On 16th February 2019, the Aligarh Muslim University Chapter of the National Constitution Society (“NCS”) organized a public discussion on Thinking Sedition, Thinking Freedom. The discussion engaged with contemporary debates on freedom and sedition along with arguments put forward by the framers of India’s Constitution. The discussion was moderated by Wardah Beg, Aligarh Muslim University and Student Board Member, National Constitutional Society.
Around 20 students from Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University participated in this discussion. The students read the Constituent Assembly Debates on sedition, in particular, the views of K. M. Munshi and T. T. Krishnamachari, and two recent Op-Ed pieces: How to be free in the 21st century and Should the sedition law be scrapped.
While some participants believed that sedition law was critical to maintaining the stability of a democratically elected government and for the protection of disruptive anti-national activities, others felt that the law was used as a tool to suppress students and civil society for expressing dissent and criticism against the State. Also, like some members of the Constituent Assembly, the participants acknowledged that sedition law was a colonial invention designed to keep the Indian freedom movement in check.
Most students felt that sedition law as it stood today had to be amended in order to better achieve a balance between state interest and individual liberty. The law must not be vague and clearly list out grounds for attracting punishment. This, they felt, would prevent governments from using sedition law arbitrarily and as a political tool.
(This report was written with contributions from Asna Shamim and Alisha Javed, students at Aligarh Muslim University.)