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RSS is communal, ShivSena is fascist, I dont mind being called mao sympathiser : Prashanth Bhushan

In National on October 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm

My views on Kashmir not seditious, says Bhushan – India News – IBNLive.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Appreciate your joining us Mr Bhushan. First of all, how are you feeling today? Are you well? Are you feeling much better?

Prashant Bhushan: I am reasonably well, I still have some minor aches and pains, but otherwise I am alright.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Have you, in a sense, come to terms with what happened yesterday? Did you have any premonition, Mr Bhushan, that you could be targeted because of the fact that you have appeared in court defending, let us say, those who are called Maoist sympathisers, because of your views on Kashmir? Had you any premonition? Were there any threats that you had received?

Prashant Bhushan: No, not this kind. I mean I did not expect being physically beaten up in this manner. This was certainly unexpected but I suppose, given the kind of ideology and thinking and mindset of such people and such organisations, I suppose I should have expected it.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You should have expected it because of the ideology of such fringe groups, you might have heard the attackers justifying it, rationalising it. They claim to belong to a group called the Shri Ram Sena, and one of them says he belongs to the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena and was a former BJP Yuva Morcha activist. Do you believe that these individuals were acting on their own or do you believe they are part of a wider conspiracy, a particular thought process, a particular ideology?

Prashant Bhushan: No, I think they were acting on their own but you see this kind of fascist mindset is now increasingly being seen in several people and several organisations who feel that it is their right to just beat up people, intimidate people who do not share their views. I mean, this business about desh-bhakti etc might sound good, but have these people paused to consider what this means? Do they subscribe to the Indian Constitution? Do they subscribe to the freedom of expression, the right to dissent etc? And if they do not subscribe to that, if they feel that anybody who has an opposing point of view can be beaten up, then they have no right to call themselves patriots or desh-bhakts. In fact, they should then leave the country.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Okay, hold on Prashant Bhushan let me tell you the exact statement that you made that has led to all this apparently. You said in Varanasi, “my belief is that we should try to normalise the situation in Kashmir, remove the army, get rid off AFSPA and should try and win the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri people.” So far, so good. Then you go on to say, “If even then they continue to say they want to be separated, then we should allow a plebiscite and if that comes out and they still want to separate, then we should allow them to separate.” On a sensitive issue like Jammu and Kashmir, do you have nay regrets about making this statement?

Prashant Bhushan: You see, I had made it very clear that I am giving my personal views and these are not the views of Anna or Team Anna. But this Kashmir issue is an issue which needs to be settled and which needs to be amicably settled, politically settled soon. If it is allowed to fester, it is leading to enormous alienation among the people of Kashmir, which will have all kinds of frightful consequences in the future.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Do you have any regrets for saying that there should be a plebiscite and if the people want to separate they should be allowed to separate?

Prashant Bhushan: No, I don’t have any regrets, those are my views. I realise that those views are the minority views in the country today. That perhaps the majority of the people do not share these views but I think the time has come for the people of this country to think about this issue very seriously, to think of what is really in the interest of the people of India, as well as, in the interest of the people of Kashmir. Allowing the situation to go out of hand in Kashmir will not benefit India or Kashmir or anybody.

Rajdeep Sardesai: But Mr Bhushan there will be those who will say these views are seditious. There’s a case already against Arundhati Roy for virtually echoing similar views, that these views are seen as anti-national. How do you respond to those who will call your views anti-national and seditious?

Prashant Bhushan: That is absurd. That is an absurd point of view. This is why freedom of speech was given in a democracy and this is why the Supreme Court in that Kedarnath vs State of Bihar said, that ‘unless you are inciting violence or public disorder, it cannot be sedition.’ Now merely because some people, thereafter, incite public disorder by saying that ‘no, no these views are seditious and therefore I will go and attack and break public property etc’, that cannot make those views seditious. That only means that these people are acting illegally and they need to be controlled.

Rajdeep Sardesai: But Mr Bhushan, you say there is freedom of speech and it is guaranteed by our Constitution, but it is subject to reasonable restrictions. Article 19 is subject to reasonable restriction. Do you believe that calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir is one of those reasonable restrictions, if it is to offend or anger a group of people?

Prashant Bhushan: No, no, certainly not. That way Jawaharlal Nehru, our Prime Minister solemnly went and assured the United Nations that there should be a plebiscite and he would have a plebiscite in Kashmir. How can you say that these views are seditious or anti-national? You mean that this issue, which is for the benefit of this country as to how the Kashmir issue needs to be dealt with or settled, that this cannot be discussed freely and openly?

Rajdeep Sardesai: Okay, so you’re saying you have absolutely no regrets about the statements that you made. But Prashant Bhushan, it is interesting that while you have been appearing in cases for Maoist sympathisers, many people have targeted you saying you have been anti-national. Now that you’re part of Team Anna, the same people embraced you. Do you see the double standards, the dichotomy in some of the those reactions?

Prashant Bhushan: No, there is no dichotomy. You see, even people who may be communal may support the anti-corruption campaign and vice-versa, people who may support the anti-corruption campaign maybe opposed to, or most of them are opposed to this communal politics or this communal agenda.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Prashant do you have any problem if communal, bigoted people support your anti-corruption campaign? If people who are endorsing violence also support your anti-corruption campaign? Do you not see the dichotomy there or are you okay with that? Is it an umbrella in which everyone can join?

Prashant Bhushan: There is no dichotomy in that. What I feel is that people who are communal or who subscribe to violence have no business to be part of this campaign. But if they want to support an anti-corruption movement etc, if they strongly feel, unfortunately there are many people in this country, the RSS for example is an organisation which I regard to be communal which does have an anti-corruption platform, they are opposed to corruption though they are communal in mind in my view. We would like those organisations to shed their communalism, we would like those organisations to become secular and become involved in taking this country forward in every way not merely on the issue of corruption

Rajdeep Sardesai: But Mr Bhushan, sorry to interrupt you, but groups like the Shri Ram Sena or this Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena, using the name of the great Bhagat Singh, are to attack you and then at the same time say they are part of Team Anna, or part of the anti-corruption campaign, will you embrace them? Do you believe they should be allowed to share a platform with you?

Prashant Bhushan: No, no, they should certainly not be allowed to share platform with us. We certainly do not embrace or allow people whom we consider communal to share a platform with us, or people whom we consider corrupt to share a platform with us.

Rajdeep Sardesai: The point that I am making is that your anti-corruption campaign was a wider campaign. In that campaign different forces joined. Today we’ve heard even Mr Bagga saying that even he’s a supporter of Anna Hazare. Are you ready to accept all these forces even if they have different views to you on Kashmir and on Naxalism, so long as they are part of the anti-corruption campaign?

Prashant Bhushan: Yeah, they can be a part of the anti-corruption campaign. They will not be part of our platform if they hold views which are opposed to our core ideology which includes secularism. Certainly they will not be a part of the core committee or part of the planning committee or will be allowed to share the platform on this campaign.

Rajdeep Sardesai: But, you know, there is a feeling Mr Bhushan that the Anna campaign, in a sense much like what we saw happening to you, has created a ‘them vs us’ situation, where either you are with us or if you are with the Jan Lokpal Bill, then you are with us, otherwise you are anti-us. It is this mindset, some believe, that leads to attacks. Either you are with the Maoist or you are against the Maoist, either you are pro-plebiscite or anti-plebiscite, either you are with the Jan Lokpal Bill or anti-Jan Lokpal Bill, are we all creating a ‘them vs us’ attitude, including Team Anna?

Prashant Bhushan: No, this is a misunderstanding of the situation. You see, everybody in a democracy is entitled to say that ‘look if you don’t support this, what we believe in then we will encourage people to vote against you’ or ‘if you don’t support this, then we will oppose you’, but that doesn’t mean that ‘we will come and beat you up.’ You see, we have always; our campaign has always opposed violence, but everybody who has views on a particular matter is entitled to say that ‘look we will oppose you.’ They are certainly entitled to oppose me. If they oppose my views on Kashmir they can certainly oppose my views on Kashmir, but they are not entitled to come and beat me up or intimidate me.

Rajdeep Sardesai: But is a mindset or an environment being created where you have to be with ‘us’? It is almost a George Bush doctrine ‘them vs us’, Team Anna sometimes subscribes to it. Even Aruna Roy opposes Team Anna, then suddenly she is deemed to be a villain. I mean, are we creating in our society polarities which will lead to people like this taking the law into their own hands?

Prashant Bhushan: You see, we are entitled to say that these are our views. Obviously in a democracy that’s what you are supposed to say, these are our views and therefore if we want to make corruption into an electoral issue, are we not entitled to say that well those who do not subscribe to what we consider a proper, effective anti-corruption law should be opposed in the elections? Or that should be one of the issues we can oppose people in the elections.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir, the reason that I am asking this is that what happened to you is happening across the country. In Maharashtra, if you say anything against Shivaji you can be attacked, if say anything against Ambedkar, anywhere in the country, you’ll be attacked. Subramaniun Swamy writes an article, he also gets attacked. It is cutting across ideologies, cutting across individuals, cutting across states. Is there a mindset now which is being created which is making it easier for people to resort to violence? It is almost being rationalised, it os almost being justified in some ways.

Prashant Bhushan: Yes that kind of mindset is being created by some organistaions, including organisations like the Shiv Sena etc, which are in my view fascist in their whole thinking and in their whole actions etc. Therefore, that needs to be discouraged.

Rajdeep Sardesai: How will that be done? What should be done?

Prashant Bhushan: Well in my view all right thinking people should socially boycott them, should disassociate themselves from these kind of organisations. Thereafter, if they still go on intimidating people and practising violence on people, then I feel that banning those organisations should be seriously considered. Action should be taken against such people who perpetrate such acts of violence. They must be brought to book.

Rajdeep Sardesai: But there is a feeling that these are only foot soldiers, the Inder Vermas, the Baggas are only foot soldiers. The real minds are the leaders of these organisations. Do you believe that that is the only way, when those leaders are arrested, when those who propagate these ideologies are also targeted only then will this violence stop?

Prashant Bhushan: Yes I agree that the ring leaders or the leaders of such organisations who propagate violence, who propagate this kind of fascist thinking, that if somebody opposes their views then those persons should be beaten up or intimidated etc, the leaders of those organisations should certainly be booked. Not only booked, as I said, those organisations should seriously be considered to be banned.

Rajdeep Sardesai: My final question to you sir, Prashant Bhushan, after being attacked, after making those remarks, you’re still saying on this programme you have no regrets. Am I to understand that you believe that calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir is only a way of widening the debate? It cannot be seen as sedition or cannot be seen anti-national? Or appearing in court for alleged Maoist sympathisers cannot be seen as anti-national?

Prashant Bhushan: So far as alleged Maoist sympathisers are concerned, I have only, always, defended the victims of human rights violations. If defending the victims of human rights violations against police violence, against state violence etc makes you a Maoist sympathiser, makes you a seditionist etc, then I am happy to be called a Maoist sympathiser or a seditionist. But I don’t think that the Constitution says that at all. The Constitution gives a right to even citizen, a fundamental right, to express his views, to defend anybody and to say anything, even about how Kashmir should be dealt with, or whether Kashmir should be allowed the right of self determination or not.

Rajdeep Sardesai: And you don’t think that incites violence? You don’t think your statement calling for Kashmiri self determination is an incitement to violence? That the groups opposed to that will be incited?

Prashant Bhushan: No, that just amounts to saying that if I today say that the corrupt should be brought to book, then that will incite violence by the corrupt against me. That’s a totally nonsensical argument.

Rajdeep Sardesai:Okay. So, as far as you are concerned you stand by what you’ve said and you believe that you’ve been shaken in a way, but you’re certainly not stirred, you stand your course.

Prashant Bhushan: Yes.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Okay, Prashant Bhushan appreciate you joining us here on CNN-IBN. Thanks very much for talking to us.

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