In India there has been a growing demand from political, media and business elites for stringent ANTI-TERROR legislation. In their pursuit to repress their own fear, they demand fear among the public so that the public doesn’t terrorise the masters. At opportune moments and places, to aid them (one can never tell whether there is conscious mutuality or not) we have ghastly incidences like yesterday’s in Delhi, or earlier this year’s in the BJP run states. Such incidences effectively create a required legitimation for such McCarthyite demands. You need to just watch the tv news channels with their distinguished guests and “ex”s from politics, police-military bureaucracy and new ‘security intellectuals’ who unabashedly demand repressive laws to control their own fear and create fear among the “faceless” “terrorists”.
Probably matters of coincidence – in the morning of the tragic day we read about “the UPA government speaking in different voices over the need for enacting tough anti-terror laws by the States”. The government’s National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan openly favours the Gujarat government’s proposal for a state law against “terrorism”. And there was a considerable coverage on the opposition party’s three-day conclave which was entitled “Terrorism to be the BJP’s major poll plank”. The party leader Rajnath Singh said that “only after Advani becomes Prime Minister will there be a decisive initiative”. And in the evening there are blasts throughout Delhi. What a day-case for anti-terrorism.
If you are conscious of the material organisation of newspapers and media reporting, you will find this pattern repeated daily.
US Supreme Court Justice Brandeis while disagreeing with the Court’s analysis in upholding a conviction for aiding the Communist Party in Whitney v. California (1927) (though concurring with the disposition of the case on technical grounds), made the most brilliant case possible within a liberal democratic framework against fascistic ideologico-legal regimentation:
Those who won our independence… knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they eschewed silence coerced by law — the argument of force in its worst form. Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.
Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burned women.