HT Picks; New Reads
On the reading list this week is a volume that makes a case for why political speech must be constitutionally protected, a book that examines the President’s role when authoritarian governments are voted into power, and a coming-of-age novel set in troubled times
Sedition and free speech in modern India
When we think of the Indian Constitution, we think of the glorious chapter on fundamental rights which guarantees paramount civil liberties such as freedom of speech. But there is also a tension, because freedom of speech is compelled to co-exist with laws such as sedition – contained in Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). In 2021, numerous individuals petitioned the Supreme Court to take sedition off the law books.
But, what is sedition? What is its provenance? How was sedition used in colonial India against nationalist leaders? Is there any constitutional justification for its continuance?
In A Constitution to Keep, Rohan Alva answers these timely and relevant questions which every Indian should be asking. The book also makes a case for why political speech must be constitutionally protected and how the Supreme Court can do this while ensuring the purity of political discourse.*
An insider’s account of the Zail Singh years
A study of the institution of the President of India, this book is based on the author’s term as Deputy Secretary to the seventh president, Giani Zail Singh. In particular, it examines the President’s role when authoritarian governments are voted in power. Things are all the more challenging for a president with a popular prime minister who has an overwhelming majority, as happened in the case of Zail Singh and Rajiv Gandhi.
The book recounts how the guardrails painstakingly created by the first two presidents – Rajendra Prasad and S Radhakrishnan – were partly resurrected by Zail Singh. Richly anecdotal and incisively observed, The Indian President makes a compelling case for why the Zail Singh years are crucial to understanding both the limits and the possibilities of the country’s highest office.*
A novel of modern India
India, 1992. The country is ablaze with riots. In Lucknow, ten-year-old Shubhankar witnesses a terrible act of mob violence that will alter the course of his life: one to which his family turn a blind eye.
As he approaches adulthood, Shabby focuses on the only path he believes will buy him an escape - good school, good degree, good job, good car. But when he arrives in Mumbai in his twenties, he begins to question whether there might be other roads he could choose. His new friends, Syed and Shruti, are asking the same questions: together, buoyed by the freedom of the big city, they are rewriting their stories.
But as the rising tide of nationalism sweeps across the country, and their friendship becomes the rock they all cling to, this new life suddenly seems fragile. And before Shabby can chart his way forward, he must reckon with the ghosts of his past.
Dazzling and deeply moving, One Small Voice is a novel of modern India: of violence and prejudice, friendship and loyalty, community and tradition, and of a young man coming of age in a country on fire.*
*All copy from book flap.