Azaadi debate: Why Venkaiah Naidu saying there are plans to change sedition law is alarming

"If raising azaadi slogans is not treason, then I don't know what is," Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu told India Today in an interview.

Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu today said that the act of raising "azaadi slogans" is treason. "If this is not treason then I don't know what is," the Union minister said opening a debate on what defines sedition. He also said the government is planning to change the existing sedition law to make it more stringent.

As the Ramjas College protest took a fresh turn with some videos allegedly showing students raising "anti-national" slogans, the senior minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet said, "The slogan of azaadi is followed by violence".

When asked about the government moving towards bringing a bill to amend the sedition law, Naidu said the Law Ministry in consultation with the Home Ministry will bring a bill.

A senior Union minister saying casually on television that there are plans to change the sedition law is alarming. It hints at the government's plans to make itself more authoritarian by denying basic rights to express freely, especially in college campuses.

The current sedition law allows people belonging to a broad spectrum - from a Hardik Patel in Gujarat to an Arundhati Roy - to be tried. The next move, it is feared, may be about a law that makes even criticising the government seditious.

NAIDU ON AZAADI

The minister while asking "who brought the sedition law" said certain people are raising anti-national slogans, trying to celebrate the memory of Afzal Guru, and raising the issues of separatism and independence to Kashmir.

"These people giving slogans are taking to arms in Kashmir, in Chhattisgarh, in Jharkhand. They believe power comes from the barrel of the gun... Sponsors of terrorism (also) believe that they can get azaadi by use of force. The slogan of azaadi is followed by violence," Naidu said.

The minister said that "such acts on university campuses are trying to create a divisive mindset, and we have the right to condemn it".

CHANGE IN SEDITION LAW

On the ideological battle with the Left, Naidu said, "Your ideology has been rejected by people... they are now frustrated and making ridiculous statement". Left leader Sitaram Yechury had earlier said why should people accept one standardised definition of nationalism.

Naidu said Hindutva is a way of life, and said "Hindu" is the broad, cultural identity of this nation and one cannot deny it.

THE DAUGHTER OF INDIA

The minister said he does not approve of BJP MP Pratap Simha drawing comparisons between 20-year-old Delhi University student Gurmehar Kaur and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, and called the martyr's daughter "the daughter of India".

He, however, said his party joined the Ramjas debate when "others jumped in to support Umar Khalid". "The Congress and the Left joined the proponents of azaadi and that is when the functionaries of the ruling party joined the debate," Naidu said.

The minister said the 20-year-old must be allowed to focus on her studies, and the larger debate is about azaadi and separatism.

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