Dealing with bullies: the Siddharth Varadarajan way
Siddharth Varadarajan, former editor of the Hindu on 15 February tweeted thus:
Siddharth Varadarajan is outraged because Penguin Books does not play an activist role in opposing Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code. He has now demanded that his book, ‘Gujarat, the Making of a Tragedy’ be pulped and the copyright be reverted to him so he can deal with bullies on his own terms.
However, the copyright information in the book says that the copyright for individual articles vests with the individual contributors and Siddharth Varadarajan himself has the copyright to the Introduction. So the demand that he be given the copyright is a strange request.
One also finds the following on page 203 of his book.
At a public meeting held at Law Garden in September 2001 (the details of which were obtained from interviews by the author with the police), highly provocative speeches were made in gross violation of section 153. No action was taken. One of the comments made at this public meeting: ‘There are thirty-six ayats of the Quran that should be removed because they perpetrate violence; to make Islam less violent, these thirty-six ayats should be removed.’
In a riot situation, it is critical that police respond… In any case, the law for prosecuting individuals under section 153 of the IPC requires the government to sanction the registration of a case, something the Modi government would be unlikely to do.
So let us get this straight. Siddharth Varadarajan wants Penguin Books to give him the copyright of a work to which he and his friends already own the copyright so that he can aggressively publish the demand to enforce Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code and thus deal with the mean bullies who lodge complaints based on Section 153 of the penal code? Got it?
We then move on to page 294 of the book which contains a piece authored by Siddharth Varadarajan and Rajdeep Sardesai among others. Here is an excerpt.
On 14 March, a group of PUCL representatives told the police commissioner that local TV channels needed to be warned. We tried to get copies of the offensive tapes to submit to the NHRC, but were not given these… In the last week of March, owners of two TV channels, VNM and News Plus, were arrested, when in fact the other two channels, JTV and Deep were far more inflammatory. It is significant that when people were housebound in the first week of terror and violence, with curfew all over the city, local cable operators were airing aggressive nationalist films like Border, 16th December, Ghadar, etc.
So Siddharth Varadarajan wants to ban Bollywood movies? Why not? The Taliban would approve of the ban. After all, in May 2001, he filed a report for the Times of India defending the Taliban. Entitled “MEA goofs on Taliban ‘decree’ against Hindus,” the report claimed that
The ministry of external affairs goofed when it condemned the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for allegedly forcing Hindus living in that country to wear yellow clothes, stop wearing turbans and start following the Shariat.
He claimed that he had spent two weeks in Afghanistan and was therefore some sort of authority on the real nature of the Taliban and “found no substance in the allegation.” All this was propaganda started by “Masood Khalili, the anti-Taliban Afghan ambassador in New Delhi.”
He would have gotten away with this piece of pro-Taliban propaganda but it came undone within a day when the Taliban put out a statement justifying their actions. A humiliated Times of India then carried a piece retracting their false claims.
A few suggestions for Siddharth Varadarajan: While on the topic of getting the copyright of your previous works so you can use them on your own terms against mean bullies, can you please get the copyright to your editorial in the Hindu dated 22 June 2011 and use that as well? That way everyone will know that you are the brave hero who will rid India of restrictive laws like Section 153. Specifically, this is the part you need to use:
If the Lokpal bill represents an effort to get the law to change its course on the crime of corruption, the new draft bill on the prevention of communal and targeted violence is a modest contribution towards ensuring that India’s citizens enjoy the protection of the state regardless of their religion, language or caste. […] Apart from including the usual Indian Penal Code offences, the NAC draft modernises the definition of sexual assault to cover crimes other than rape and elaborates on the crime of hate propaganda already covered by Section 153A of the IPC.
Meanwhile, you should also let the world know how the faculty members at the University of Chicago have set a fine example when it comes to free-speech rights. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has pointed out that the university has a different set of free-speech laws when it comes to students and polices their posts on the social networking site Facebook. Here is a letter written by FIRE to the university’s president highlighting this fact.
So you are on the same page as the faculty members of the University of Chicago who believe that free-speech rights are best served when others are silenced into submission so that they can listen to you when you exercise your free-speech rights!
A final suggestion. When you deal with the mean bullies on your own terms by publishing your works, here is a title you can use: How we banned ourselves, wailed about it, and fought against mean Hindus so that we don’t ban ourselves in future.
[The author can be reached at email@example.com.]