Freedom of Speech in India- A myth or reality

Freedom of Speech in India- A myth or reality
24 October

Freedom of Speech in India- A myth or reality

INDIA is a democratic country and democracy is based, at least partially, on the right of the people to express their views. Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right in all free societies; it is essential in decision making at all levels. When this basic human right is affected, people become very emotional and will do anything to protect it. This can lead to social unrest and even have negative effects on the economy. Some people argue that freedom of speech should only be allowed to a certain extent. However, in order for any nation to be considered free, it's citizen must be able to say how they feel.

But there is no such thing as absolute free speech. There is always a line that must not be crossed. And it varies for people. It is a democratic ideal, that every citizen is free to express his/her views, and thus influence his/her country and even the world.

Free speech is about our opinions. We have right to say what we want. However, freedom of information is also an important part of free speech. Spreading wrong information is against free speech because disinformation influences free speech for an agenda. People have every right to disagree with rationalists, nationalists and religious zealots and debate and protest in civilised ways.

 “A writer picks up his pen only when his sensibility is hurt.”

Indian constitution guarantees freedom of speech to Indian citizens but then three recent going on in India for voicing one’s thoughts in media against persons in power make one wonder if the freedom of speech is limited to a privileged few. A common man’s freedom of speech or expression seems only subjective and is rarely a reality in India.

A couple of years ago an incident that happened in Mumbai that created outrage across all sections of the population. Two ladies were arrested in Mumbai; one for posting up a comment about the shutdown of an entire city on account of Balasaheb Thackeray’s funeral on the Social media Facebook and the other for liking the comment. Based on a complaint filed by a local Sena member, the local Police swung into action with an alacrity seldom otherwise displayed in the enforcement of the letter of the law.

The recent case of Gurmehar Kaur and the reaction she drew from the so-called nationalists is shameful, to say the least. Maybe they didn’t understand the depth of Ms Kaur’s statement. Maybe they didn’t want to. Or maybe Gurmehar is too young to understand the repercussions of her statement. But she’s still entitled to her opinion and the constitution of India does guarantee her the right to express her opinion. What is clear is that we must call for restraint and compassion lest we betray the very system that upholds our rights. We must understand that intellectual levels cannot be the same for everyone and differ from person to person. However, intolerance in all its forms must be tolerated no longer. No society, religion, sect or country in this world is perfect. It was the man who made religion, who wrote holy texts, who built the caste system, it was he who formed nations, and it was he who built bombs. With time we evolve, as change is the only constant thing in the world.  India is not perfect, Pakistan is not perfect, America is not perfect, but I hope that humanity will find its own way. Freedom of speech is not only important, it’s integral to our development; the more it is practised in a country, the less oppressed the people.

- by Somansh Gupta

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