Sunday, October 31, 2010

Is ‘Freedom of Speech’ being misused in India?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

In 2001 noted author and Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy stood against the death sentence of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru. In August 2008 she expressed her support for the independence of Kashmir and on October 2010, at a seminar in Delhi named "Azadi – The only way", where Roy took part with Hurriyat Conference leader S.A.S.Geelani and Varavara Rao, Roy said that "Kashmir should get azadi from bhookhe-nange Hindustan". Article 19 of our constitution guarantees every citizen the ‘right to speech’ and time and again this has been both used and misused by the people of the country.

There have been calls in the political circle to book Roy for sedation under section 124 of IPC which states that “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India shall be punished to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.

Should there be a cap on this right in India? Technically speaking any vibrant democracy in the world should ensure that each and every citizen has the right to express their views and opinion. But people like Arundhati Roy make uncalled for statements which threatens the internal security of India. Scores of Human Rights organizations and free society thinkers would back her in this. Where are they when our soldiers are stoned at? When their families are attached inside camps by the so called ‘azadi’ fighters? We never hear the Arundhati Roys speak then.

The big question that has emerged after Roy’s statement is should she be tried for sedation? Technically yes but politically no. If she is tried with sedation she would become another martyr for the separatists in the Kashmir valley. The international powers (read Pakistan and its ally China) would have wanted India to commit this error. It is quite popularly known who the powers behind this moment in Kashmir are and how much of a local Kashmiri freedom struggle is this. It is sad that authors who have been so much rewarded in the nation easily fall into the conspiracy of the separatists.

In most of the great nations across the world people like Roy would have been dealt seriously had they misused Freedom of Speech in this manner. Hypothetically if Kashmir is free tomorrow will Roy be able to make such a call for the Kashmiri Pundits? Going by the way most of the Islamic states around the world are run she will have to face a barbaric punishment which should have just remained in the history books. What’s more being a woman she would have never been able to make a statement if people like Geelani have their idea of Kashmir realised.

We should make sure we believe in one thing ‘nation first’ and such acts of treason shouldn’t be encouraged. Some people didn’t like partition, some want statehood others want reservations. Should we give in to the demands of all in the name of freedom of speech? When did these human rights messiahs champion the cause of an individual suffering Indian? It is easy to jump in mass moments to gain publicity but that should not be at the cost of security and integrity of a nation. Not all acts of freedom of speech can be tolerated and especially ones directed towards disintegrating the nation.


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