Current affairs & politics

Free Speech – Status check!

Absolutism is the virtue that applies to Freedom, if freedom is not absolute, It is anything but free! When it comes to free speech, I’m a not only a big supporter but also a fan of the concepts. Given the realities of our times it is all the more important that we have nothing less than free speech. Look at it, we live in a world that is watched over by cameras, run on web, every tiny detail is in the public domain. And here don’t you make the mistake of thinking if you are not a Facebook check in addict you’re discreet  When you pay digitally you leave an impression which is not only recorded but is also traceable- this is one of the many ways in which what you’re eating, what you plan to buy are all floating in thin air! I do not mean to discourage you from going digital. Because anything which is offline is making little or no sense in today’s world where between confidentiality & convenience- the obvious choice for many in most matters is the later. So, by all means you must & you should be digital. Mr. Modi has been spearheading this change initiative and it is only fair that we Indians support our PM when he is trying to bring about a positive change.

Traditionally, those in power have not openly denounced absolutism in free speech – everyone from Pundit Nehru to Narendra Modi have on occasions more than one made public speeches, even written articles supporting it. And as a nation we are making progress, one can’t deny that! Regulations such as RTI bought in Dr. Singh’s regime, to an extent does
 extend the power to the common man to know things which they do not have direct access to (well, the debate on validity of items exempted from this act is for another day – right to privacy is also what is dear to us). But is knowing enough? At a personal level perhaps it is all that is needed but when we talk of a society essentially thriving on exchange of all kinds – from goods to money to Ideas to even identities in some cases ..only knowing is not good enough! Let’s me give you an example if Mahatma Gandhi kept the knowledge of power of truth and non-violence to himself would we have managed to get out of the clutches of British oppressors? The answer to that question is simple- NO, we wouldn’t have. It was needed that he communicated the goodness to other people, he used the twitter of then – Radio, Newspaper, magazines apart from every effective deployment of public meetings, prayer gathering to reach masses to ‘network’ to gather support for his ideas – and we have today a whole nation to ourselves.
 
So, knowing alone is never enough
. Communication of what is known is knowledge when kept relevant. Then we come to that aspect of free speech that is often debated and discussed in societies which are progressive and consultative. How much should be allowed? Well, if you are wanting to regulate you’re not a supporter of free speech, very clearly! For two reasons, when we allow people to speak their minds freely without fear or pressure, we not only let ideas out but also get to know how good or bad our knowledge or morals are.

 Let’s take an example –  when an MLA is allowed to freely say – “Cow is the only animal that exhales oxygen and that cow dung can neutralise radioactive substances”. We know it for sure the level of education and general awareness is so pathetic in our county, so we know that there is work to do! Had our man not been allowed to say what he believed in we wouldn’t have possibly understood that gap that exists – therefore it is important to let people say what they have to, even if what they are saying is stupid or plain dumb.
 
The other aspect is shouldn’t we draw lines as people have often misused the right to free speech by spreading misinformation, abusing people, hurting and insulting sense and sensibility of others on purpose. These are valid concerns. Some may not like to have jokes about Jains eating potatoes, or Sardars having common sense or Biharis being well groomed etc . But if we take everything out, what are we going to joke about? Or in other words express our discontent/observations, freely? A good way of looking at a situation like this is comparing it with food options available at a 5-star restaurant – it offers all kinds of food, veg and non-veg, Indian, Chinese and Mongolian and other kinds but do we choose all? No, we don’t, we eat whatever suits our taste. Same should be the case with free speech and insult, take only what suits your taste ignore the rest and like you do not ask to ban an eatery that also sells food that you don’t like, you shouldn’t go crazy after those who say things which doesn’t sound nice or appropriate to you. People must and should have the right to say whatever they wish to.
 
Those who want to gag free voices, more often than not – take refuge in hate speeches to say that regulation is a societal need.
Free speech on ‘hate speeches’? As a county we have seen enough instances of violence and public disorder which were cause by motor mouth hate mongers. They on purpose have said and done things which have hurt sensibilities of people who in turn have raged causing severe damage to the state and society. Goes without saying, we shouldn’t let a hate monger walk free inciting uncalled for disturbance but to say that you can’t hate anything is as logical as is the statement that peacocks breed on sweat.
 
Nothing can justify putting those who say things you do not like to permanent silence of death, in any society . In past 2 weeks, we have seen noted thinkers and writers being tortured & then murdered. If we were to believe the report, since 2013 in UP alone more than 200 journalists have been killed? What does it say about the state of free speech in our country? We must never forget that we live in a great country, it provides for, all of our needs. But that does not mean that we as citizens shouldn’t question the very well-being of the very nation we call home. One and all should be allowed to say whatever they have to. Killing a writer or silencing a contrarian view will never do this country any good!
 
Let us not forget, death is not the end! Mahatma was killed but his values continue to live and guide people around the world, even today!
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