Recently, we came to know that the Telangana government led by Honorable Mr. K. Chandrashekhar Rao, is proposing to make usage of “harsh language” as a cognizable offence. The government can investigate you for using “harsh language” without permission from the courts, and this perhaps will also include you being in jail for using “harsh language”.
One might naturally be wondering what constitutes “harsh language”. Perhaps language like – “Even if blood flows on the streets of Hyderabad, we will never allow the construction of Hyderabad Metro”? This is a statement made by Mr. K. Chandrashekar Rao. It’s another matter that he along with PM Modi recently inaugurated a 32km stretch of the Metro Line.
Or perhaps language like – “If any media writes against Telangana and it’s culture, we will break their necks and bury them 10km deep”? This is a statement made by Mr. K. Chandrashekhar Rao, as Chief Minister of Telangana. Will this be considered as “harsh language” enough? Or will this be considered “harsh language” in response to “harsh language” used by sections of the media?
Or perhaps language like – “Which bastard policeman told you to get me here”? In the heat of the Telangana movement back in 2011, Mr. K. Taraka Rama Rao, son of KCR and then MLA, has posed this question twice. He is now a minister in Telangana cabinet, and has also apologized for his outburst that day. However, am a little curious – given today’s proposed law, will an apology be enough for the police not to go forward with arresting for “harsh language”?
Or perhaps language like – “Arey Stephen Ravindra, useless fellow”? This language was used by Mr. T. Harish Rao. He is KCR’s nephew, and now the irrigation minister in KCR’s cabinet. He is receiving fulsome praise for his work in Irrigation (much of it is well deserved, by the way!). However, if this same law existed back in 2013, would Harish Rao be able to become a minister today? Perhaps it is time for some reflection?
Actually, let’s go back even a bit. Mr. Harish Rao not only used “harsh language”, but even beat up an officer in the Andhra Bhavan in Delhi. Nothing happened to Mr. Harish Rao after that. In fact he is now a cabinet minister in Telangana. We don’t even how the psyche of the poor officer has been after that ugly violent incident. What an irony that today, the government Mr. Harish Rao is part of, is proposing prosecution merely for using “harsh language”.
However, what prompted this law now? I think, perhaps the recent war of words between a minister and a Congress MLA led to this situation. Mr. Revanth Reddy, who recently jumped from TDP to Congress, is known to use strong and at times abusive language. Last December, responding to a war of words, he went off script and started addressing the minister with an unparliamentary word. While these have become a huge debating point in regional media shows, one has to really wonder if calling someone a bad word really warrants a jail term?
Leave aside the politicians – how can this law be applied towards the common people? Tomorrow, if someone criticizes KCR and or any minister for say 30 minutes, can this law be applied on them? If someone compares any of the office bearers to exhibiting dictatorial behavior, would the “harsh language” law come into force? If someone criticizes the government body for lax responses (and this can be a pretty common scenario), and expresses frustration, will the “harsh language” law come into force?
It is really unfortunate that not enough debate has happened on the passage of this law. We often hear debates about free speech and intolerance. If this law is not about trampling one’s free speech, then what is? If this law is not about intolerant to criticism, then what is?
While writing this article, I have taken many precautions to avoid using any kind of “harsh language”, except for citing a few references of what can be construed as “harsh language”. Am hoping this article will not land me into trouble.