Free Speech

Citizens Against Monopoly

It's been more than 70 years since we've seen a broad-based citizens movement against the power of monopoly. It's long past time for one, and the following story is why. In late June, the European com...
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Declaring War On India Is Not Political Dissent

By no stretch of the imagination can slogans calling for the violent disintegration of India ("Bharat Tere Tukde Honge. InshaAllah InshaAllah") be classified as political dissent. This is sedition plain and simple as per the Supreme Court criteria and is totally indefensible. It is an unpardonable crime not against the BJP or Hindutva but against the 1.2 billion people who have reposed faith in the democratic republic of India. And if this government did not act it would be guilty of dereliction of duty.
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Why The Dera Can't Take A Joke

Many are confounded by the blind devotion to a "religious" figure -- especially one who has serious criminal charges levelled against him. Why did they have to arrest the comedian? Where does it all end? Putting aside for the moment the dark possibility that the whole sordid episode was a calculated and carefully calibrated threat sent out to the country by the opponents of free speech, perhaps we should ask why followers of a (quasi) religious movement found it so hard to take a joke on their leader.

Why Liberals Shouting ‘Intolerance' Owe An Apology To The Nation

Dissent cannot be a hit-and-run incident wherein the perpetrator absconds without liability after inflicting damage. Democracy is not a free for all and a license to indulge in canards. These worthies need to be made accountable for their statements. True intellectuals when provided with adequate evidence to the contrary will gracefully accept their lapse. Charlatans and egotists, however, will not. Nayantara Sahgal and her tribe owe an apology to the nation.

Should Historical Figures Be Exempt From Satire?

The list of items that receive state protection from satire in the world's largest democracy is getting longer every day. With 33,000 deities (plus the one "true" god and the prophet who must never be drawn), a variety of cultural paraphernalia and a battalion of saints and shamans, we have now added dead political personalities to the "exempt from satire" roster.
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The Murders of Activists In Bangladesh, Pakistan Are A Wake-Up Call for India

It is not a good time to be a free thinker on the Indian subcontinent. Within a few months, secular voices Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman and, most recently, Ananta Bijoy Das were forever silenced in Bangladesh. Then, an outspoken activist Sabeen Mahmud was brazenly assassinated in Pakistan. We Indians are (relatively) fortunate to have the freedom to voice our opinion without getting stabbed for it, or riddled with high calibre rounds. However, recent trends suggest we may be headed down the same totalitarian path as our neighbours.
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Does The Law Have A Sense Of Humour? And Why Comics Need to Know the Answer

In a free society, we enjoy both, the right to offend and the right to get offended. It is exasperating that any expression that causes discomfort or displeasure to a section of society is met with increasingly vehement censure. For those who don't have the muscle power, the financial bandwidth and/or the legal firepower to deal with such threats, freely speaking your mind will always mean being prepared to pay a huge cost.
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Why Every Right Thinking Indian Must Stand By Shobhaa De

So vernacular movies and street food are now on the long list of "sentimental items" that have been granted State protection from jest and caricature. The vada pav is now as sacrosanct as our gods and dead shamans. Its fragile flavour must be protected from insults. Thank heavens the draconian 66A was repealed just in time. Or else some overzealous culture warrior would have dragged De to court already.
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Free Speech Can Change India For The Better

The internet has become an invaluable space for speech, especially in times when fear and intimidation have become a pervasive mode of governance, and increased surveillance a technique for monitoring the citizen's speech and behaviour. The Supreme Court has played a historic role in ensuring that speech should and must be used to halt the increasingly untrammelled power by the State and its representatives.