Thursday, July 25, 2013

No human right to his opinion to Mumbai eatery owner

Speaking my mind
No human right to his opinion to Mumbai eatery owner
Youth Congress enforces its law & diktat

When certain organizations and groups disturb Valentine Day celebrations, when they chase away a couple in amorous positions in public places, when they vandalise exhibitions of paintings by late renowned painter M. F. Hussain, our liberals, intelligentsia, secular media and human rights organizations cry hoarse at what they call "moral policing".  They denounce it as an outrage against personal/individual freedom of opinion and expression.  They dub it as an attempt to muzzle the freedom of speech and expression of opinion guaranteed under the Constitution in the Indian democracy.

So far, it looked the Congress which had so far been castigating Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, Hindu Sena etc. for vandalism in similar cases, is now trying to emulate those it condemned severely. Still more surprising is the so far silence of the so-called liberals and human rights organizations. Are our human rights activists and organizations are, intriguingly, maintaining a dubious silence only because the owner of the eater does not appear either to be a terrorist or a hardened criminal, like those in the Ishrat Jahan 'fake' encounter case?

To have a full grasp of what and why it happened, it would be interesting to go through the stories carried by almost every daily in the national capital. This is what The Statesman carried in its story headlined "Storm in a tea cup" on July 24:

"A plain jibe printed as a small footnote on a bill or receipt by a restaurant owner that takes a swipe at the United Progressive Alliance questioning the fiscal sense behind levying surcharge on air-conditioned hotels provoked a humourless protest from hordes of Youth Congress activists yesterday afternoon that finally forced a busy eatery, Aditi Pure Veg Restaurant, to shut down until further “orders” from the YC protesters.  
The owner, Mr Srinivas Shetty, says it is his right ~ since “India is an independent country” to have his say and express it openly. The hotel bills issued over the last fortnight carried a footnote that read, “As per UPA government, eating money (2G, coal, CWG scam) is a necessity and eating food in an A/C restaurant is a luxury.” He was protesting against the surcharge which the owners as a rule pass on to customers. His point of argument was that a cup of tea at his hotel costs Rs 12, but a customer is charged extra if he sits and sips the brew in an A/C hall.  
Angry YC activists did not see reason in Mr Shetty's argument. They bluntly told him that they have been instructed by their leaders in Delhi to force a shut down. One of the activists said that last week, on a visit to the KEM Hospital, across the street, some of his fellow YC members noticed the “derogatory” message printed on the bill. The issue, according to protesters, was referred to Delhi, seeking advice on how to tackle the insult. The missive from Delhi was clear: shut down the eatery, claimed the agitators. The YC men were led by local MLA Mr Kalidas Kolambkar and activist Mr Ganesh Yadav. 
After forcing the shut down they marched to the nearby police station to file a defamation complaint The cops say they have registered an NC (non-cognizable) offence under Section 501 of the Indian Penal Code that pertains to printing defamatory material for public display. 
The protesters warned the owner, Mr Shetty, that they would not allow him to resume business unless he gives an apology and withdraws the objectionable bill-book. Mr Shetty has no option but to accept the rude diktat. He has to print new bill books now. The Association of Hotels and Restaurants, or AHAR, has cold-shouldered the Aditi owner, saying it was a dispute between two parties. Nevertheless, Mr Shetty claims he has managed to successfully drive his point home." (

The above story raises many pertinent questions:
Does the owner of the restaurant have no right to express his views and opinion in this kind of democracy we have under UPA? If the restaurant owner has violated any law of the land, who will take cognizance of it – the police, the investigating agency, the courts or would the Youth Congress workers act as the complainant, investigator and the court, all in one?
Under what law of the land the YC workers have the right to force a busy eatery, Aditi Pure Veg Restaurant, to shut down until further “orders” from the YC protesters?
What is more demeaning is the claim of the YC leadership that they referred the matter to Delhi to "seek advice" as to how to tackle the situation. "The missive from Delhi was clear: shut down the eatery". Under what authority can the Congress leadership order and force the restaurant to "shut down"? Are we heading towards a rule by hooliganism? Are we witnessing the revival of once infamous jungle raj in Bihar?
Astonishingly, it is not against the YC workers who took the law into their hands and forced the eatery to shut down, but the owner against whom a non-bailable criminal offence has been registered.

Clearly the Congress leadership has one law for itself and quite the opposite for others.                                                                                                          ***

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