Indians are quite bummed out today. This is not only for the reasons one would imagine, like the possible threat posed by CAA-NRC to the very Constitution we are celebrating, but also because Republic Day falls on a Sunday this year. Hence, we, the citizens of India, have been deprived of one of our fundamental rights —the right to have an extra holiday.
This has led to such gloom that I am now compelled to begin a petition asking Parliament to float a bill ensuring that Republic Day is shifted to weekdays. I also pray that this bill becomes The Republic Day Holiday Act, faster than a rickshaw and just as fast as a CAB.
This proposal is not as frivolous as it seems, when you consider that we must still abide by laws such as the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, which warns us that drunk telegraph operators and people using unauthorised telegraphs will face a penalty. Considering the telegraph itself has gone the way of the dodo, I suppose this bit owes its existence only to a sense of nostalgia. The same emotion that welled up in the heart of a geriatric relative when he ruefully confessed that he once sent a telegram to a colleague that stated, ‘Congratulations on your new underwear!’ and then had to send another, ‘Sorry! Not underwear but endeavour!’
This anecdote also proves that technology may change but human behaviour stays the same. His message was slightly less embarrassing than mine, when wanting to ask a friend about a pretty white dress she had on the previous evening, I ended up sending a WhatsApp saying, ‘Babe, lovely whore dress!’ Autocorrect Murdabad!
Then there is another bizarre law that could possibly be used to suppress citizens into silence. No, not the sedition provision which I’ll come to later, but the East Punjab Agricultural Diseases and Noxious Weeds Act 1949, whereby during a locust attack, people are supposed to go around beating drums. Some intrepid Rajasthan farmers added loud DJ music to the mix recently to scare the pests away. I hope this one doesn’t get repealed not only because I can use it to torture my Dilli wali sister, but all Mumbaikars can get an upper hand on their Delhi-based frenemies when they visit the capital. Simply start beating a drum in the middle of the night and if anyone tries to stop you, just say, ‘I have seen two locusts in the vicinity and it is my duty to beat drums or I will have to pay a fine of Rs 50, Aai Shapath!’
These archaic laws may have lost their utility over the years, but they are largely harmless unlike the sedition provision of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. The Voldemort within our legal framework, it is so ambiguously worded that it has been used, among other things, against thousands of people protesting against the CAA, against cartoonists and poets, against an unarmed girl holding up a ‘Free Kashmir’ placard, and this week as a warning by a chief minister against those raising ‘azadi’ slogans.
Outrage against the sedition law doesn’t belong to just our times. It can be traced all the way back to the founding father of this nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who called Section 124A ‘the prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen’.
I do have one request though. When they consider overhauling the sedition provision, I hope they bring back the Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act, 1911 that was repealed in 2017. It stated that it is illegal for more than 10 couples to dance together on the dance floor. I do believe that this law has great utility. When your eyes need some respite from the off-beat flailing limbs that constitute the fine dance form practised universally by all uncles, just ask the group to produce a licence or else to cease and desist. With 11 uncles, including some real and some rakhi ones among my in-laws who attend any party I have, this is one law I have a feeling could be very useful during family functions.
Coming back to truly pertinent things. Instead of focusing on how we slipped 10 places to 51st position in the 2019 Democracy Index even as we mark 70 years of our democracy, I have meditated a bit more on my Republic Day holiday scheme.
In the worst-case scenario, if the holiday bill is never floated in the Parliament, let alone passed, I still give you my word, readers and office-goers across the country, that with the power vested in me by absolutely no one except my two dogs, I declare that from next year and all the way till the next general elections, I will ensure that Republic Day will only fall on a weekday!
Wondering how I will deliver on this promise? Well, ask me no questions and I will tell you no lies, just a hint though, even if you are not interested in studying the Preamble to our Constitution that clearly spells out the ideals we need to protect today, do study the calendar.
By the way, I really hope Kejriwal reads this column. If he uses my trick of guaranteeing the Republic Day holiday bonanza all the way till 2024, then he will win hands down.
After all, politics is merely the art of delivering what seems to be undeliverable but was actually always part of the deliverables.
Illustration credit: Chad Crowe
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.