Sunday, December 12, 2010

Yielding to the bullies results in this

I have the (British) India Legislature debates from 1927 that introduced section 295A of the Indian Criminal Code, and will publish them some time.  This law is still on the books in India and in Pakistan.  In Pakistan it has been further enhanced; but if you do a search on google, you'll find 295A is misused in India.  Well, how can it not be misused, it is a horrible law, as the dissenters in that debate pointed out.  The wording of the law is:
"Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of 2[citizens of India], 3[by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 4[three years], or with fine, or with both.]"
The reason for the introduction of this law was the Rajpal case or (Rangila Rasul case).  Rajpal was the publisher, (not the author) of a pamphlet in an ongoing war of pamphlets between Hindus and Muslims  in the Punjab of the 1920s, in which they attacked each other and also other sects within their own camps.   This particular pamphlet (the title would roughly translate to "Playboy Prophet"), which made many sarcastic comments about the Prophet of Islam  particularly raised the ire of the Muslims, and there was the threat of not just Punjab-wide but supposedly nationwide violence. {Aside, it is funny, isn't it, that to a certain mentality, India is not and never was a nation except when it is time to protest?}

Well, Rajpal was tried under existing law for offending religious sentiment {section 153A of Indian Penal Code}, but the Punjab High Court under Justice Dilip Singh acquitted him. { Later the government tried Rajpal again, and obtained a conviction, but Rajpal was murdered by a Muslim, Ilim Din.  Ilim Din was convicted of the murder and executed - his funeral procession is said to have been the largest procession seen in Lahore till then, and for many years thence.  His anniversary of "martyrdom" is still marked in Pakistan.}    The inadequacy of the existing law to convict Rajpal was the motivation to introduce 295A.

The reasoning, from the British government point of view, was that if some religious group threatens violence because its feeling had been "hurt", the government could step in and prosecute the person(s) who committed the hurt.   The dissenters pointed out any number of instances where the insulted party was a minority who never threatened violence and therefore never received such consideration from the government.

In effect, the government bowed to the bullies.  If you are capable of widespread violence, your sentiments have to be "respected", otherwise not.

Incidentally, Rajpal is said to have apologized:
Mr Gaya Prasad Singh (non-Muhammadan member representing Muzaffarpur and Champaran), on Sept 19, 1927, read in the (British Indian) Legislative Assembly
“Sir, I should also like to refer to the statement which was made by Rajpal when he came to know that the feelings of our Muhammadan friends had been greatly outraged by his pamphlet. This is what he said:
“If any words of mine can soothe the feelings of my Moslem brethren, I assure them that I respect their sentiments no less than I do mine. I have no idea of bringing out another edition of Rangila Rasul, even though the law does not stand in the way of my doing so. In fact I stopped selling it as soon as I was told that some Moslems felt offended by its publication. This was done before any action was taken or even contemplated by the Government.”

I should add that the nationalists in the assembly supported the law because they wanted to avoid any Hindu-Muslim friction.  There was some who opposed the law on the grounds that religion did not need such defense, and such a law was an abridgement of the freedom of speech.

Well, in Pakistan, the blasphemy law is the full Islamic expression of section 295A.  And now it has come to this (AFP link, might be temporary)

KARACHI — A doctor has been arrested for insulting the Prophet Mohammed in Pakistan, police said on Sunday, in a second high profile case throwing the spotlight on the country's controversial anti-blasphemy laws.

Naushad Valiyani was detained on Friday following a complaint by a medical representative who visited the doctor in the city of Hyderabad.

"The arrest was made after the complainant told the police that Valiyani threw his business card, which had his full name, Muhammad Faizan, in a dustbin during a visit to his clinic," regional police chief Mushtaq Shah told AFP.

"Faizan accused Valiyani of committing blasphemy and asked police to register a case against the doctor."

Shah said the issue had been resolved after Valiyani, a member of Pakistan's Ismaili community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, apologised but local religious leaders intervened and pressed for action.
"Valiyani had assured Faizan that he did not mean to insult the Prophet Mohammed by throwing the visiting card in the dustbin," Shah said, adding that the police had registered a case under the Blasphemy Act.
PS:  The Rajpal pamphlet is available on the Internet.  In my opinion, it is available precisely because Rajpal was murdered, and because the whole thing became such a big issue.  Otherwise, it would have vanished like most of the other pamphlets from that war of words in the 1920s. The action of the "prosecute blasphemy" crowd have made this trash immortal.