Monday, October 26, 2020
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Should Mani Shankar Aiyar be charged with Sedition?

By Nithin Sridhar

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Former Union minister and Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar has again made a controversial statement during a panel discussion on Duniya TV, a Pakistani TV news channel.

When the channel anchor asked Aiyar about how to end the current stalemate in India-Pakistan relationship, Aiyar replied: “Hume le aiye, inko hatayiye (Bring us, remove them) i.e. bring congress and remove the Modi government.

Only when the anchor of Duniya TV reminded Aiyar that it was up to the Congress party to remove the current Indian government that Aiyar corrected himself and stated: “Yes we will remove them, but till then you (Pakistan) must wait.”

Politicians, irrespective of the parties they belong to, always make controversial and sometimes abhorrent statements especially during elections- be it Sonia Gandhi calling Narendra Modi as ‘a merchant of death’ few years ago, or a recent statement by Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi in which he asked all beef eaters to go to Pakistan. There are also a large number of incidents wherein the media has misreported or twisted the words of politicians to suit their own agenda (for example, a recent controversy over General VK Singh’s puppy comment).

But, even a cursory look at the panel discussion wherein Aiyar had spoken, it is quite clear that this is not a case of misreporting, misinterpretation, or misunderstanding. Aiyar can be seen quite clearly and spontaneously as asking Pakistan to remove the Modi government.

It should be further remembered that Aiyar did not make this statement in India or while speaking to Indian media. Aiyar’s words were clearly aimed at Pakistani establishment and Pakistani audience. The fact that the channel anchor had to remind Aiyar that it is up to congress party (and not a work of Pakistan) to bring regime change further reinforces the fact that Aiyar’s statement was clearly directed at Pakistan.

This is a clear case of propagating anti-national sentiments that amount to sedition. Further, his statement can be construed as an attempt to influence the rival nation to interfere in the domestic politics of India and bring about a regime change here. For otherwise why would he say “bring us, remove them”?

This is not a minor issue to be ignored or sidelined. Aiyar’s statement reinforces the growing perception that there are breaking India forces who are working hard to bring down Modi government and stall India’s development.

The question to be asked to Aiyar is, what help did he expect from Pakistan for bringing Modi down? Did he want Pakistan to wage war against India, which is highly unlikely to bear any result? Or did he want Pakistan to simply remove Modi from the picture using Jihadi assassins or to instigate and abet riots across India? There is no other way in which Pakistan can influence Indian domestic politics.

Expressing similar concerns, Madhu Kishwar, a well-known author and activist, tweeted:

Though, the Congress has distanced itself from Aiyar’s comments, it is not enough. If Congress is really dedicated to democracy, then it should remove Aiyar from the party. Further, the Modi government should not ignore the issue and should start legal proceedings against Aiyar so that a strong message is conveyed to all the breaking India forces.

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