Sunday, 15 February 2015

Fight against Freedom of Expression : A political tool?

Freedom is a vague word. Though we get a good feeling when we hear the word, freedom does not actually mean freedom. It is not absolute, it always comes with caveats. And rightly so, absolute freedom is a humbug. It does not exist, atleast in the modern society. This is because, if a society boasts of absolute freedom, the actions of one might inadvertently infringe upon the absolute freedom of other person. This means the second person in the discussion never had absolute freedom. This generates a paradoxical situation. Thus, every modern society, though, talks about freedom, it always has reasonable restrictions on them for the smooth functioning of the society. The same is true for freedom of speech or expression. Recent events linked to Charlie Hebdo, PK, AIB roast have opened up many dimensions of freedom of speech or expression (FoE).

For cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo their FoE enabled them to propagate their beliefs in the form of satirical cartoons. Offence was intended. The idea behind this intentional offence might have been to show a particular community about certain rigidness in its practices, or even the intention might have been something hideous, I am not here to judge that. But, it was right under the ambit of their FoE. Charlie Hebdo had been publishing cartoons that were offensive to Islam, and other religions including Christianity alike, for quite some time now, how many times did the representatives of Islamic fraternity in France tried to reason with editorial team of the magazine regarding their reservations? The fault is equally with the Charlie Hebdo team, did they ever thought of having one or two Muslim members in their team so that they could have given them a different perspective. I am nowhere condoning the heinous act of AQIY, the terrorist organization here in question had its agenda well thought out. These terrorist organizations come with peculiar political agenda, they knew that this shooting will not stop the Charlie Hebdo to stop publishing pictures but infact polarize the society there, which has some good number of Algerian origin Muslims. Behind the purda of so called "protectionists of Islam" they achieved this agenda quite perfectly. Anyways, what I intend to say here is that the existence of intellectual paucity both in the Charlie Hebdo team and the Islamic fraternity in France leading to the lack of understanding of the caveats that FoE comes with, helped the fundamentalist opportunists to polarize the society.

The opposition to film PK is on the grounds that it hurts the sentiments of a particular religion. Ok even if one agrees to that, what could be the next step if sentiments are hurt. There are legal ways to tackle that and laws in our country are quite good to handle such phenomena. Thus, nobody has the right to go and tear posters, make character assassinations of the creative people involved in the making of the movie. But yet posters were torn, screenings were halted, character assassinations done. The people who did this were quite aware of the legal ways to handle the issue but they chose to ignore that because one, there allegations could not have stood the scrutiny of law and two, the process would not have caught the eye balls of the people. Hence, this conscious inculcation of hate and vocal showcase of dissent were used as a political tool to garner some media space, publicity and were nowhere related to FoE or hurting sentiments.

FoE definitely comes with caveats and any infringement of one's right should not be tolerated in a democratic society. But the dissent to FoE can be shown in civilized manner without any noise and blood being spewed. Law will take its course. But as has been shown above, the incredible hurt victimhood card played here is nothing but another political tool.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Delhi- Paneer, Power and Politics

Yeh Dilli hain mere yaar.!! In my 18 months of stay at Delhi, there are many things that were memorable. They range from 6 rupees Tandoori roti, the under nutritioned rickshaw pullers, the angry car drivers, noisy CNG buses to high flying Thiranga at the Connaught Place, the Republic Day parade. Apart from these, the omnipresent Paneer made the cuisines exciting as well as boring. One thing that I noticed in Delhi is its unrelenting romance with power and politics. Power is to Delhi what money is to Mumbai or tech is to Bengaluru. I understood it within the first three months of my stay there, when I saw a homeopathy doctor with a revolver tucked to his `90s style trouser.

This romance of Delhi with power and politics is what has made the current assembly elections the cynosure of all the happenings in the country (atleast w. r. t. politics). The campaign for the election was high octane with BJP coming with full force to counter the "Muffler Man". All is done, voting is over. Results are awaited. Exit polls are showing a majority to AAP. If the exit polls turn out to be true then this would come as a major embarrassment to the ruling BJP. Especially to Mr. Shah who used lots of strategies to counter the AAP's influence.

Ironically, I think, one of these strategies backfired fatally to Mr. Shah, and that was the induction of Ms. Bedi to the party and making her the CM candidate. One of the cartoons in "The Hindu" rightly depicted this irony, the arrows fired by BJP at AAP, manifested as feathers on the AAP's Gandhi Topi. I can't say that Ms Bedi would turn out badly in politics but to her merit I think she should have been given some more time to understand the intricacies of politics before she was anointed as the CM candidate. Her speeches have not been influential, rather have been dampener, but her credentials and experience in bureaucracy provide right pedigree to turn her into a good politician. Time is all she needs.

Coming back to the elections, politics of Delhi has some considerable influence on rest of India and a defeat in this election would come as a timely wake up call to the BJP and would make it to relook at its 9 months rule. Though the govt has taken a lots of right steps but there are some missteps too. A defeat here would mean a more vigilant govt = more development steps+ curbing fringe Hindutva elements - rhetoric talk.

I would personally want AK and AAP to come out as victorious. Yes, AK fumbled the first time, but he seems to have learnt from his anarchist phase of life that politics is not about rhetoric talk. As is the case with Ms. Bedi, time is all AK needs. Time on the political high seat. Has Delhi given both AK and Ms. Bedi the time they need?