Thursday 2 April 2015

India has Freedom of 'Censored' Speech

This topic has been a 'hot' topic on social media, in the Supreme Court, in Parliament and, obviously, fueling the circus - that is the Indian 24/7 news channel.

Quite a lot happened for this one topic to become so 'hot'. I do not remember the exact chronological order, but I think the heat on the topic came from a BBC documentary, which interviewed one of the rapists involved in Nirbhaya case. Though, this is not a new topic by any means - entertainment industry has been fighting this case for a long time.

With the trailers of the BBC documentary, the entire country was suddenly woken up to the ghastly incidents of 16th December, 2012 - which we had conveniently put behind us. Now, the country was told that not only all of us, but rest of the world will get to see just how deranged is the mind of this particular rapist and equally demented are his lawyers. 

Fortunately, our law makers acted swiftly on this. Although the documentary was made after fulfilling all required formalities, can't just walk in the jail & interview a death-row convict, our law-makers in swiftest knee-jerk reactionary mode banned the broadcast of this documentary in India (have no jurisdiction outside Indian boundary, after all). Wow! 

Indian law-makers so well understand that the average BBC / YouTube audience in India cannot decide for themselves what they wish to see and what they do not. Also, these law-makers know so well, what the average BBC / YouTube audience in India cannot digest. After-all, we can only digest rampant rapes to continue - not an interview of the deranged rapists and their demented lawyers!

In this country where these law-makers have the right to get away with saying anything (literally, anything) - freedom of speech is quite a uniquely understood concept. There is a unimaginable law - section 66A of the IT Act - which until recently said people making derogatory statements online against someone else, could be imprisoned. Another wow! Literally, I understand this as - one can go ahead and print offensive stuff on paper - but cannot put it up on his / her blog, or share it on social networks.

Somehow - the Supreme Court saw the absurdity of Section 66A and stuck it down on 24th March, 2015. It took them 3 years to really get a ruling on this - that in itself shows how important is the matter in this country.

There are innumerable instances of Indian entertainment industry fighting for their right to freedom of speech - from getting to removing words, dialogues, scenes to changing story to actually banning material.

Yet again, there is someone (or a group of people) who understands the entire length, width & depth of this country's population to know what is acceptable by the audience and what is unacceptable. Since there is no way to enforce age-restrictions simply via certification (U / A / U/A) - we have to submit to censorship and at times, ban things. 

Of-course, that is so understandable for a country that is run by the law-makers & for the law-makers. Exactly what a democracy should be - power not in the hands of one, but many tyrants!

After venting out - I must give credit where it is due. In our neighbouring country, Bangladesh, 2 secular bloggers have been hacked to death in recent times. Even when Section 66A was enforceable - it didn't mean death to the blogger. I also realise that I am absolutely fearless while writing this piece - not because I am a fearless person, but because I know certain limits within which such attacks on law-makers and systems are acceptable by one & all.

The point I want to end this post with is - no country, no system is perfect - however, some are worse than they appear to be. If only we can just lighten up a bit, accept humour as humour is, and learn to laugh at ourselves - our country would benefit immeasurably.

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