Navjot Singh Sidhu hugging Pakistan’s General Bajwa deserves sedition cases and bounties because that is the new ‘normal’

Pathikrit Sanyal
Pathikrit SanyalAug 21, 2018 | 21:16

Navjot Singh Sidhu hugging Pakistan’s General Bajwa deserves sedition cases and bounties because that is the new ‘normal’

A man, who claims to be the Bajrang Dal district head for Agra, has made a video. Possibly recorded on the front-facing camera of a smartphone, the man, who identified himself as Sanjay Jaat, claimed that Navjeet Singh Sidhu — he didn’t get Navjot Sidhu’s name right — had betrayed the Hindus of the nation by hugging a Colonel of the Pakistan Army — he did not get General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s designation right either — despite Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, having warned his followers to never trust the “mullahs” — though many claim this is just falsity.


Jaat’s message was not just a summary of his emotions about the former Indian cricketer and a member of the Indian National Congress hugging one of the most powerful men in Pakistan.

No. It also came with an offer.

Jo in gaddaron ka gala kaat kar layega, usko Sanjay Jaat yeh paanch lakh rupaye ka cheque dega! (Whoever beheads traitors like him, Sanjay Jaat will give them this cheque worth Rs five lakh!),” he proclaimed, holding a cheque in front of the camera. While the details of the cheque in question were blurry in the video, the message was crystal clear: You can’t hug Pakistanis without hurting Hindus.

Does a hug warrant a bounty on one’s head? Clearly, this purported Bajrang Dal leader feels so. And even if his views don’t represent that of most Indians, a large chunk of them still feels that what Sidhu did was wrong. Even if they don’t feel comfortable with the idea of Sidhu being beheaded on the behest of an apparent Hindutva hardliner, they certainly feel that Sidhu is a traitor.


On the one hand, we have Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who told the press that, “Every day our jawans are getting martyred. To hug their Chief General Bajwa, I am against this. The fact is that the man should understand that our soldiers are being killed. My own regiment lost one Major and two jawans a few months ago and every day, somebody is being shot," adding, “It was wrong of him to have shown affection towards the Pakistan Army Chief.”

Photo: ANI

On the other hand, there is Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who, though taking a dig at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), dubbed Sidhu’s actions as “heights of shamelessness”, adding that should the Punjab minister have so much affection for a Pakistani General, he ought to consider contesting elections from across the border.

And leaving political entities aside, for they always need sound bites and they have their political agendas to see through, citizens too feel aggrieved that not only did Sidhu visit Pakistan to attend the oath-taking ceremony of the country’s new premier Imran Khan (who happens to be an old cricket world colleague of Sidhu), but also that he felt it was okay to hug a man who heads the nation’s armed forces. Sudhir Kumar Ojha, a lawyer based in Bihar, has slapped a sedition case against Sidhu.


For what joy?

According to Ojha’s petition, filed with Muzaffarpur’s chief judicial magistrate (CJM) Hari Prasad, Sidhu had insulted the families of Indian soldiers, killed by Pakistan’s army and terrorists sponsored by the country, by hugging General Bajwa and sitting next to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir’s president Masood Khan. Ojha also added that it was wrong of Sidhu to attend the celebrations in Pakistan just when India was mourning the death of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Sedition cases, casual utterances of the word “traitor”, bounties for decapitations.

These are all things that are now "normal" reactions to a hug.

On his part, Sidhu maintains that he was only reacting to General Bajwa telling him that he would open Kartarpur border on Guru Nanak Dev's 550th “Prakash Parv”. The Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, after all, closely associated with the life of Guru Nanak, is considered one of the holiest shrines of the Sikhs. Is it wrong for a man to thank someone, even if it is a Pakistani general, for a promise of this magnitude?

There is always room for criticism. With a geopolitical relationship as strained as India and Pakistan’s, any and all talks and actions need to be critically evaluated and, should it be required, reproved as well. But denunciations of Sidhu’s actions are vastly different from calling him seditious and treacherous and asking for his head to be served on a platter for the paltry sum of Rs five lakh.

The normalisation of these extremities is both terrifying and already visible in a rapidly polarising India that is approaching one of its most crucial elections. And normalised they have been. One has only to look back to 2017 and see how a BJP member announced that Padmavat star Deepika Padukone and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s decapitation would be rewarded with Rs 10 crore. One has only to look at the recent attack on student leader Umar Khalid that was most definitely a result of BJP supporters and leaders awarding him the tag of “traitor” (based on allegedly doctored tapes and a great deal of frenzied hearsay).

The words “sedition” and “treason” are not things one can casually misuse. They carry a lot of weight. To casually hurl them at political opponents without considering the context or the reasons of their actions, is not just morally wrong — this is a dangerous precedent to set. But, perhaps, the precedent has already been set and the country is now reaping the rewards of a culture of calumny that has been in place for quite some time now.

Last updated: August 21, 2018 | 21:16
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