As chill sets in
- As a public figure, you must learn to face criticism: SC tells Jayalalithaa in defamation case
- Rajnath Singh: Those who believe in Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat & Jamhooriyat welcome for talks
- Rohith Vemula was not a Dalit, says probe panel set up by HRD Ministry
- Scorpene Submarine: Will probe leak, says DCNS; source not from India, says Defence Ministry
- Saradha scam: ED summons Chidambaram's wife Nalini
Together with the Tamil Nadu government's curbs on the screening of Kamal Haasan's new film, Vishwaroopam, this episode must focus attention on the intimidatory application of what are meant to be reasonable checks on the unfettered freedom of expression. Though the film had been cleared by the Censor Board and the Supreme Court has earlier cautioned against the threat of protests to block the screening of a film, the state government succumbed to pressure by a few groups, alleging that it hurt their sentiments. Similarly, the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is meant to address the prevalence of ritually embedded discrimination that continues to perpetuate the social and economic marginalisation of groups. It is not an instrument to fell complex arguments, let alone one that details an unjust social order.
The courts have read the law in a most progressive way — therefore there is little fear that bans and possible police action will eventually be upheld. What must, however, concern everyone is the consequence for public discourse when the administrative and political class succumbs so easily to the contrived outrage of a few, and then by its actions, gives succour to that outrage. When the Tamil Nadu government applies the blunt instrument of a ban, when a politician like Mayawati, in many ways the symbol of the success and promise of a progressive politics, seeks the arrest of an academic for his arguments, they serve to intimidate those inclined to participate in nuancing important debates. The threat of state action has a chilling effect on the average citizen. And when politicians abdicate the responsibility of standing up for the average citizen in the face of such action, when they become cheerleaders for intimidation in fact, the republic is in trouble indeed.
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- The freedom from unreason
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