Friday, March 20, 2009

Shame, shame

When I read that an editor in my country has been arrested, on the grounds of having outraged me, all I could feel was shame, and revulsion. For those who claim to believe in a god I can lay claim to, those who have kidnapped the prophets who were my inheritance. For those who buckled, despite having assumed the responsibility of ensuring that my rights were not violated in my own land. For governments and administrations that choose to arrest editors, instead of those who threaten them.

I am ashamed that we live in a country where someone is not allowed to call religion(s) oppressive. I may or may not agree with that view, but I want the right to say it, to agree with it, to put it into print, and to reprint it as many times as I think fit.

I am ashamed that not one newspaper in this country has seen fit to create some noise about this. That not one newspaper is running a campaign against threats to free speech from every upstart, self-appointed guardian angel of some random group's sense of self-esteem. That editors across the country have not seen fit to republish that so-called outrageous article, as a mark of protest.

And I am ashamed that an artist cannot show nudes at Jehangir Art Gallery any more, the place where I spent so much time hanging out, absorbing art, thinking, interpreting, sniggering, criticising. It galls me to spend time in that gallery now. When I sit in Samovar and order a cup of tea, I cannot forget that this is a place that didn't even bother to wait and find out if it would be targeted by the police, or random goons who are afraid of undressed people. It taped up its own face, willingly, before it could be gagged.

I am ashamed that we are so quick to bend into terrorised little kowtows, that we prefer to walk around with someone else's nauseous rags stuffed into our mouths. Really, this doesn't feel like the country I was promised. A democratic, sovereign, socialist republic that guaranteed free speech and free expression of ideas. I thought.


Indian Home Maker said...

I understand how you feel, I feel the same way.

Anonymous said...

I too am enraged at increasing restriction in every city. Girls can drink, you cant paint nude, you cant talk of religion, you cant date in park, yo cant work in another state (no BIharis in Mumbai), you cant be gay and so on. Every aspect of our personal life is being taken over. Instead of tackling real problems like poverty, unemployment, we hav all the time in the world to indulge in moral policing!!

Anonymous said...

The editor's arrest has been silenced so beautifully, I am left wondering if it ever happened at all.

Anonymous said...

It's infuriating, this mockery of democracy.

Anonymous said...

Well reasoned, and I second your opinions.

WillOTheWisp said...

Its a little difficult to explain what is happening to those who take it for granted that rights to freedom of expression etc are a given, guaranteed and are what you start from - whereas the reality has always been that these are taken and, quite often, fought for and wrested away from those who seek to curb these rights.

You could try seeing it this way - some years back, before the media and literacy boom, you had most of the people in this country uneducated, illiterate and too hassled with their daily existences to really bother about these 'expressions' by the educated city elite. Now, things are different. There has been a crazy amount of migration of these people into the cities. A large proportion of them are now literate / semi-literate and avidly refer to the media.

Do you think that it is possible, in the span of a decade or so, these migrants from wherever they came from could have learnt to embrace the plurality and liberal-mindedness of a few educated, som much so as to jettison their rudimentary mindsets and acquire tolerance? Do you really expect that it is humanly possible? In this lifetime, at least?

You cannot dictate change and how people react to it.

Indian Home Maker said...

@WillOThe Wisp - I think most of these protest are not by ordinary citizens, but by politically inclined groups.

WillOTheWisp said...

Politically inclined? - in which case it is a fillip to the idea of democracy as a measure of representativeness. No? Since most of these people, unhappily, have realised that their lives are not going to get better anyways ( in a material sense ), the next best thing is to feel good about having someone in a place of power who 'respects' their 'sentiments'. It follows naturally , methinks.

As for the 'ordinary citizens' and 'politically inclined' tags - you would be living in a fool's paradise if you were to assume that they are mutually exclusive and that the latter term is derogatory.

Sumedha said...

I think many of such arrests are made because people always think "Why sacrifice peace and calm for one article? What's the point of resisting the groups and having them get more violent when the solution of arresting an editor is so easy to do?"

They just don't realise that it's not just one article, or one editor. It's a whole set of rights and beliefs that go with the article and the editor, and are shamelessly locked up.

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