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It is offensive to pretend that anyone is shocked by Kerala’s draconian new censorship law

Pretending to be shocked or surprised by Kerala government’s new law is like being shocked that Stalin would cheat while playing hide and seek as a kid.

First, the Kerala model of healthcare fell even behind the Bihar model of containing Coronavirus. Then, there was the gold scam. And elections in Kerala are due in six months. Naturally, it is time for Kerala’s Communist government to bring a new law that could impose five years in jail for “offensive” posts on social media.

And with this, Pinarayi Vijayan has established himself as one of the most forward thinking and open minded among Communist leaders who have ever been. This law could be the beginning of a kinder, gentler Communist Party.

I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way. It is very factual. You cannot expect Communists to learn democratic values overnight. It has to be a gradual process. For instance, the NDA government in Bihar was recently facing three term anti-incumbency. It pleaded its case before the people and won again. The Communist government in Kerala is facing just one term anti-incumbency. But Communists don’t react like that. They can only react with oppression. It’s the only thing they know.

This law is a beginning. Five years in jail for “offensive” social media posts. I presume that the accused will get some sort of hearing in a court of law before the conviction. A judicial process. No torture. No death penalty. And no concentration camp. This is a step forward, folks. Towards a kinder, gentler brand of Communism.

In the recent past, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan has been an outspoken fan of North Korea’s Communist dictator Kim Jong Un. In the past, the CPIM had passed a resolution supporting the 1989 Tiananmenn Square massacre in China. Some people say that as a student “leader,” Sitaram Yechury had himself distributed Chinese Communist propaganda on the Tiananmenn Square incident. When the Communists ruled over Bengal, there were 28,000 political murders in the first 20 years of Communist rule. This is the official number that the Communist government admitted on the floor of West Bengal Assembly. We can only guess what the real number would be.

In view of this, a legal process and a maximum penalty of five years in jail does not seem so bad at all. If you are lucky, the penalty could be as little as a fine of Rs 10,000. Historically, dissenters against Communism never got such a good deal.

If there is one thing that is offensive, it is a handful of liberals pretending to be shocked by Kerala’s new law. First, there were not many of them. But a small handful did put out one or two word tweets feigning disagreement.

You have to understand that this is just positioning. The tiny handful who objected are also part of the plan. To create the narrative that Communists have some kind of conscience. Don’t judge the left by what they do when they are outnumbered and in the opposition. You have to judge the left by what they do when they are in power.

Further, with these one or two word tweets, they are trying to make you think that this draconian law is the worst thing that the CPIM has ever done. If there was a time to be shocked, it was when Pinarayi Vijayan paid tributes to a convicted murderer. Or when he supported Kim Jong Un. If there is something to criticize the CPIM for, it is the 28,000 political murders under their rule in Bengal.

Pretending to be shocked or surprised by Kerala government’s new law is like being shocked that Stalin would cheat while playing hide and seek as a kid.

Yes, if a BJP government had brought a law such as this, there would have been earth-shattering outrage. Liberals would have brought down the sky with invocations of some Pakistani poet who writes about liberty by smashing idols or something. They would have booked the protest venues at Jantar Mantar for months. And millions of $$$ would have flowed from Chinese government coffers to Western newspapers and from there on to Indian liberals to militate against it. And so what? The BJP, the Congress, or say the Samajwadi Party or DMK are part of some sort of consensus on Indian democracy. Despite all the differences.

Are the Communists part of this democratic consensus? Ask a Communist if they even accept the sovereignty of India. Who do you think the Communists supported during the 1962 war? The Indian Communists use the hammer and sickle. The same emblem that appears in the Soviet flag and the Chinese Communist Party flag and in flags of Communist parties worldwide. They are not trying to hide anything. If we can’t see the obvious, the joke is on us, really.

I will tell you what the hardcore Communists are thinking right now. They are thinking that sweet old Pinarayi Vijayan has gone too soft on dissenters. The Communists who once ruled Bengal with an iron hand would laugh at his new law. Kim Jong Un would be so unimpressed. Stalin sent his dissenters to build a road in the Siberian permafrost. Some 10 lakh human bodies are buried inside this road, which cuts through some of the most scenic landscapes in the world. They call it the Road of Bones.

In this backdrop, Kerala government’s new law should be seen as an attempt by Communists to engage with India’s democratic and judicial institutions. We should welcome this. Or better still, figure out what Communists are really about.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a columnist and author.  

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