” . International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
also provides for “the right to hold opinions without interference and
right to freedom of ex-pression either orally, in writing or in print,
in the form of art through any media of his choice” (Art-19).
Art-15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights-1966 also recognizes the “right of every one to take part in
cultural life”. The right to freedom of speech and ex-pressions as one
of the declared objectives of freedom struggle finds its significant
position in the Fundamental Rights chapter of Indian constitution.
` But, in fact after the transfer of power the Indian rulers
used the same repressive measures against the political activists for
their dissent ideology as was being done by their British predecessors.
So just after the implementation of the new constitution, the same
oppressive and repressive mechanism of the colonial rule was brought to
operation. The laws relating preventive detentions, silencing the voice
of opposition by declaring ban on groups and press etc. were brought to
the ground. So such laws and actions of the state were under challenge
on the ground from the side of democratic struggle and also before the
Indian Courts. The provision of sedition under section–124 A of
Indian Penal Code was under challenge in different High Courts and Apex
Court of the country.
In the full bench decision of the Allhabad High Court, the provision of
124-A I.P.C. was declared void and ultra vires ( A.I.R. 1959 All-101).
The Supreme Court in its judgment (A.I.R. 1962 – S.C. 955)
restricted the application of the provision only to “acts involving
intention or tendency to disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or
incitement to violence”.
As per Art-142 of the Constitution the law declared by the Supreme
Court, has force all over the country. But, in spite of such
pronouncements of the Apex Court how the Kui cultural activities can
attract the offence defined as “sedition” for their performance of
traditional dance, songs, with Khanjani, Ghunsura etc. is a matter of
concern. The booklets on Charu Mazumdar and Kalinganagar are not
banned literature either. So how all these materials shall come under
the definition of “seditious materials” is also a matter of concern.
The tribals, dalits, peasants are under constant attack of the state
machinery and are being thrown out of their land, forests, water, the
basic needs of living. On the other hand they are being harassed like
anything on the plea of “law and order”. To give an example, the State
Govt. in its own admission have stated that there are 11, 424 minor
forest cases (offence covering forest produce worth upto rupees one
hundred only) pending against tribals which were decided by the State
Govt to be withdrawn on the pressure of demands from democratic secsions
of society (decision of the C.M. Sept. 2004). As per a recent
information available under Right to Information Act 8489 such cases
have been withdrawn in eight forest circles of the State. But
astonishingly such cases include alleged offence for forest produces
worth of Rupees – 2, Rupees – 3, Rupees – 4 etc. Hundreds of
tribals have been implicated in forest cases for “illegally” taking away
forest produces worth less than rupees ten. This makes amply clear the
mindset of the state against the tribals and the people of the lower
strata at large
Similarly, another alarming figure have come to light under RTI Act that
7145 unimportant minor criminal cases have been booked against 8763
tribals out of which most of offences include trading of “illicit
liquor” in tribal area. Obviously, the cases were booked at the behest
of liquor mafia who rule the roost in the tribal areas, grab the little
earnings and the lands of tribals.
It is just a tip of the ice berg which goes to suggest that those who
are involved in bringing new thinking and are trying to open upon the
minds of the common people to their right to life and livelihood and
their plights are being targeted to be forcibly silenced by forces of
the state. Be it the murder of Kerala threatre activist, Varkala
Vijayan, veteran theatre activist Safdar Hasmi, poet Paash or arrest of
Gaddar, Varavara Rao, Kalyan Rao, Dasuram Majhi @Pangi–any such
activist is thought to be inconvenient by the ruling cliques of the
state. But, the rulers must remember that “people may be killed, ideas
do not die” and such forcible suppression of voice of the people would
lead to explosion in peoples’ anger and violence.
It is high time to condemn the design of the state machinery for their
acts of dealing every issue of life and livelihood as an issue of law
and order and putting the protesters behind the bar.
The Chief Minister of Orissa should be urged to withdraw the criminal
case and unconditionally release the Kui Cultural activists. It should
be demanded before him to address the life and livelihood issues of the
common mass and more specifically those of the tribals, dalits and
peasants through pro-people policies and for not abbusing sharp
provisions of law for silencing the dissenting voices.
(Biswa Priya Kanungo)
Advocate & Democratic Right Activist
2122, Sabarsahi Lane , Budheswar Colony
Bhubaneswar – 6, Dist.– Khurda (Orissa).
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