Beyond the Politics of Ban

Is banning organisations a solution, asks Mahtab Alam

With voluntary confessions by the likes of Aseemanad, the demand for banning extremist organizations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has started coming up again, especially from people and communities, which have suffered the most. But the important question is will that help or is banning a solution, no matter what the colour of extremism be, Red, Green or Saffron?

(Courtesy: TCN)

Certainly, it is not a solution. The idea of banning is contrary to India’s constitutional democracy. Not only that as People’s Union of Democratic Rights (PUDR), one of the India’s most reputed human rights organisations, has rightly pointed out: “A ban imposed on political ideology, however abhorrent such ideology may appear, amounts to constricting legitimate political activity. In disallowing people an opportunity to publicly disagree or debate the views, it makes such views go underground and simmer and fester in our body politic. Banning an organization means curtailment of the fundamental freedom to hold political beliefs. Moreover, bans stigmatize and isolate particular politics by criminalizing it and provide a handle to the state to silence dissent and persecuting people for their beliefs and convictions.”

Banning an organisation also makes them go underground, and then it is more difficult to keep an eye on them. Hence lots of money has to be spent on security, law enforcement and intelligence. Moreover, one should also not forget that organisations like the RSS are like octopus, working at various levels, from local to international with different names and styles with an informal but strong network. For instance, take Aseemanand’s organisation Vanwasi Kalyan Ashram. It is not directly affiliated with the RSS, but no one can deny that it is the tribal front of the Sangh. Aseemanand was also not directly involved in day to day activities of the RSS. So is the case with Sunil Joshi. Although he was “expelled” from the RSS in 2003, his call records with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) say that he had close contacts with RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav till his death. So the obvious question arises here is what will be the benefit of banning them? And how many of them, that is, can we ban?

The most important thing, apart from bans being undemocratic, is that there is a politics involved in it — the politics of balance. When it comes to banning a Hindutva organisation such as banning an outfit like the RSS, the government needs to balance it with banning an Islamic organization like the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH). At least, that is what the history of banning tells us. In 1975, when the RSS was banned in the wake of the emergency by Indira Gandhi, the JIH was also simultaneously banned to “justify” the ban on the RSS. And this was repeated in 1992 after the demolition of Babari Masjid. But what is noteworthy here is that it cannot be vice versa. Congress party General Secretary Digvijay Singh, who is considered to be the most vocal, if not the lone voice, admits to it. According to a news report by PTI on October 7, 2010, Singh said that when he was the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, he found evidence against organisations like the Bajrang Dal and Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). “I asked for ban on both the SIMI and Bajrang Dal. It was accepted for the SIMI but not for the Bajrang Dal.”

Activists of Bajrang Dal offering prayers to their weapon on the occasion of Dussehra (Courtesy: Reuters)

Interestingly, in reply to questions whether there was a move to ban the RSS, the same person told reporters that banning is not a solution. Moreover, he said that to ban any organization one needs proof and evidence. Of course, to ban an organisation, one needs proof of the organisation’s involvement in unlawful activities. But here, one would like to ask, isn’t there more than enough proof and evidence of Sangh outfits’ involvement in terror-related activities? Yes, there is. But the fact is that despite being in power since 2004, the Congress party and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) preferred not to ban any of the Sangh’s outfit. Reports after reports, both by official as well as non-official (read civil society organizations and independent sources), have shown their involvement in what are called unlawful activities.

So it can be said that the politics of ban in the present system works in most cases against religious and ethnic minorities or against political groups, which are portrayed as a threat to the “national integrity” and “secularism,” while governments ignore the violent and terrorist activities of the communal fascists organization against the majority community and makes a mockery of justice.

Coming to the central question, if banning is not a solution then what? Or should they be left doing whatever they like? Of course, that is also not a solution but the solution lies somewhere else. No doubt, there are organizations like the Abhinav Bharat, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal and Ram Sene, which are communally fascist and need to be prosecuted. However, what should be kept in mind is that any attempt of prosecution must not curtail the fundamental right of association and the right to hold a political belief and to provide a chance to play the politics of ban. Precisely, it is the time to think and act beyond the politics of ban.

Mahtab Alam is a Civil Rights’ Activist and Independent Journalist. He can be reached at activist.journalist@gmail.com

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect BH’s editorial policy.


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