Tamil Tribune

Which is a Real Democracy: India or America?
(Freedom of Speech and Democracy)

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, July 2009 (ID. 2009-07-02)
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OUTLINE

1. Democracy and Freedom of Speech

2. Freedom of Speech in United States of America (USA)

2.1 Alaska State Governor
2.2 Texas State Governor

3. Whither Freedom of Speech in India?

3.1 Constitutional Amendment of 1962
3.2 The Tamil Poet who Sought Independence
3.3 Arrests in 2008-2009

4. India is not a True Democracy

5. A Challenge to the Indian Government

ABBREVIATIONS

DMK - Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

LTTE - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

MDMK - Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

USA - United States of America

DEFINITIONS

Hindians: People whose mother tongue is Hindi (similar to Tamil speakers are sometimes referred as Tamilans or Tamilians).


1. Democracy and Freedom of Speech

India is often referred as the most populous democracy and United States of America (USA) as the most powerful democracy. True democracy cannot flourish or exist unless there is freedom of speech. Is there freedom of speech in India and America? It is the opinion of this writer that freedom of speech is guaranteed in the constitution and practiced everyday in USA. Although freedom of speech is guaranteed in the Indian constitution, Indian parliament put limits in certain areas in order to protect the domination of Hindi people over others. Let me explain it through examples.

2. Freedom of Speech in United States of America (USA)

2.1 Alaska State Governor

Alaska State Governor Mrs. Sarah Palin was the Republican Party vice-presidential candidate in the 2008 election in America. It was then reported that her husband belonged to the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP) that wants a vote to decide whether residents of the State of Alaska wants to secede from United States of America (USA). In USA it is not a crime to seek independence for a state as long as it is done without resorting to violent means. Unlike in India, they can contest elections also. In fact Mr. Walter Hickel was elected to the governorship of Alaska in 1990 as the Alaska Independence Party candidate with a vote of 38.8%. What I want to point out is that advocating independence for a state is not prohibited in a true democracy like America. Groups or parties seeking independence can hold meetings openly and talk about it. That is freedom of speech. That is democracy. (This is true in democracies like the United Kingdom, Canada and former Czechoslovakia also.)

In India, can anyone hold a meeting seeking independence for a state, be it Punjab or Assam or Nagaland or Tamilnadu? How long would those who organized the meeting would be thrown in prison?

2.2 Texas State Governor

Speaking at a tax protest meeting on April 15, 2009, Texas State Governor Mr. Rick Perry made a veiled threat that the state would secede from America and becoming an independent country if the federal government does not listen to its tax concerns. He was actually not serious about forming a new country, yet it is legal to say so in a democracy like America where "freedom of speech" is not just a phrase in the constitution but is practiced in real life.

If a chief minister of a state in India were to make any reference to state independence, how long would it take for the Indian central government to dismiss the state government and arrest the chief minister as an anti-national?

3. Whither Freedom of Speech in India?

This writer is from Tamil Nadu State and so a few examples from Tamil Nadu as to how freedom of speech is denied to those who advocate independence for Tamilnadu is given in this section.

3.1 Constitutional Amendment of 1962

Anyone advocating independence for a state can contest elections and put forth their case to the people in USA. There are no restrictions. This is true in Canada and United Kingdom (UK) too [Reference 1]. These are true democracies.

This freedom to contest in elections was available in the Indian constitution until 1962. In the 1962 election, a party in Tamil Nadu, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), which advocated independence for South India or Tamil Nadu won sizable number of seats in the state legislative assembly. (Although it did not win a majority, it almost quadrupled the number of seats from 13 (out of a total of 205) in 1957 to 50 (out of a total of 206) in 1962 getting 27.10% popular vote against the Congress Party that got 46.14% votes). Fearing that DMK could win a majority in the next election, Indian parliament hastily amended the Indian constitution to prohibit those who want independence for states from contesting elections. Thus the only means of achieving independence for Tamil Nadu through democratic means was shut.

Even this constitutional amendment did not prohibit anyone for asking for independence but only prohibited them from contesting elections. Yet the Indian and state governments prohibit those advocating independence from organizing public meetings to put forth their views in front of the people.

3.2 The Tamil Poet who Sought Independence

In the 1960s, 70s and 80s the late Poet Perunchiththiranar (popularly known as Pavalareru) openly and consistently advocated freedom for Tamil Nadu. His meetings were banned, speakers and meeting organizers were arrested (and often released the same day because, may be, police did not have a case against them), and those coming to attend the meeting were disbursed. Although Indian constitution guarantees freedom of speech, that freedom is denied to those who challenge the sovereignty of Hindian dominated India over Tamil Nadu and other states like Punjab, Nagaland, Assam, etc.

3.3 Arrests in 2008-2009

The Sri Lankan war between Sri Lankan military and minority Tamil fighters, the LTTE, raged in the later part of 2008 and early parts of 2009. People of Tamil Nadu wanted India to stop the war but India would not; instead it helped the Sri Lankan military. Some angry Tamil leaders spoke up against it. Police arrested leaders of the political party MDMK (Vaiko, Kannappan, Nanjil Sampath) and Tamil movie directors Ameer and Seeman for making secessionist and/or seditious statements. They denied ever making such statement. As far as this writer could put together from various news reports, some of them allegedly said that if India continues to help the Sri Lankan army and Tamil civilians continue to die in large numbers, Tamil Nadu may break up from India. This again shows there is no freedom of speech in India when it even remotely threatens Hindian dominated Indian rule over non-Hindi peoples.

4. India is not a True Democracy

If people cannot express their views in a non-violent manner in the press, media and public meetings, then it is not a democracy. Under this criterion India is not a democracy. If people who refuse to accept Hindian domination over other peoples cannot contest elections, then it is not a democracy.  Under this criterion India is not a democracy.

5. A Challenge to the Indian Government

Tamil nationalists of Tamil Nadu make a challenge to the Indian government. Allow freedom of speech in Tamil Nadu for one year prior to the next state legislative assembly election. Allow us the freedom to put before the people of Tamilnadu the reasons for and benefits of independence for Tamilnadu. Then allow us to contest the State Legislative Assembly election and prove our strength in Tamil Nadu. 

Alternately, allow us the freedom to put before the people of Tamilnadu the reasons for and benefits of independence for Tamilnadu. Then hold a referendum (plebiscite) asking the people of Tamil Nadu directly if they want to continue to be part of India or want to be an independent country. Tamil nationalists of Tamil Nadu swear to respect people's verdict. Will the Indian government do the same? 

(EDITORIAL NOTE: Some Tamil names are spelt differently by different people. Here are a few variations of names used in this article.

Kazhagam - Kazagam

Nalankilli - Nalangkilli

Pavalareu - Paavalareru

Perunchiththiranar - Perunjchiththiranar 

REFERENCES

1. Hold a Plebiscite (Referendum) in Tamilnadu on Independence (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 2008 (27 KB)

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