One of India’s fundamental rights is the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, allowing all shades of voices and opinions in our country. This freedom is the bedrock of any liberal democracy. But it is under severe threat in India.
Just look at the last week itself. A movie, Vishwaroopam, cannot be screened because of objections by a few fringe elements; author Salman Rushdie has been forced to cancel a visit to Kolkata because the state of West Bengal cannot guarantee his safety, and an FIR has been filed against sociologist Ashis Nandy for his comments at a literary festival. The context of Nandy’s speech has clearly been ignored so that some groups could score brownie points.
The real concern is the manner in which the respective state governments capitulate at the slightest threat of violence. The Indian government, which has the responsibility to uphold the Constitution, has chosen to stay silent, perhaps fearing political repercussions should it get involved. Yet, can political outcomes forever decide the fate of our fundamental rights?
Just five days ago, the country celebrated Republic Day, commemorating the day the Constitution came into force in 1950. But in refusing to defend our Constitutional rights, the state and central governments have betrayed the country. This cannot and must not be tolerated.
The Freedom of Expression is too valuable a right for us to allow it be suppressed every other day. Because attacks on this right are actually chipping away at the foundations of the democracy that is India.