In the wake of, all the fancy talk going on (at least in the social media and television space), a major chunk of the political class and the society is asking – what should be the permissible extent of freedom of expression? What degree of opinion must be accepted?
Dissent: fundamental to reason and rationale
All trouble begins when the system and the society starts looking upon each form of dissent as a violation. While democracy, democratic values and faith in institutions should be surging, assimilating spheres of one’s public as well as private lives, our society has always been like a selectively permeable membrane filtering and passing the changes that re-enforces its trivial notion or do not harm it by stopping the ones which may cause re-defining of values. It is hence rightly said that “Every change is acceptable, unless it involves oneself.”
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
― Desmond Tutu
Yes, the freedom is not just political or social, it is something that delves deeper encompassing into personal lives and way of visualising things around. It may sound Utopian but at least, idealistic approach while taking even personal decisions might bring all the difference.
Dissent is an elementary and indispensable part of human civilisation and modernity. There is nothing wrong in being critical, cynical or even paranoid until it does not creates nuisance or disturbs the state of order of the land.
Violation and dissent are the two completely different terms that are often mistaken for the other and so must be recognised .
At the end of the day, one must remember – It was the dissent of Raja Ram Mohan Roy that led to the abolition of Sati (the tradition of widow-burning). It was the dissent of Savitri Bai Phule that led her to establish girls educational centre; which acted as a torch-bearer for the entire society for educating women, considered taboo at that time.
It was the dissent by Subhash Chandra Bose that he chose not to take up a luxury job and instead fight for the freedom against the British.
At times, dissent fosters great accomplishments but submission to norms leads to the herd though.
A right, not mercy.
All the citizens of India are guaranteed “the right to freedom of speech and expression” according to the Article 19(A) of constitution of India. Though this is not absolute, restrictions apply in the case of serious implications which is reasonable as it provides check and balance for every situation that may come and must not be used as a mean to curb differences in opinion.
It is a ‘right’ that is as fundamental as right to life itself.
According to me, the question ‘What should be the extent of freedom of expression?‘ is itself an indignation of sanctity of expression. It must be realised that it is a right that constitution promises us and isn’t a mercy bestowed by any entity (society/system).
There can be no permissible extent because it has to be absolute, except in cases where matter of concern and violation are involved.
It also might be a case that, we who are served all this on platters, are we taking it for granted? Is it that we as a society have stopped realising the importance it holds,in our lives, in our professions, in our way of life?
No one must be able to snatch it as per their respective wishes, as it will in due time undermine democracy and institutions and reflects (in larger perspective) in forms of unrest, instability.
Freedom of mind is the real freedom.
A person whose mind is not free though he may not be in chains, is a slave, not a free man.
One whose mind is not free, though he may not be in prison, is a prisoner and not a free man.
One whose mind is not free though alive, is no better than dead.
Freedom of mind is the proof of one’s existence.
― DR. B.R Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches
Fangs Of Freedom
So it relies on the society, it needs to largely keep introspecting, the narratives of discourse and the impact they may have because ‘WE ARE WHAT WE THINK.’ Whether we really want to blunt the fangs of expression or in course of time – sharpen its teeth.
We really need to have an opinion on every topic that concerns our society. As they are the ones that are going to determine ours as well as our country’s future and one must realise that fallacy in one outlook doesn’t prove the other correct; both of them would be having parts of fact and parts of propaganda pinned to it.
We need to respect ‘not agreeing‘ and ‘honour differences of thought, ideology and perception instead of suppressing it‘. We need to decide wisely and ensure that our decisions strengthens the democracy, rule of law and growth.