Are We Intolerant Towards Freedom of Expression?

"If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." -George Washington

We are tolerant Indians who believe in the freedom of expression. We firmly believe in accepting a difference of opinion as long as you don’t go against the religion we practice, the political party we support, and most everything that we believe in as individuals.

Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie, the winner of the Booker Prize for his novel Midnight’s Children, notes in his work,
“What is Freedom of Expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”

 

Secularism, which is the belief that religion should play a role in the government, education, or other public parts of the society, is something that we have boasted of since Independence. However, looking at the state of affairs today, this faith is shaking. To begin with, it’s important to quote the example of the celebrated Bollywood actor, Aamir Khan, whose concern about the safety of his family due to the growing intolerance in India was blown out of proportion and led to one of the biggest controversies of the day. This as an example of the rising intolerance towards freedom of expression when it wasn’t even directed at a religion or a political party, yet everyone in that category felt offended. If a citizen of the country feels insecure, it is our duty to assess their situation and come up with solutions rather than sending death threats and confirming their fears.

 

in an article titled, ‘The Myth of Intolerant India’ published on the Indian Express website, the writer claims that since our constitution ensures Freedom of Expression as a fundamental right, the issue of rising intolerance was only a farce. He also goes on to claim that because a few Indians are intolerant it doesn’t make the entire nation intolerant.

When in July of 2013, Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen remarked that he won’t be supporting the then BJP candidate for Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, for he failed the secularism test, Modi supporters criticised Mr Sen’s opinion by posting partly-clad photographs of his daughter Nandana online. Painter MF Hussain was hounded from the country for his bold painting portraying nudity of deities. The Tamilian actress Khushboo faced criminal prosecution for hurting the dignity of Tamil women on account of her remarks on premarital sex being an acceptable practice. And how can we forget the incident following Bal Thackeray’s death when a woman who posted against the strike going on in the city on Facebook was sent to jail along with her friend who liked her post?

Exactly how many women will be shamed, citizens exiled, imprisoned, or murdered before we accept that freedom of expression is no longer being tolerated. Even our Constitution places ‘reasonable restrictions’ on this right on matters of security of the state, foreign relations, public order, decency and morality, contempt of court and a few others.

If you don’t like a movie, tell your friends how bad it was; if you don’t like an artist, don’t attend his exhibitions; if you don’t like a book, write one criticizing it’s ideologies; however, banning films, exiling artists and burning books is not the answer, for this culture is only leading to a country where the mind is not without fear and the heads are bowed down. It’s as George Washington said,
“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

As for that freedom of heaven that Rabindranath Tagore wanted the country to awake in, seems very far.

 

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2 comments

  • Rijul Gill July 30, 2017   Reply →

    I find this article biased ??? Why ??? Because only the Muslim opinion has been taken into consideration . Getting straight to the facts , it’s a well known that there is trouble almost everywhere where Muslims are in sizeable numbers . Being a resident of Dharamshala , we have Hindus , Sikhs Buddhists , Jains , Jews , Christians but in recent years there has been a significant rise in the number of Muslims coming to Dharamshala . I speak on plain facts and don’t like beating around the bush. The Friday prayer at the mosque attracts so many Muslims . If you look back there were hardly any takers but now we have so many of them . It’s ok , no issues with that . But there is an alarming trend . The Kashmiri Muslims who come here have an anti India sentiment . They fund the stone pelters who spread unrest in Kashmir . Dharamshala is a sleeper cell of terrorists . A top Hizbul Mujahedeen commander stayed here in Mcleodganj in the guise of a labourer . The IB officials have confirmed it . A friend who works for the IB told that are you guys sleeping ? Dharamshala which has always been a peaceful place sees an immenent threat from the radical Islam . Now you will challenge me as to why the authorities are sleeping inspite of knowing all these facts . There are political problems . There are certain parties who cater a particular vote bank . In the garb of secularism they allow all the radical elements here knowing well that it can have serious repurcursions but who cares ? It’s just vote bank and minority appeament. All the communities have always lived harmoniously in Dharamshala but the future looks bleak with all the radical elements coming here . All religions are very accommodating but there is some issue with Islam it’s not inclusive . I believe every God / every religion is great but to say that only theirs is the greatest religion is like undermining others faith . They try to impose their belief on others which is simply wrong . Secularism truly means where one respects others belief / religion as well . The Kashmiri Muslims and communists have a leaning towards China which directly means that they are here not to do business but to Spy on HIS HOLINESS . The Dorje Shugden group owes its loyalties to China and it also has a significant hold . The Kashmiri Muslims are agents of Hurriyat who get funds from Pakistan to spread hatred , unrest and terrorism in Kashmir and other parts of India . Secularism is an abused term often used by apologists to get away with the heinous crimes that they commit . India is a great country and there is no place as beautiful and peaceful as Dharamshala . We must be warm hearted and open to all but at the same time we must be careful and be catious coz there are people who take undue advantage of our hospitality . Instead of seeing just one side of the story we must keep our eyes , ears and mind open to the things going on in our surroundings . The more you travel and the more you meet people , the more you get to know . Sensible debate on this topic is the need of the hour backed by some facts . These celebs just say anything and everything as per their liking . They have VIP protection , so they have nothing to worry about , we as common people should be worried about such things rather than them . Instead of falling prey to their false narrative we must investigate and then jump to any conclusion .
    Jai Hind
    Jai Bharat

    • sapiosexualindian July 30, 2017   Reply →

      If you were in the US last year, would you have voted for Donald Trump?

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