Freedom:When they abuse it, what would you do?

Posted on January 28, 2009

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Two of my favorite people crossed the cyber path at not very friendly terms or so it seems to me. Who do I support now, this is like the greatest dilemma of my life 😛

Ok Jokes apart, here’s what has happened. Sandil wrote this post on Mutiny about how he refused to accept Republic day wishes from a person who is himself guilty of violating fundamental rights of other citizens. The man in question is someone who wrote very violently against the Muslim community under the pretext of Freedom of Speech. Sandil’s point – you cannot violate another’s right to practice free religion and live with dignity just because you have a right to express. You cannot exercise your right if it clashes with another’s. For eg. Raj Thackeray shouldn’t be allowed to go about spreading hatred for North-Indians under the garb of freedom of speech.

Rohit crosslinked to it and gave his counter opinion here. According to Rohit exercise of one’s fundamental right can never technically clash with another’s. Everybody has an opinion and they are allowed, by the Constitution to make it heard read etc. As long as the likes of Raj T’s don’t take law in hand we cannot complaint. An example sited by him goes something like this – my liking Nandita Das cannot restrict another’s right to dislike her. So it is only when the MNS take law in their hand, go about vandalizing beating etc. he is within his fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.

Thankfully both Rohit and Sandil are right and I don’t have to take sides here.

Sandil is right when he says, your right cannot be allowed to override another’s. We have no right to hurt other people’s sentiments just because we don’t like the way they appear or conduct. One has no right to use foul language against a religion or community. Rohit is right when he says as long as the person is not taking law in his hands it cannot be said that he is interfering or curbing another person’s FRs.

Every fundamental right comes with a reasonable restrictions on it. Without a restriction any right would lead to anarchy.

It is in order to protect everybody’s right that we have every such situation which may lead to clashes defined as a crime in the Indian Penal Code. So the deciding factor here is to look up the Penal Code to check if a given act can be covered under any of the defination in the Indian Penal Code.

Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code covers all the great acts that our Mr. Raj Thackeray often does as his pastime. The heading of the section reads,

Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.

The section reads, in plain language anybody who tries to create disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities or disturbs public tranquility on the basis of race, religion, caste, place of birth, language, region etc. shall be punished. It further says such disharmony could be created by spoken words, written words, gestures, visuals etc.

Question is, can the blogger who Sandil is taking about be booked under this section. That’s a trick question. They can’t even book Mr. Thackeray whose actions and intentions are so blatant and obvious. The blogger on the other hand doesn’t even readily come within the purview of our enforcement agencies. The cyber laws in our country isn’t strong enough yet to book a person for his blog posts.

Personally I would like to think that it is the duty of each one of us to ensure nobody’s FRs are violated and that we are not being party to any thing illegal or unconstitutional however insignificant it may be. (Note: Not everything that is unconstitutional is illegal) One may say say whatever it pleases him but if its against the general good or national integrity I have a moral duty to oppose it in whatever way I can.

Sandil chose to not accept this person’s Republic Day wishes. I remember when the said post came in for review on Mutiny I as an editor had declined it. One may argue that blog is a platform free from censorship here we should be free to express ourselves. So why decline the post. Because that is my way of preventing something unconstitutional from happening.

And that was the main message that Sandil’s post carried which got lost in a technical debate. The main point he was making is that don’t be ok, resist, tell them its not done. Don’t wait for the law enforcing agencies to check if there is a crime that has been committed or not, look it up yourself, or better still use common sense and act upon every injustice occurring around you. To quote him,

I think we should constructively give up on the Government. We should assume that the Central and State Governments are incapable of improving the situation: at best they are only capable of ‘managing’ and ‘adjusting’ with existing resources, processes and corruption. We should hence expect little from whoever gets voted at the center, be it the NDA or UPA. Instead, we must chart out, at our own little levels, what we can do to make our lives and those of our neighbourhood and community better. Not being a regionalist, but setting our sights lower and first cleaning up the mess amongst our own little areas is a logical first step before we reach out to a national agenda.

If we all could do that we can achieve wonders for this nation.

Sandil, Rohit, would be nice to read your thoughts on this post.

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