The Free Speech Issue
The Modi administration is decked with numerous instances where individuals and the press have been taxed for engaging in sedition when very routine political activities were in process complying with free speech. The above statement has been ensconced further by the very recent attacks on NDTV- India’s oldest news channel by the Central Bureau of Investigation. In another instance, Umar Khalid, a left-wing student leader, and the Ph.D. candidate had been stigmatized as “anti-national” by his opponents and eminent right-wing personalities for lionizing the execution of Kashmiri separatist Afzal Guru in 2013.
Under the Modi government, new-fangled modes and mediums of censorship are arising. As such, India has sunk to the 136th position as the “least free country” in the world. A recent report claims, between January 2016 and April 2017, there were as many as 54 attacks on journalists, 3 cases of banning of television news channels, 45 cases of internet shutdown and 45 cases of sedition against individuals. Chhattisgarh is doomed to more regression than any other fellow states. As a result of a decade of Naxalite-Maoist insurrection, the country suffers stricter censorship than the rest. Amnesty International, in a report published in 2016 recorded that a “near-total information blackout” has been created by the incessant laceration of journalists, activists of human rights, and lawyers in the hand of central government officials.
Two wrongs don’t make a right
Post persecution of Burhan Wani, the young commander of Hizbul Mujahideen – a group of Kashmiri separatists by Indian security forces, situations have turned for the worse. 2016 saw an ascendance of internet shutdowns from 15 during 2015 to 45. It is obvious that pioneers, visionaries, and activists nationwide have been haunted by the ramifications of free expression of their potential. Free speech and expression of thoughts and opinions still threaten the government and to some extent, a section of the society.
A lucid exemplification of this would be M.F Husain and his self-imposed exile. Husain’s depiction of Hindu goddesses was seen to be starkly obscene and was ruled so by the Supreme court in Delhi. Since then, Husain’s existence was one through turmoil and constant fear of conviction. He was ostracized by the society which did not leave any stones unturned to make him feel like he was on thin ice.
Constant taxation by the politicians in power, the government and the affected citizens at large have given rise to a form of self-censorship which has afflicted the press and media already. A climate of fear induced by violence meted out to these groups have resulted in the poorly drafted news, prejudiced pieces of information and bigoted opinions. The World Press Freedom Index marks the poor state of mainstream Indian media. Rajasthan’s Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria sparked off massive unrest in the country when the entire nation protested with #NotInMyName after a Muslim man was murdered for alleged smuggling of cows. An entire nation came forward to fulminate against the possible normalization of criminal activities throughout. Our country definitely needs to go a long way before free speech is finally recognised.
Censorship of the media is an ongoing historical battle between the rulers and the ruled since time immemorial. Do you think that Hindi is, or should be India’s national language? You might be surprised by our take on the issue. Click here to read further and find out!