Indian constitution took a regrettable turn on 10 May 1951 when Nehru piloted the First Amendment to the Indian Constitution, that became a law, which, among other provisions, restricted freedom of expression (FoE) by amending Article 19(1)(a).

In sharp contrast to Nehru, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution did the reverse—it expanded the ‘Freedom of Expression’ (FoE): prohibited the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, ensuring that there is no prohibition on the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. This First Amendment, along with 9 others, was adopted on 15 December 1791, and constituted the Bill of Rights.

Nehru’s amendment was perhaps provoked by the Supreme Court judgment of 1950 on the ‘Romesh Thappar vs The State of Madras’ case, through which the ban on Thappar’s Marxist journal ‘Crossroads’ was lifted. Through the case, the Supreme Court had effectively recognized unfettered freedom of expression as compliant with our original Constitution, like in the US.

Thanks to Nehru’s amendment above, poor Majrooh Sultanpuri, the famous and brilliant lyricist and poet, was thrown into Arthur Road jail in Mumbai in the early 1950s for a year for writing a verse critical of Nehru! {URL36} Dharampal (1922–2006), a highly regarded thinker-scholar, author of the ground-breaking book “The Beautiful Tree” among his many other profound works, who had addressed an open letter to Nehru critical of the humiliating 1962 India-China war debacle, was also jailed by Nehru. Nehru was indeed terribly vicious and retributive towards his critics—and yet there are those who extol him for FoE.

During the Nehruvian era, a number of books, films and film songs that appeared directly or indirectly critical of the government were censored or banned. For example, the famous poet Pradeep’s song in the film ‘Amar Rahe Ye Pyaar’ of 1961 was censored because of these lines: “Hai! Siyaasat kitni gandi; Buri hai kitni firqa bandi; Aaj ye sab ke sab nar-naari; Ho gaye raste ke ye bhikari.”

Nehru was not really a liberal in the classical sense, nor was he familiar with the intrinsic Hindu ethos of freedom of expression and free flow of ideas. Hinduism allows, and even encourages, people to discover their own truth.
Tibet Episode: Another Glaring Example of Nehru’s Anti-FoE Stand
Please check the background and other details under “Blunder#33: Erasure of Tibet as a Nation”. This is what Sita Ram Goel highlighted:
“But public opinion in India was exercised about Chinese occupation of Tibet as it meant a threat to India’s own security, apart from suppression of Tibetan freedom. Nothing could be done immediately to mobilise public opinion and put pressure on the Government of India to change its China policy. It was only on August 22, 1953 that a meeting of leaders from various patriotic political parties, including Members of Parliament, decided to raise unofficial India’s voice of protest against the continued occupation of Tibet. The meeting set up a Tibet Committee and announced a Tibet Day to be observed in September. But as soon as the news of this idea being mooted appeared in the press, the Prime Minister came out against it in a public statement issued the very next day. According to Hindustan Times dated August 26, ‘He referred to a report that some persons proposed to hold a Tibet Day. He thought that it was ill-advised and asked members not to take any interest in it.’ The meeting on August 22 had set up a Tibet Day Committee under the Chairmanship of Shri Gurupadaswami who was a Praja Socialist Party (PSP) Member of Parliament at that time. But another MP on the Committee, Prof N.G. Ranga, had to tender his resignation from the Committee on August 28 under pressure from the Prime Minister with whose party he was at that time negotiating the merger of his own provincial Krishakar Lok Party in Andhra Pradesh.”
“The Committee, however, did its duty by the country and the cause of human freedom in Tibet. More than eighty persons marched to the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi carrying placards and raising slogans asking Red China to vacate Tibet. Later on, a meeting was held in New Delhi Town Hall and addressed, among others by Shri Gurupadaswamy, Shri V.P. Joshi of the Jana Sangh and Munshi Ahmed Deen of the Praja Socialist Party.”
“The Prime Minister felt annoyed with this effort. He put pressure on the press in New Delhi not to publish news of the Tibet Day demonstration and meeting. It became widely known in journalist circles those days that Feroze Gandhi, the son-in-law of the Prime Minister and a Director of the Express Group of newspapers at that time, explicitly ordered his chain everywhere not to report these events in the Capital.”
“A few days later, the Prime Minister did something infinitely worse. Speaking on Foreign Affairs in the Rajya Sabha on September 23, he denounced and threatened the organisers of the Tibet Day in a language which was wild. He said: ‘Sometimes—not often, I am glad to say— some exuberant people organise some demonstration or other against friendly countries… They proclaim a Tibet Day . Why anyone should proclaim a Tibet Day passes my comprehension, more especially at this juncture. Who the genius was who suggested it or whose bright idea it was, I do not know. But anyhow here was this Tibet Day about ten days ago—nobody has noticed it—but a dozen to two dozen persons marched through the streets of Delhi to proclaim their love of Tibet and marched to the Chinese Embassy and demonstrated in front of it with loud cries. Well, it is rather childish, all this and extraordinary that grown-up persons should behave in this way and show up, because if a couple of dozen persons do this it does not indicate, if I may say so, any powerful body of opinion. In fact, it indicates their own smallness and folly. I mention this because it is perfectly ridiculous. I don’t mind if anybody thinks so and wants to oppose us, not in argument or debate or even in public streets. Well, if he goes beyond a certain limit, any Government will have to take action. We don’t take any action normally speaking. We have not, but what I want this House to consider is the extreme, well I use the word ‘folly’, of such activities. Members of this House do not attach any importance to it, I know. But there is the rest of the world which exaggerates and which may be interested in exaggerating these incidents which come at a moment when we seek help in delicate matters in developing a spirit of friendly cooperation and tries to create trouble.’”
“This statement was full of insinuations. Here was the Prime Minister of a democratic country showing extreme intolerance for, and interfering publicly with other people’s freedom to think and express opinion about matters which concerned the security of the nation. The Communist Party of India and its fronts had built up before his own eyes a formidable apparatus which was leading demonstrations, every now and then, against this or that foreign embassy, and heaping the foulest possible abuse on several friendly countries. The Prime Minister has, to this day, never uttered a word against even acts of hooliganism enacted by the communists outside those embassies—burning cars, stoning, and manhandling office staff. But a small and dignified protest on the part of some patriots to draw the attention of their people and Government to the threat posed by China’s illegal invasion of a buffer State, made the Prime Minister furious and robbed him of all sense of proportion and propriety. The Prime Minister had shown himself partial to a communist cause in utter disregard of national interest. In the process, he had made himself utterly ridiculous as well. On the one hand he said again and again that the protesters against China were only a few people who represented no one except themselves. On the other hand he chose to spend so much breath and create the impression that the event was very important. His threat of action against the protesters, of course, was nothing short of criminal.”

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