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May The Light Shine.

I have respected the need for 'Freedom of Speech' ever since I first understood what it meant, sometime during a Civics class in school. It is the necessity for a society to grow. Ideas and opinions need to flow from one side of the table to the other. As a proponent of free speech, this freedom is something I take very personally and seriously.

But, today, almost 18 months after one of the most hallmark decisions taken by the Indian electorate, I wonder if such a freedom exists anymore. It does exist in the Constitution, technically, but on the ground? I'm skeptical.

A democracy like ours is very complex for me to explain, but a few things that I believe are underlying to the very fabric of our country are the need for rules and laws that are common to everybody. That all people, all religions, all languages must be treated equally.

Yes, the Constitution of India doesn't recognize a national religion or national language. Hinduism isn't the national religion, and Hindi isn't the national language. And that, has been the reason for the harmony throughout the country despite the differences! Isn't that something we Indians have been taking pride over for decades?

A very significant difference I have observed is around me towards any critic of our respected PM Narendra Modi, his policies or the BJP. Be it renowned authors, journalists or the humble blogger. Each word of opposition uttered is disregarded and the person in question termed anti-national, quicker than the blink of an eye!

A debate over every decision, every choice, every law, is quintessential to a democracy. It ensures that each ground is covered and there's little chance for a mistake. A country that doesn't allow such a debate isn't much different from a dictatorship. And while many among us may wish that for India with NaMo at the helm, the Constitution in its current form doesn't allow for it.

A democracy allows me to not have the same opinion as the leader of my country, and yet peacefully co-exist without any fear. If this provision didn't exist, we wouldn't be able to fearlessly promote NaMo pre-2014 elections. Think about this for a second. 

If pro-NaMo is showered with praises, shouldn't someone anti-NaMo atleast be heard, too?

The most often cited reason for criticism of anyone with an anti-BJP opinion is that they are paid by the opposition party to do so. And, I don't deny that some may as well be! But, is that how blinded this country has become in 18 short months to ridicule every speck of criticism without even a fair thought? Doesn't that scare you?

Everyone who points out NaMo's mistakes shouldn't be going to Pakistan. Everyone who presents opinions that don't align with the Government's isn't endorsing other parties. Everyone who returns an award isn't looking for headlines and publicity. They may not have supported BJP before elections, but this BJP Government is their Government too, and they deserve to be heard without any reservations.

Something has gone wrong in the last few months, something very simple but, significant.

May the light shine.

P. S.: I do understand the responsibility that lies comes with the freedom that words shouldn't incite communal violence in any form. And, I am not contesting that for even the slightest second.

Comments

  1. Don't worry, our freedom is intact. We've thus far being speaking against this and nothing wrong has happened. The blind dismissal of any opposing view by BJP fandom and other extremist elements is a real problem though, and I expect them to remain in denial about their problems for as long as they can until public opinion is so significantly polarized that it just can't be denied. That...is actually not an infringement upon our right to speak out, it is a refusal of these people to listen and reason. That is a natural consequence of electing any party that calls itself "nationalist". If your point of pride is nationalism and your allegiance to one religion, you tacitly approve the rise of fanaticism among your supporters. You will notice such behaviour common to varying degrees among supporters of all right wing movements across the world. But India is young. Its right wing has rarely ever come to power, and the people have not had a chance yet to explore their policies in depth. These people in power right now are expected to fumble when it dawns on them that part of their party's agenda is out of sync with the national interest. I suspect Modi has already come to realise it, he appears angry that his aggressive focus on development is marred by the refusal of others in his side to forget the culture lessons and focus on economic progress. The seniors in his side have already shown much maturity, but the difficulty with stopping motormouths is that they can't risk alienating the fanatic supporters of BJP who brought them into power in the first place. In an ideal world, I should have the guts to put these people in their place and not worry about the next elections. But, well.. We can also argue that it will be irresponsible for them to risk not being re-elected so they can continue to do what they think is good work.

    I think this problem will persist. And it makes me happy. This is the first ever time something has spurred a real national level debate on the nature of freedom itself. It was easy to tolerate thus far when there was no dissent or when dissent was quickly disposed off. Now that the policy makers differ significantly from the public (ban culture, convicting people for sedition, people in power belting out shocking statements) will the country realize the real meaning of freedom - allowing dissent when it reeeeeallly differs from our own ideas. This - is a hard personal realization. And the problem is not just with the leaders.
    Do remember how most of our people are far too poor to worry about being politically correct. Unless they rise to a comfortable income - that is when India will no longer have remained a poor country - these issues will seem to automatically fade into the background. Until then, we should expect waves of people who are unaware of how to handle opposing views and find means to educate them. The key is to become wealthy. Quickly. Glad that Modi is working on that at least. Its far important that my right to eat beef at the moment. Although it doesn't affect me as much, there are other issues that need the government more. Its simply true even though I hate that it is.

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  2. As always, you have made a good point that everyone deserves to be heard. I do agree on this: Hinduism isn't the national religion of India. The country's diversity itself is the core foundation of its unity. And yes, there are some bad elements in this society who resort to hooliganism to put their point forward.

    Though I wouldn't call Hindi as a national language, I would rather put it as a common tongue that helps Indians to communicate with each other (the other common language being English).

    Well written. Good statement made.

    Peace, Poetry and Power
    http://www.bhavinshah.in

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  3. Awesomely written as always... The point about the anti BP thing is widely valid but people ain't concerned about it. Well written mate

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