Free speech in today’s India

First of all, let me clarify my stance : I am only writing this post because I am not in Mumbai, specifically Thane. No one likes to go to jail, just for exercising one’s right to free speech. Police these days seems more eager to arrest people on Facebook statuses and tweets. The rapists, murderers and other hardened criminals can ply their trade with impunity. No one’s out to get them. Free speech in today’s India is a risky thing.

Apart from one brave soul, Justice Katju, no one in the higher echelons of power came out to support that poor girl. This is what she wrote on Facebook, as a “free” citizen of our democracy :

“With all due respect, every day thousands of people die but still the World moves on. Just due to one politician died a natural death, everyone goes bonkers. They should know we are resilient by force, not by choice. When was the last time, did anyone showed some respect or even a two-minute silence for Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Azad, Sukhdev or any of the people because of whom we are free-living Indians? Respect is earned, given, and definitely not forced. Today, Mumbai shuts down due to fear, not due to respect.”

I do not find anything seditious in her comment. The same girl now is scared to talk to anyone and is apologizing to all and sundry : a few hours in jail can do that to anyone. So much for exercising free speech.

What further appalls me is some people I know who put things up as their status message :

Two girls legally punished for making joke of Bala Saheb’s death and commenting against ‘Mumbai bandh’ on Facebook.

Best news I read today. Such idiots who do not respect a great man like Bala Saheb and make joke on his death should be treated the same. Well done…

Really? Well done???

Thackeray was divisive, he encouraged vandalism and rioting. If you do not believe it, please visit this link. As a north Indian, I was often shocked and disgusted by the way he ran Mumbai like his personal fiefdom, and encouraged his sainiks to vandalize property and businesses belonging to non-Mumbaikars. The truth is that he would not have been able to, if the administration and police were honest and had the moral authority.

What I admired in the man was his bluntness, his intelligence and his charisma. He did what he thought was right. He definitely exercised free speech beyond what his Sainiks think is permissible for lesser mortals.

But why, as his legacy, are we allowing his party to clamp down on free thinkers?

I am raising my voice because I remember this famous quote :

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

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32 thoughts on “Free speech in today’s India

  1. Am scared of blogging too 😉 lest someone come and arrest me!
    Oh heck I am! I am here, if you want to come, come arrest me. I agree with you in bits and pieces (that’s my way of saying I agree with you in parts)
    What I did not like about the late politician is the way he treated non-Maharastrians or non-Mumbaikars. Respect cannot be demanded or forced. A friend form Kolkata rightly pointed it out thus…. “Any day I would rate Mother Teresa a greater human being than Balasaheb. When she died, did the leaves of policemen in Kolkata get cancelled? Was there a bandh call or fear amongst the people? Were there instances of riots? Why then do these instances happen when a politician dies and that too, naturally? Wondering what would the Shiv Sainiks had their leader died of Dengue? Eradicate all mosquitoes or malaria??Come to think of it, that would have been a greater service to mankind than a few decades in politics.”

    • Someone tweeted about a politician’s relative and got arrested. These girls faced the same treatment. Why should we give in to these kinds of terror tactics? The guy encouraged hooliganism and narrow regionalism. If our administration was not morally bankrupt, he would not have enjoyed such a long innings in politics

  2. We are the most fearless and the most fearing generation at the same time. It’s good to see not a reaction but a voice in respect (rather disgust) to what happened. Free speech has always been condoned/repressed/curbed and always will be. But it cannot be destroyed. It is human to speak. And till the last shred of humanity left in our insides, we shall.

    Fear is not always a choice. But sometimes it is.

    • Oh I am the first one to agree about fear, if I lived in Thane I would have vented inside my home and not written this post. But we have to speak out. This cant be allowed

  3. Whatever/whoever he was, there is absolutely no way people can be arrested for expressing opinions/views.
    That quote you have mentioned towards the end is one that should be remembered by ALL.

    • It is changing thanks to social media. Now everyone can speak out and will have an audience. I am deeply thankful for that. Voices of protest are raised – and are heard

  4. Oh I am afraid, in fact I thought a long long time before writing this post. But this kind of fear has to be overcome, otherwise how will we live? This is a free country, a democracy. Controversies will happen, disagreement will happen, but this is my space and I will use it to raise my voice against injustice

    • I just got called a non-Hindu by someone who wanted me to take down a status update on Facebook. Pathetic really how people want to bully a person who points out the truth. Complete failure of not only the state and law machinery, but also of the upholders of our once magnificent and tolerant religon.

      • Oh when people try to do my thinking for me, it gets me started 😛 I refuse to be bullied, it is as simple and straightforward as that

  5. Pingback: Are we becoming an increasingly intolerant democracy ? « My attempt to write

  6. Are we compelled to not speak ill of the dead, even if all that they are remembered for is their wrongdoings ? A real thug while alive. And a thug, even dead. A man who made a fine art of thuggery and divisive politics. RIP Bala’saheb’ Thackerey.

  7. I felt afraid too and also wondered if police will come knocking on my doors as well. I saw the interview of the poor girls and felt really sad for what they had to go through. I think this country is waiting for a revolution and perhaps it is us who will bring it about. You last quote was fabulous. I hope that we remember it.

  8. The sainiks are bullies, capable of a lot of destruction. As a country we need to raise our voices. Someone has to take on the morally bankrupt authorities who allow such people to flourish

  9. i feel sad looking at the sainiks; driven by extreme hatred and wonder if it’s frustration of their unemployment or really the destructive behavior that sena bred in its stables; How are they different from the jehadis anyway?
    and bollywood,despite its glamour,could never join hands against him.
    thank God the dog is dead,and that the sena is divided .
    i’ll give it a generation more,before mumbai belongs to India and not some odd ‘manoos’.

    • I think it will happen sooner. The man had a vision (however insane it was!) that knit them together. I do not think his insanity will last long. Hitler’s death destroyed the Nazis. They simply could not get their strength back

  10. Comment from Purba Ray :_
    This is India, the only right we are free to exercise is our Right to remain silent. Governance can fail, law and order can support the guilty and we our expected to grin and bear with it.

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