History opens us up to various ways, we ‘humans’ discovered to organise our existence, from small groups to big countries – these were essentially created to generate order. Initially it was about the most powerful, physically, leading the herd, because then challenges used to be tough and limited to situations that demanded power, for example someone who could lift a fallen tree branch with ease usually used to be the one to lead the group into the forest, but, thankfully, we made progress and devised better ways of leading life, our focus shifted from mechanical difficulties to hurdles that were more complex in nature necessitating application of the ‘mind’, that change, created space for the ones who where sharp and wise to take the centre stage, physical strength receded in the background for a while and sized from being the sole criterion for success in social life.
We made further progress by accepting commonalities of tradition, culture and therefore history – small groups made way for bigger societies.
Many forms of governments came about, from Kingdoms to colonies to arguably the finest form which is Democracy .. may progressive nations embraced it, inspired by USA’s prosperity and the choice that our foresighted leaders made, India when it got its independence made no mistake in accepting to abide by its fundamental principle to build a nation that will be free and progressive and thrive on principles of equality and plurality.
70 years, ever since we attained our political freedom, struggle for personal liberty is yet not over! When I say this, I do not wish to argue that we do not enjoy ‘freedom of speech’ or that fundamentals of our nation is in anyway is against it – we are in a free political system, we get to vote, we can challenge from citizens to governments in the court of law etc.. but are we free to pursue our choices is the question, I shall try and explore with you.
A democracy can’t function without rule of law .. after all, there is a need for order and equality but should the same law be allowed to become a medium of subversion of personal liberties? Progressive India of 2016 has many such instances, that in an unequivocal way underlines the systematic invasion of personal freedom prevalent in our politically free society – mentioning a few sad examples to put things in perspective.
#BeefBan – There is a law that prohibits certain states within our country from consuming a food item, which isn’t hazardous in any way, is a rich and poor man’s source of protein but hurts religious beliefs of a community that happens to be in majority and sentiments of a few who don’t see beyond obvious. What does it result into- a BAN, what about freedom of those who would like to eat it? Which part of our democracy is not working? Why is it not being challenged?
#HomosexualityBan -Decriminalisation of Sec 377 was followed by a quick decision to overturn the previous ruling rendering it criminal again, is glaring proof of the fact that, there is a section in our society which believes that time has come for the law to recognise these as legitimate choices that people wish to make, still the final ruling found more merit in the argument that seems to have not progressed since the ice age – result, freedom denied to those who wanted to exercise it.
#NationalAnthem made mandatory before screening of movies – The rationals of this judgment has given an edge to those, who to end discussion, pop ‘nationalism’ to every single imaginable situation. These are the same people who belatedly compare hardships of common people with life of a soldier to bring home the point that we must all suffer without complaining or trying to change things because nation is important and paramount – Love for the nation has been transformed into a duty towards the state, in which rests all power – an obligation, failing to which, is going to attract punitive action, not just by the court of law but almost immediately by the fringe vigilantes who now have a SC ruling to support their misguided narrative of nationalism.
Where are we heading? Will over use of national anthem not kill the emotional appeal making it mundane and meaningless to many?
Well, actually speaking no one will ever debate against the need to value one’s country and duty to respect its integrity but to make that argument sound extra patriotic and holy, should we have to give up on personal liberty? My view is certainly NOT!
If I don’t wish to stand when the national anthem is being played .. it doesn’t make me any less Indian, If I wish to have beef biriyani for lunch ..I’ not a criminal, if someone’s sexual orientations are not in line with the majority thinking, it doesn’t make them offenders – in principle, but in the eyes of law- it does, sadly – and that is why I say, political independence is not a grantee of personal liberty, even in great democracies like ours.
There is a need for us to get democratic in true sense of the word .. where we start according freedom to Ideas that don’t match with the popular or prevalent views, we must create enough space within our discourse for newer and radical thoughts to germinate freely – How else do we progress from being a demo democracy to a truly free society?
Remember dissent keeps democracy breathing – the question is what does it really require?
if it requires civil disobedience, we must legitimately be allowed to protest peacefully, without being called anti nationals or put behind bars because law makers and enforcer are hand in gloves in killing what essentially is the soul of free society – ‘free thinking’. Let people decide what they wish to eat, how they wish to live, which religion they wish to follow, they should have the freedom to challenge customs, deny & defy norms, not by going against the law of the land but by starting a discussion which suggests an alternative way of living, perhaps more free, open and progressive.
Without these liberties .. being free is being as free as is a bird within the rims of its cage.