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Bans of Modiraj.

India, Aug. 17 -- Banning is a staple for BJP's political culture. In its political expediency, though the Congress in the past had banned books, films and documentaries, we have never reached the levels of ban as of now.

Under the BJP rule, BBCs controversial documentary "India's Daughter" was banned.

The party in governance had banned the entry of journalists to the home ministry and restricted the entry of journalists, filmmakers and NGO workers into Tihar Jail, Asia's largest prison complex to restrict the media from accessing the "secrets" of Tihar.

857 porn sites were banned.

Besides pornography, the telecom department had blocked sites hosting jokes, memes and other humorous content.

Gujarat where the party is in power, there is a ban on alcohol and in Maharashtra there is a ban on beef.

Madhya Pradesh Government has banned eggs to school kids.

Kiss of love remains banned.

69 NGOs receiving foreign funds have been banned and licences of many were cancelled.

The Central Board of Film Certification banned a list of 28 cuss words and prohibited their use in films.

All app based taxis are banned in Delhi.

The Maharashtra government banned lingerie display on mannequins as they believed that it can "incite men to rape".

Celebration of Christmas was banned by replacing it with Good Governance Day.

In some areas of states where BJP rule, Christians are banned.

The Ambedkar-Periyar study circle was banned in the IIT of Chennai.

There are hundreds of subtle bans BJP and its affiliates have imposed ever since they came to power.

Object of ban

What is the idea of a ban?

Is it to prevent immorality or is it to preserve the interests of the party in power or to further an ideology?

If the bans are to impose a code of morality studies show that it does not really work. In fact ban creates greater interests in the subject than otherwise due to curiosity.

The Congress Government banned Salman Rushdie's book on "Satanic Verses" and the clandestine market in India made more profits than otherwise. This is true for other books and documentaries.

People do watch movies and documentaries that have been banned more out of curiosity than interest. Similarly a ban on beef does not stop the eating of beef. Liquor though banned in Gujarat is available to all those who desire to drink.

Being banned therefore does not thereby stop the thing from eating, drinking, watching or doing. It just means that the legal system will be engaged in a way it otherwise would not be. The behaviour may carry on as before, but worsened by the criminalization of all those involved.

Consequences of ban

Those calling for something to be "banned" should ask two simple questions. First, what will the ban do in respect to the banned behaviour? And second, what other consequences may flow from the ban?

Answers to both these questions will help to find out as to whether such a ban should be implemented and, if so, how. We may even get better laws as a consequence. We could even get bans that actually work and are proportionate.

The call for something to be "banned" should be the start of a mature and constructive political debate, and not the end of one. There needs to be a debate, for example, whether those parties who make use of religion should be banned or not.

Similarly, citizens need to discuss whether associations and groups that create animosity among people should be allowed to destroy harmony. These are important concerns for the country. But the bans BJP has imposed are senseless and irrational. They are neither meant to protect morality or public decency. They are not discussed or debated. They are simply mandated, unfortunately, aimed at the imposition of a culture that is unconstitutional.

Take the example of the BBC documentary "India's Daughter". Leslee Udwin had spent two years making a documentary on the horrific rape and killing of young medical student Jyoti Singh. And she asks in the documentary, has the attack really spurred a sea change for gender equality in India? "'Why do men rape?'

She discovers that the disease is a lack of respect for gender. It's not just about a few rotten apples; it's the barrel itself that is rotten." Udwin was an actress before becoming an award-winning producer.

Instead of using the documentary to educate the public, the country bans it. Why does the BJP choose status quo over social change? In a country of sati, devadasis and discrimination on widows, it is a part of culture for the party in power.

Similarly the citizens of the country are aware that India exports beef in a big way and the cow is a sacred animal for the purposes of pure politics. After all, every citizen has a right for one's food. With some exception, beef is consumed by people of different communities - the dalits and the tribals, backwards and minorities and even some of the progressives. Why this hypocrisy, especially when the country exports beef in a big way while bans it in the country? It is possible for those who desire to impose a culture to be counter-cultural when they deal with foreign countries.

The High Court of Maharashtra had rightly asked the state "Why has the state banned only cows, bulls and bullocks? What about other animals like goat?" To this, Advocate General Sunil Manohar had said the government was considering it. "This is just the start (banning of cows, bulls and bullocks). We may consider banning slaughter of other animals too. As of now the state felt it was necessary to protect cows, bulls and bullocks," he said.

A hypocritical answer and the court perhaps knew better. The advocate had also asked "How can the state say slaughter of cattle in Maharashtra amounts to cruelty but one can slaughter outside the state? That would also amount to cruelty." The party would not allow such discussions simply because the party has no answers. If e very one of those bans can be discussed and debated, then the citizens would discover the empty rhetoric of bans. The tragedy is that those who ban do not want to discuss. But when a government imposes ban without discussions and debate, it is the beginning of authoritarianism.

Another Emergency

Though no great admirer of LK Advani after spearheading that heinous deed of the demolition of the Ayodhya mosque, is there some element of truth in his recent remark that India may once again face an Emergency-like situation?

We are haunted by bans, the spectre of prohibition and censorship already. The country is ruled by a single person. Those under him are not his colleagues but subordinates.

The ministers say that they are not respected. They are not allowed to express their opinions. If the media is right, the country is already in an emergency mood. As a result there is silence on bans.

While the list of bans and restrictions continues to grow at a decent pace, the saffron dispensation has also mastered the art of maintaining a rock-solid posture in the face of mounting criticism from within and outside the country over its actions and reactions.

These bans are nothing but another form of moral policing is clearly evident. Why should otherwise women be told that they should have dress code? Citizens may accept or not accept yoga for spiritual and mental wellbeing. Why romanticize it? Government wants to act as the guardian of all adult Indians. And how does it act? In the most undemocratic manner!

Behind the ban is an ideology

Behind the bans is an ideology, to make India a "Hindu rashtra". The questions that have not been asked even by decent Hindus are what is this Hindu Rashtra, what do these bans mean and how do they destroy and distort Hinduism itself.

Bans fail to appreciate the fact that "Hinduism is a collective term applied to many philosophical and religious traditions" in the country. There are no uniform culinary, sartorial, social or religious codes in Hinduism.

One can be a vegetarian or meatarian, dress in a western way or eastern way, converse in Hindi, Sanskrit or English, one can be still be a Hindu. The attempts to standardize Hinduism will only weaken the very basis of this religion - diversity, tolerance and harmony.

Hinduism cannot be limited to yoga, Sanskrit, astrology, dress codes, restrictions on women or a dominant form of worships and rituals. One can worship various forces of nature, local deities and heroes, one can belong to a philosophical tradition different from others and one can even be an atheist and still be a Hindu. It is this Hinduism with its broad framework that is under attack by the Hindutvavadis.

The greater danger of the Hindutva philosophy, therefore, is for the Hindus more than to anybody else. Those who desire to defy hierarchy, subordination, inequality, ritualism and rites, caste and its obnoxious consequences will lose out with Hindutva. Not all Hindus are vegetarians. Most Hindus are religious without being fanatic.

Every ban that is imposed is an expression of fanaticism. The backwards and the outcastes have already suffered under the Hindutva hegemony. Unifying the diverse traditions under "Hindutva" would likely lead to once again reviving the traditions of caste and casteism, hierarchy and inequality.

All authoritarian regimes make an attempt to interfere into the private lives of people. Why should the government interfere into the personal, interpersonal, sexual and culinary habits of people?

Adults can decide what they want to see and what they do not want to see, what they want to eat and what they do not want to eat and how one has to live. Bans make the government a tyrannical teacher and the people as objects. The sovereignty of the people is handed over to the government in power. This situation is dangerous. In a democracy, people have to be sovereign.

Any attempt to rob that sovereignty will have serious consequences. It is sad that BJP has become the Ban Janata Party. Its first response to anything controversial is to ban. However the party has refused to ban corruption, communalism and riots. Perhaps the time has come to ban banning things and ban parties and individuals that ban and undermine people's wisdom.

( The writer is the Principal of St. Aloysius Degree College, Bangalore.)

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Indian Currents.

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Publication:Indian Currents
Date:Aug 17, 2015
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