ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Different Meanings of Sedition


The word “sedition” or droha in Sanskrit taken as a noun tends to facilitate a multiplication of its negative association with so many other entities such as nation, state, self, human being, or humanity. Thus, it follows, that this offensive association can be traced to sedition or “rashtra droha,” that is, sedition against the nation or state, “manav droha” or treason against humanity, and “deha droha” or sedition against the embodied self. Within the domain of attributions where droha is set to be asso¬ciated with different entities mentioned above, sedition as a crime against the nation and state, in more recent times, has received greater political purchase. As the editorial comment in the current issue of Economic & Political Weekly shows, the intention behind the frequent invocation of sedition laws, in particular regard to the nation or state, seems to be driven by the need to silence the dissenting voices—voices that mount a legitimate critique of the government’s policies. Thus, the nation as a sovereign entity has come to be defined exclusively with reference to sedition laws, which arguably is punitive rather than a positive rallying point. Put differently, in the case of the nation and the state, sedition laws imply infliction of punitive action against those who are named as guilty of such a crime. Needless to mention, at the operative level, such laws are imposed from the above for reasons that sometimes do not appear to be sound. In fact, they, as seen by legal experts, are more bizarre and much less convincing when viewed on the merit of each case. Generally speaking, political nationalism tends to promote a rigid sense of patriotism, which then demands collective fidelity to a sovereign entity called the nation. However, what remains missing from the above understanding of “rashtra droha” that is seen, is the need to consider the nation as the normative framework, which would promote ethical individuality or the moral progress for each individual. It could be suggested that the normative thrust of the nation should or needs to have a civilising impact on “civil society” that, in some sense, is guilty of harbouring two kinds of droha or seditious acts—manav droha or crime against humanity or social denial and deha droha or moral invasion of the embodied self or self-denial. Efforts should be made to assign validation to the “supreme” entity like the nation by considering the latter as a positive rather than a constraining reference point for realising a collective and individual aspiration to lead the social or public life with confidence and social harmony. Moreover, realisation of the moral potential that one is worthy of living in harmony with fellow citizens can become a real possibility within the framework of “benign” nationalism. What are the social energies that are constitutive of the inherent moral value of a living being? These energies obviously reside or are embodied in a human being with moral content like adequate social attention, apt appreciation for human qualities such as friendship, and recognition that every human being has equal moral worth. In contrast, the survival of untouchability as an internal fault line results from the steady depletion of moral and ethical resources. Similarly, treating someone as untouchable, unseeable, and unapproachable also results in civilisational violence, which effectively approximates to the act of committing manav droha or sedition against humanity. Human communication mediated through ethical resources such as compassion or karuna in the Buddhist ethical vocabulary arguably is prior or basic to intellectual communication that acquires an abstract nature that stands away from human experience. Internal fault lines that run along with the practice of caste-driven acts of social boycotts imposed on Dalits are equally seditious in as much as they seek the alienation of human beings from the civilisational process of social interaction. At the wider level, the droha constitutes a social denial that is manifested in socially oppressive practices such as untouchability. At another individual level, it is also self-denial or self-invasion. Self-invasion or self-denial, conversely, suggests the individual’s inability to attribute any positive meaning to oneself. This inability or ethical incapacity amounts to being morally unfair to oneself. The refusal to look at oneself as a forward-looking agent tends to undermine one’s ethical capacity to restrain from creating pains or causing harm to others. Put differently, this implies allowing dominant political forces to control one’s cognitive faculty as well as the capacity for political initiative. When, in fact, this initiative should be harnessed towards protecting human values, such as freedom, to participate with compassion and mutual concern in social interaction that should form the core of any nation.

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Updated On : 28th May, 2022
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