ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Understanding the Concept of ‘Sedition’


As the editorial comment in the current issue of EPW suggests, the provision of sedition law has experienced a seamless transition from a colonial to a postcolonial state. However, what is important is to underpin the different meanings that have come to be attached to the concept of sedition. Sedition has a variegated trajectory in that during the anti-colonial struggle, the colonial state used it against the freedom fighters who were questioning the colonial rule. The freedom fighters, in turn, used it against those whose criticism of one-dimensional approach to freedom was considered an anti-nationalist struggle. Thus, any Shudra–Atishudra or subaltern criticism of political freedom as the “only” conception of freedom, on moral grounds, was condemned as a seditious act. Those who were at the receiving end of such a condemnatory description, also used the vocabulary of manav droha, a seditious act, against human dignity. The extension of meaning of droha, in its logic, did encompass those whose social domination motivated them to defy the universal moral laws that were aimed at both distributing and persevering equal dignity to all human beings along with their human and, hence, civilisational rights.

It is needless to mention that the colonial state created the provision of sedition law with the purpose to control various nationalist expressions that sought to question the colonial rules. These expressions were represented both by the radical/rhetorical nationalists as well as the moderate nationalists. As has been pointed out by scholars, various expressions of “disaffection” with the colonial government were considered as a punishable crime by the punitive power of the sedition law. From the point of view of liberal nationalists, the sedition law that was used against the freedom fighters was unfair inasmuch as it denied the latter the right to a nationalist imagination and subsequently get their own independent nation. It is in this sense that the act of defiance and dis­obedience of the colonial authority, even in the face of sedition law, has been seen as patriotic in the anti-colonial context.

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Updated On : 14th Aug, 2021
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