Freedom of speech and expression in Modi-fied India
Last year, when I went to attend a press conference in San Francisco, a European journalist (who is also my colleague) came up and asked me: “Uday, is it true that there is no freedom of speech and expression in your country after the right-wing prime minister came into power?”
Since the same prime minister came into power, my answer is still very relevant today. That’s why I am posting it.
“It is NOT true. You can even call the leader of the executive of the Government of India a “thief” (though, actually he is an honest man), but can you think of this scenario elsewhere in the world?” I said.
But, yes, there are very few exceptions in India, when political leaders were intolerant to social media trolls and sent the trollers to the jail. The state chief ministers of West Bengal (Political party – TMC) and Kerala (Political party – Communist Marxist) have arrested trollers.
Which country allows a continuous insult to the culture and tradition of the nation? Is it possible to burn the most-valuable texts, that are revered and considered as Holy books by the majority community, anywhere in the world?
In India, there are hundreds of incidents of burning the sacred book Gita. (Gita actually is a book about the human psyche and now part of the educational curriculum in the world’s renowned 60+ universities as part of management studies).
India is the only country that gives enormous freedom to do religious business – they don’t check on temples, mosques, and churches. You can do anything in the name of religious institutions. The only exception was when Indian military action carried out ( as per the direction of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi of the Political party – Congress) to remove militant religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his followers from the Sikh Golden Temple of Amritsar, Punjab.
There are hundreds of Hindu God-men, God-women, and self-acclaimed Gurus, doing non-sensical things, cheating public and minting money. Nobody questions them. Of course, except few when the likes of Ram Rahim and Asaram arrested.
There are hundreds of Christian denominations that collect funds (donations) from abroad and use the money to convert normal human beings and innocent people into a sort of militant Christianity. (Not to be confused with the peaceful Christian community in India). These denominations, later use those convertees as a shield to protect the illegal and immoral activities by the priesthood. Even in the US, where the official religion is Christianity, they will be put such denominations behind the bars for these crimes. Here, nobody dares to touch them.
There are some Muslim groups (not all, some fanatics) that intentionally buy land in predominantly Hindu area and build huge Mosques there. Then, using loudspeakers/amplifiers, they announce five times a day a statement that would mean – ‘there is only one god and no other Gods around are worthy of worship’. Isn’t it insulting and hurting the sentiments of people from other religions and worshipping other Gods? Despite there is a Supreme Court ban on using loudspeakers, Indian public allows it. India is the only non-Muslim country that allows it. That’s the height of tolerance in India.
It’s not that other religious institutions don’t use loud-speakers. During festivals, I have seen many South Indian temples use speakers to sing the likes of lungi-dance and dabbankutthi songs which is plain insulting to the institutions itself. Can you imagine such freedom anywhere in the world? India allows such noise pollution.
A large section of Hindus considers cow as divine. Millions of them worship cow as “Gomatha” (mother cow). But some people slaughter cows and eat meat. You have the freedom to eat beef in India in most of the places. However, some states, during the rule of previous governments (Political party – Congress) banned cow slaughter. The new government (Political party – BJP) didn’t dare to revoke the ban. But by and large, anyone can eat beef.
However, there have been some stray incidents – very natural when a population is 1.3 billion. When provoked, few criminal-minded cow-worshippers took law in their hands and mob violence followed. Those are violent goons. Tragic, such unfortunate incidents – mob lynching – randomly happen everywhere once in a blue moon.
For instance, in places like the highly-literate state of Kerala, a tribal named Madhu was beaten to death by a highly literate mob. Reason? The highly-literate mob falsely imagined that Madhu, being a tribal, might have stolen food! The state (Political party Marxists) didn’t take serious action against the killers, as the latter constitute the vote bank. Such rare incidents happen in India.
India is the only country where minorities are given a lot of special reservations and quota in educational institutions and for jobs. However, all minorities don’t get it. There are Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists who don’t get any sort of benefits. According to the constitution of India, no reservation quota is possible in the name of religion. So, in India, the word minority is used only for Muslims. They are the second largest population in India, hence do not fall under strict definitions of the minority. Still, Islam, is considered as a minority religion, providing reservations and quota to Muslims only to keep them as a vote bank. There are a lot of poor Muslims who really need support, but political parties won’t help. The parties won’t let them come up and integrate into the nation.
We had a Muslim president, Sikh Prime Minister and a Christian leader ruling together in India which has a majority of Hindu population. Is this possible anywhere in the world? Can you name a single country in Asia or the Middle East in which a person from a minority religion can come into power?
The only country that allowed Triple Talaq (instant divorce) among Muslims was India. Even hardcore Muslim countries won’t allow it. This had put tens of thousands of Muslims women into misery, poverty, and hardships. However, the only prime minister who took up the issue was Narendra Modi – this calls for three cheers! And, in the last election, he reaped benefited of it – Muslim women voted his party (BJP) and said they were swayed by Modi’s stand on triple talaq. So it was also a political move!
“Oh Uday, I didn’t know all these things. This is unlimited freedom. A civilized country needs restrictions. You are lucky to live in such a free place. No country in the world would allow such enormous freedom! But the media reports provided me with a different picture. They said the Indian prime minister is a rogue and religious fanatic. I can see he is a nice guy!”
I said: “When the population is 1.3 billion, some stray incidents might happen randomly- still you can’t count more than five or six! Those rarest of rare incidents are blown out of proportion by few people who call themselves ‘seculars’! There are a lot of sick-media guys who are either brain-washed or paid by people with vested interest…”
“What do you mean by secular? Everyone is, right?”
“No. In India, to qualify to be a secular all you have to do is bash Hindus and their tradition or make an anti-India statement! You will be worshipped as secular, liberal and intellectual if you do that. You can make a lot of money too! Coming to that, India would allow even those who supported the tukde-tukde (cut India into pieces) gang to fight in the election (and fail). That’s the strength of Indian democracy.”
“Uday, this is the first time I get an unbiased open-minded analysis about India. Thanks, buddy, I would have believed in those wrong media reports,” he said.
“I don’t want any favor or certificate from any politician. I don’t accept and don’t need a single penny that comes from anywhere other than my Karma- writing. So, I can afford to be unbiased,” I said.
As a citizen of India, I request the Prime Minister to reasonably restrict the freedom of speech and expression in India for the larger good of our country. We must have the right to pleasant speech. We have the right to be social, religious and cultural conformists. Anything beyond that must be punishable one way or the other.