Series of protests that happened against the CAA and NRC in the country resulted in the Delhi riot indicates the use, misuse and abuse of social media platforms in recent times. In fact, in the light of the Delhi riot, it is visible after the preliminary investigation that perception that is created in the minds of people against CAA and NRC added fuel to the fire. Spreading lies, falsehoods and concocted statements towards the establishments became the buzzword. There is no denial in the fact that people in a democracy have a right to protest against the policies of the government but the larger question is whether it is right to spread false propaganda to incite violence and sway the people against the popularly elected government in a country like India which is the world’s largest democracy.
Freedom of Speech and India Constitution
People get their right to protest through our constitution under Article 19(1)(a) which clearly states that All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression. However, such articles are subject to reasonable restrictions. In Beenu Rawat v. Union of India (2013)16SCC 430 it was observed by the Supreme Court that Part III of the constitution of India, as in a poignant fashion enumerated under Article 19(1)(b) read with 19(1)(a) read with Article 21 of the constitution of India gives the right to life and liberty and readily cherishes the idea of a liberal constitutional democracy and the state and its functionaries cannot deprive the citizens of the same, however the same is not an absolute one and the rights can be curtailed by a procedure established by law and one’s expression must not extend to endangering sovereignty of the state as well as putting public morality in jeopardy, one vital part of the same being right to peaceful dissent and protest. one must remember that right without duty degenerates into license to misuse of rights and thus state must curtail such liberty which tries to spread the fake propaganda. In the case of Bimal Gurung V UOI (2018) 15 SCC 480 it was discussed that the right to freedom of speech and expression coupled with a right to assemble peaceably and without arms are constitutionally recognized fundamental rights which are reflected in carrying demonstrations on several occasions. However, any “noisy and disorderly” demonstration, for instance, stone-throwing by a crowd may be cited as an example of a violent and disorderly demonstration and this would obviously not be protected within Article 19(1)(a) or (b).
Myths surrounding CAA
It is now a very well-established fact that people have the right to protest as long as it is peaceful in nature but what about the false narratives being spread by the opposition. The very first attempt was made by spreading the fake news that CAA coupled with NRC is going to take away the citizenship of the Muslims. The author’s first contention is that the rules of NRC have not been framed yet so why are there false claims that it is going to steal the citizenship of Muslims. The BJP is nowadays being called a fascist government but the stark reality of CAA is that it just provides citizenship to religious minorities who have fled religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan. The government is giving citizenship to them on humanitarian grounds as we have a history with them.
Actually Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed to protect the victim of religious persecution and who came in India before 2014. CAA came to protect the people who were not in support of Jinnah’s two-nation theory and did not get the chance to come to India during partition due to violence all around. Therefore, by giving citizenship to persecuted minorities in Islamic nations if the government is being called fascist then there is a need to change the definition of this word. Protestors at Shaheen Bagh and various other places are showing their dissent towards the new act which is again their fundamental right but in the name of their freedom of expression, it is seen that they are actually spreading and conveying the wrong news.
Recently we have witnessed that several political stalwarts and self-proclaimed activists in the various parts of this country were seen giving hate speeches against the government and on communal line and they were successful in spreading the false deterrent which forced the people to come out and protest against the policies of the government. The seditious comments were actually uncalled for as peaceful protests were actually being called in Delhi, Mumbai Or in Lucknow. Recently, another issue that came into light was the transfer of Justice Murlidhar from Delhi to Punjab and Haryana High Court. There were questions raised by the people upon the independence of the judiciary when Justice Murlidhar was transferred for trashing the Delhi police in court but the reality is that his transfer was recommended by the collegium way before the incident took place. This was another false propaganda that was spread with people claiming that the judiciary is no more independent and transparent.
The Toxic propaganda & incendiary speeches have led to Delhi burning. Some people are claiming it to be anti-muslim riots and there have been riots and murders thereof. Politicians like Tahir Hussain are alleged to have incited violence in the state and is allegedly the murderer of IB officer Ankit Sharma. The whole area around Hussains’s house is vandalized except where his house is situated. This fact very indicates his full involvement in the Riot in the nearby locality.
More than forty-five deaths have been confirmed so far and hundreds have been injured due to the riots that are happening in the national capital. There is a tremendous loss to public property and vandalism all across the state. Parallels have been drawn between North East Delhi and Syria due to the violence in such a harmful manner. All this vandalism has tarnished the image of India abroad. The root cause of all the violence as stated above is actually the false propaganda being spread.
The left has no other choice but to resort to such unprofessional ways as they had suffered a strong defeat in the Lok Sabha elections and they had no other way but to sway the supporters of the NDA government and cause a sense of dismay against the government. In conclusion, the protests and all the vandalism taking place are due to false propaganda being spread which needs to stop otherwise the results can be catastrophic. The constitution gives us the right to protest but not the right to spread fake or false propagandas.
*(Abhinav Kumar is teaching at Faculty of Law, University Of Delhi, Views expressed are his personal)