THE SACRED RIGHT TO OFFEND


There is a right wing party of crazies in Western India called the Shiv Sena which has decided that the Google group Orkut is dangerous to Indian citizenry.
This decision was followed by their characteristic civil behavior when they destroyed internet cafes that they consider the nodal points of the evil Orkut. The crime of the Google-based group was to allow a platform for some anti-Shiv Sena people (the Senaites have far more such groups in Orkut) to speak against the saffron mob.
According to some reports in the media and the internet, the Mumbai police has also asked the internet cafe owners not to allow customers to surf the site. This is one of the amazing things about India: though it claims to have the most deep-rooted democratic structures in the third world, and is considered a model of liberalism by the US and the West, the number of attacks on individual freedom and choice is frighteningly repetitive. In this country, you cannot offend anybody! You cannot hurt anyone’s sentiments, be it religious, cultural or historic. This country has banned or proscribed painters, movies, writers, television channels, and even YouTube! The reasons have always been the same: violation of sentiments of a group of people.
For many people, the very contradiction of their set notions of life or its parts is intolerable. For them, it becomes crucial to still the dissenting voice, for their convictions are not strong enough to face the reality. The reality that it is each man’s birthright to speak his mind, to question, and even offend. The more civilised a nation, the stronger is the right to offend!

11 responses to “THE SACRED RIGHT TO OFFEND

  1. Mahendra Palsule

    You have expressed my exact thoughts in a very eloquent manner!

    Indians really need to understand and value the right to freedom of expression, which is a crucial pillar of democracy.

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  3. I do not know how any nation can long sustain a democracy without guaranteeing the right to speak ones mind, even when doing so offends.

    Of course, in America there are all sorts of groups that like to claim they are persecuted simply because someone’s opinion offends them. So, the problem is elsewhere too — not just India. But it seems to me from what you’ve said that India goes much further towards appeasing offended groups than does the US.

  4. Paul,
    Yeah, but the right of free speech is SO deeply ingrained in US law and life that it is never in any danger. Rather, people may misuse it in reverse (“I take the First”) in hiding truth from the Law!
    In India, it is a situation of philosophical and practical hybrids: partly free, partly socialist, partly religious totalitarian, etc…

  5. I know I am coming to this post very late, was just going through your old posts…. very true and I share the feelings. Either eveything is ok or nothing is. I have already talked about Fredom becoming a provisionon your more recent post (The Great Indian Lajja). I think it would fit here as well…..

    BTW, the ‘sainiks’ tore apart the Outlook office today
    http://oemar.wordpress.com/2007/08/14/sainiks-or-fana-tiks/

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  9. would love to mouth off here,but must have artificial restraint.Why is it that we cannot express it what we feel anymore

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