‘Your words are truly killing me,’ says the Parliament Handbook

The Indian Parliament has a 900-page booklet that lists words that generations of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha presidents and presidents and legislatures have deemed unsuitable for the tender and sensitive ears of elected members. The long list of new additions has caused an unsurprising Twitter storm from the opposition, with Trinamool Congressmen Derek O’Brien and Mahua Moitra leading the charge that this is a gag rather than of a revision.

The lyrics “Sticks and stones/May break my bones/Oh but your words/They really kill me” is a singularly fitting fit for the new politics set in India’s 75th year of independence, the Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav and its 25-year extension to an Amrit Kaal, when India will presumably turn into a land of milk and honey.

MPs are not missing the mark because the list includes words the opposition should use, frequently and loudly, as part of its primary responsibility to hold the government of the day to account. Alert oppositions in mature and healthy democracies that top the list of legislatures where freedom of speech is fully respected use many words that would likely make the President of the Lok Sabha and the President of the Rajya Sabha swoon.

The sensibilities of the ruling order, it seems, exceed the sensibilities of the socially tense Victorian era, given that the list of revisions includes “ghadiyali aansu” (crocodile tears), “apmaan” (insult) , “asatya” (lie), “ahankaar” (arrogance/pride), “”corrupt”, “kala din” (black days)”, “kala bazaari” (black market) and “khareed farokht” (literally marketing, but it’s safe to assume that would all be references to the wheel and the sale). The list is a deep-cleansing exercise of weeding out words that might be used in criticism of the ruling regime or the opposition.

Read | Complete list of “unparliamentary” words

There are a few notable exceptions; “Pappu” (meaning immature teenager), “termites” (meaning illegal cross-border immigrants), “appeasers” (meaning secular parties), “sickular”, “tukde-tukde gang” (divisive opposition) and “topi wallahs” (Muslims capped). The list is open to additions and revisions, provided that the political opposition, not only in Parliament but in the States, decides to join the battle with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

This year 2022 has been a time of inventiveness.

Unfortunately, these creative efforts are commercially useless as even the BJP cannot apply for a patent, not even in India, for its quirky and utterly suspect use of bulldozers in demolishing the homes of predominantly Muslim protesters during Ram’s auspicious period. Navami. The use of bulldozers has been selective; demolitions, sometimes without sufficient notice, and sometimes of properties that are neither illegal nor owned by violators named in the notices, whenever issued, have targeted citizens of the larger minority community. The inventiveness of inflicting immediate punishment on protesters by declaring the property an illegal construction was conspicuously absent as thousands of young men and women went wild after the unveiling of the innovative Agnipath recruitment campaign for the Defense Services.

Under the scrutiny of the international community like the European Union, including the governments of the United States of America and Germany, the Indian Parliament’s list of banned words is a challenge for critics. The German Foreign Ministry recently warned that “freedom of expression and freedom of the press are at the center of discussions with India” and that the European Union would be associated with this dialogue. This prompted India’s Foreign Ministry to dismiss the criticism and declare the arrests of journalists, including Altnews’ Mohammed Zubair, to be national issues and sub-judges, therefore barred from interference by external actors.

Read also | No dharnas, fasting allowed in parliament premises: Rajya Sabha Secretariat

The declaration of sovereign control over India’s actions and words whenever a foreign government or international body raises growing concern over India’s increasingly autocratic democracy signals the regime’s ever-increasing sensitivity in power to be held accountable for human rights violations. The need to build protective walls around the actions and words of the ruling government is a manifestation of its awareness and intransigence in the Lakshman Rekha’s breach of a specific code of conduct expected of robust democracies. The boundary is subject to interpretation; it also means that intrusion is also subjective.

The timing of the release of the list of unparliamentary words is an act of aggression in an already intensely divisive political environment. The monsoon session of the Lok Sabha begins next week, and the ruling majority has made a decision, but exactly what that may be will be determined as they continue their declaration of forbidden words by others. shares.

The word list can be a language test of the opposition’s ability to replace the forbidden with antonyms. It can be an act of dictating the terms of political discourse and monitoring compliance or violations. It may be an incendiary invitation to the opposition to take the language struggle to the public, in the same way India’s Supreme Court held the “loose language” of Nupur Sharma responsible for putting ” set fire to the whole country”.

A printed list of words issued by the Parliament of India, oral orders issued by a galaxy of BJP spokespersons, saffron-clad seers, legitimized by appointments by the independently constituted orders to which they belong, since there is no not a single appointing governing institution of the diversity of sects, orders and cults that are Hindu by faith on kosher practice for Kali Puja are signs of growing confidence and consequently intolerance.

The “average Indian”, a person frequently invoked by BJP spokespersons to declare that this individual and this community were offended and disapproved of the offerings of meat and alcohol to “Kali Mata”, is the fruit of the ‘imagination. The average Indian uses words that are now considered unparliamentary, such as corrupt, arrogant, chamcha and kala bazaari, to express their displeasure with the prevailing order and local officials of ruling parties, states and the Center. The Agnipath generation has repeatedly used “bekaar”, meaning useless, and “dhokha”, meaning cheating-fraud-deception, against the Narendra Modi government for its inventive recruitment strategy of four-year contracts.

The President of the Lok Sabha and the President of the Rajya Sabha can erase the prohibited word records. None of them has the power to control the tongue of the average Indian. Nor do these people have the power to control what has been and can be said again by leaders like Labor Minister Anurag Thakur, who used the word “gaddar” to tell a crowd that traitors should be used as a practical “goli maaro” target. saalo ko.”

Between dictating what is blasphemy in the worship of Goddess Kali and forbidden speech in Parliament, the BJP has taken a giant step in setting the rules of conduct expected in a new order governed by the Hindutva agenda and politics of the majority Hindu Rashtra party. The President may monitor the words spoken within the Lok Sabha. Does the BJP have the ability to control the diversity of religious ritual practices in India and the sayings of the masses of average Indians? Is India ready to inaugurate an Inquisition to separate the heretic from the true believers?

Speech policing is already in place, given the inclusion of the word “snoopgate” in the prohibited list, with its obvious reference to the use of Pegasus spyware to illegally eavesdrop on journalists’ conversations and communications, activists, judges and ministers, including the current Minister of Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw. The prevailing sense of insecurity about “agencies” overhearing conversations and monitoring social media traffic, including Facebook posts, underscores the extent of concerns about the Modi regime’s operations and intentions. The confiscation of cellphones and laptops by police and agencies from those arrested and under investigation is another indication of the government’s sensitivity to the use of the words.

It would appear that the Modi regime has decided to take inspiration from the Instructions to the Rulers of Arthashastra, where Kautilya urges the monarch to establish an effective network of spies, not against a hostile outside entity but against the domestic population. The legitimization of a new order, in education, in governance by insistently invoking ancient texts is a clue as to how the future might unfold.

(Shikha Mukerjee is a Kolkata-based journalist)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

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