“National Symbols” – Impossible to FORCE Someone to Respect Them

It’s obvious that the charges of sedition against Aseem Trivedi cannot stand. If anything, he loves the country too much – not too little. Only someone who is emotionally invested in a nation will take such pains to consistently spread the word about what’s wrong with it. No – it’s pretty damn obvious that sedition is not the problem here. Even Binayak Sen was granted bail and the courts are pretty strict about the specifics of sedition.

The real charge facing Trivedi is for “disrespect to national symbols”. He showed the Ashoka chakra with wolves instead of lions, showed the parliament as a toilet and Ajmal Kasab peeing on the Constitution. We’ve all been taught in civics classes that we must “respect” the flag and other national symbols. But is this good? In my opinion, these stupid laws need to go as well.

How can you mandate respect? Can you create a law saying “Respect this!” And how do you enforce it? Look at the following list of actions and tell me which you think is illegal:

  1. I merely think to myself “I disrespect the flag” – legal or illegal?
  2. I merely think of something bad like peeing on the flag – legal or illegal?
  3. I tell someone I disrespect the flag – legal or illegal?
  4. I tell someone I want to pee on the flag – legal or illegal?
  5. I write that I want to pee on the flag – legal or illegal?
  6. I draw myself peeing on the flag – legal or illegal?
Can merely thinking something be a crime? If so, then we’re all screwed. No – a mere thought cannot constitute a crime. But that is exactly what the law makes it! “Respect” and “Disrespect” are thoughts. You can’t criminalize a person’s thoughts and emotions. And if you’re thinking something, it’s natural that you say it. Words are only an expression of what you feel. And writing is merely words on paper. Cartoons are just thoughts laid down in ink.
All of these are victim-less actions. No one is hurt, no one’s freedoms are being taken away. In my opinion, every law should ask the question – does this protect anyone? Will some specific person’s life become better because of this? Sedition laws and rules preventing the “disrespect” of national symbols fail this test. I don’t care if someone does something to the Indian flag. How is my life affected?
Thought crimes are the worst kind of laws. And expression is merely thought being manifested in the real world via books, paintings or speech. All of these should be protected because if you don’t allow them, you have to ask – is thinking about them illegal too? Imagine that the government had a monitoring device for your thoughts and it could prove that such and such an idea came from you. Can you think of the kind of laws it would create? *shudder*
Sedition laws need to go. Laws regarding national symbols need to go. They don’t make anyone’s life better and are insufferable violations of the Freedom of Expression guaranteed to us by the Constitution.
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  1. @ bhagwad,

    First of all, i honestly think you need to learn the English language to understand what others say in English.
    All throughout your comments on this post, you have done little other than praise the US as being a developed, sensible and a better country. Obviously in comparison to India. And nowhere in my comments did i say that american people or US as a country is better than India. Still you are trying to suggest that it is me who thinks Indians are inferior.
    I clearly stated that all over the world people are different regarding their physical and mental constitution. Nowhere did i mention any difference relating to Indians and Americans. And NEITHER did i say that a person’s brain is superior than others. All i said was everywhere humans differ in their physical and mental structures. If you could and can still manage to find out if i stated a country or its citizens superior or inferior to another, do show me too. But how you managed to come to a conclusion that i’m saying that the people in US have a superior brain than Indians is again a mystery to me. Let me show you what you yourself said just in your latest comment.
    “In India, the state treats you like a kid. So people behave like kids. In other countries like the US, the state treats you like an adult.”
    “The US is proof that people are fully capable of controlling themselves.”
    So, it is you who is continuously trying to prove that the US is superior to India in terms of civilized behavior and sensibility. And you have gone on to praise the US as the champion of freedom of expression in one of your posts. And still you question me why i consider Indians to be inferior to Americans. Are you on some kind of narcotics? Seriously!
    And though you claim to know so much about the US, your sense fails to enlighten you that the law and the police are efficient there to control and punish anyone who tries to create public disorder. The religious fanatics in the US know their disadvantage against the law enforcement agencies and hence channelize their hatred in the form of smashing planes into buildings. Obviously you don’t know that some of the key perpetrators of 9/11 were based in the US. There wouldn’t be any violent protests in other countries only if the law enforcement agencies were efficient enough.
    And probably you hate the news as well. As very recently, there have been more than just a couple of cases of hate crimes in the US. One of them specifically targeted the Sikh community. You seriously need to wake up to find that people get killed due to racial hate crimes in the US as well.
    And another set of your own statements where you contradict yourself :
    ““just like another person may have a nervous breakdown and dies of a heart attack or is debilitated for life after being insulted.””

    If such people exist, they need to be locked away in mental institutions and not be allowed to walk free on the roads.”
    AND then you flip by saying :
    ““And just because a person is emotionally fragile he should be locked up?”

    Quesiton of degree. If it’s so fragile that seeing something can make a person pick up a stick then yes.”
    You want to have the right to pee on a picture of a tiger. That is the best place you can find to pee. And you have the nerve to talk about others to be locked in mental asylums? Are you sure you dont fit the required eligibility?
    And since you are continuously harping on why the Muslims in the US are not protesting, do read the following link carefully if you are sure you will understand English this time.


    • In reply to Arun P

      To start off with, let me draw your attention to an anomaly. You’re the one advocating polite decent speech, and yet if you read your comments on my blog, almost all of them contain personal attacks. Read my responses and you’ll see that I’ve never insulted you or spoken rudely to you.

      Strange huh? Looks like even though I advocate free speech, you’re the one who induges in abuse.

      Since this is my blog and you are a guest, I suggest you behave like one and don’t abuse the generosity of your host. You’re more than welcome to set up your own blog and spout as much abuse as you want. But you don’t come to my house and piss on the carpet. Keep your language polite and respectful.

      Now moving on…

      Of course the US is superior to India in this regard. But not because of genetics or because they have a better brain. I say it’s because of culture.

      You on the other hand claim that it’s human nature to feel deeply offended and that for some people, an offense is as bad as a physical attack. Clearlymost people in the US don’t feel this way. They treasure and value the first amendment. So either they’re not human, or your understanding of human nature is flawed. If you want to talk about human nature, then you’re simply suggesting that Indians are genetically inferior – which I refuse to believe.

      “that the law and the police are efficient there to control and punish anyone”

      AHA! So now we come to the real truth. People react violently not because they have to or because it’s somehow morally okay. They react this way because they can get away with it. Surely then the solution in India is not to censor speech, but to improve the law and order situation? That just makes sense no?

      Your attempt to use a few isolated incidents to generalize in the US is illogical. There will obviosuly be a few stray incidents. The question is the scale and whether or not it’s instilled into the very fabric of the country like it is in India.

      With regard to your last link, condeming something peacefully is fine. I also advocate that. In fact, I condemn it as well! But condemning it is not the same as wanting it banned. I’m talking about legal ramifications here.


  2. @ bhagwad,

    Exactly! i managed to put across what you were trying to dismiss all through. Even though you continuously wrote about having to live with insult, you eventually gave in to your own emotions regarding my abusive words to you. You couldnt shut your eyes from my abusive comments. Could you? You felt insulted and asked me to behave. You didnt accept having to live with the abuse, as you have said so many times earlier. Of course this is your space and not mine and it is similar to entering your room and abusing you. But as you ask me, i ask you, is it illegal? But no matter what, in the end, you felt insulted. And that is what i wanted to convey that one cannot always run away even from emotional hurt. Could you have avoided my abusive comments even before reading them. But once you read them, you couldnt help but feel hurt/insulted. Even though it cannot be measured, but the emotional/mental distress i subjected you to did have an effect. I wonder, even though it was absolutely wrong morally to abuse you here, would i be liable for punishment if i was a US citizen? i guess not. And though i wouldnt be held guilty by law for it, even if just in the US, i still think such behavior should be prevented by law.
    And even though i’m sure that you wont accept that you felt hurt/insulted, i feel i proved myself right that even you could react to abusive language. Even though you moved on back to the discussion, you did react. So, even if you were sensible to move on, still you were not emotionally immune. That was the sole purpose of the language i used in my comments.
    As you correctly pointed out that i shouldnt abuse you since you didnt abuse me in any of your comments, likewise, if a national symbol is not hurting you, why do you want to disrespect it? Should i ask about my right to abuse you? NO. Because i think it is wrong. Even if i do it on my own personal space.
    And since you will continue to accuse me of calling Indians inferior, which i never did, and while yourself saying things like “The question is the scale and whether or not it’s instilled into the very fabric of the country like it is in India.” i think it is no point taking this any further.
    Finally, i just want to ask you, couldnt we have continued our debate in a polite and respectful manner without ME resorting to abuse you? Since you yourself agree to this by asking me to be polite, i ask you, why is it important for someone to have a right to abuse? Specially when points can be put across by being polite and respectful as well.
    And for all the abusive words i used towards you, i say a humble sorry.


    • In reply to Arun P

      Thanks Arun. But it raises some interesting points.

      Since this is my blog, I don’t need to shut my eyes to anything on it. If you create your own blog using your freedom of expression, then I would indeed be obliged to just put up with anything you say.

      “But as you ask me, i ask you, is it illegal?”

      Of course not. I wouldn’t want it to be illegal. It’s very easy for me to ban people – the power is in my hands. I don’t need the government to interfere.

      “that even you could react to abusive language.”

      My point is that only violent reactions are bad. Any other reaction is perfectly ok.

      “But once you read them, you couldnt help but feel hurt/insulted.”

      I wasn’t hurt or insulted. But it detracts from intellectual debate which is what my blog is focused on. Moreover, even if I was hurt or insulted, I would put up with it. I wouldn’t ask the government to put you in jail.

      “likewise, if a national symbol is not hurting you, why do you want to disrespect it?”

      Here’s where we disagree. I don’t believe it’s possible to show respect/disrespect to something that is not living. And even for living things, I personally wouldn’t show disrepsect. I’m a polite guy. But I want the ability to be disrespectful if I want even if I never make use of it.

      “Specially when points can be put across by being polite and respectful as well.”

      Of course they can. Just because someone has the right to abuse doesn’t mean they will abuse. The right to abuse however is important because different people feel abused by different things and we can’t legislate uniformly. What one person finds abusive another person may find completely ok. So banning something for all people is disrespectful to people who want to hear everything.


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