Is freedom of expression being slashed?

Freedom of expression

“Strange things are happening in the country,” this was the first reaction of film maker Adoor Gopalakrishnan on hearing about the FIR registered against him and others who wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on mob lynching incidents in the country. The FIR itself, as social activists and critics point out, is a testimonial to the way democracy is moving in the country with the freedom of expression being slashed.

Earlier the country had the freedom to criticise the wrong doings and also to pinpoint what was right. The politicians were never far from criticism, they said and added that the recent developments only showed that free thinking, free speech and free expression was being curtailed in the country. They alleged of power being concentrated in a single person or a single political body.

Much critical of the system, Adoor asked if any court would accept a petition against a letter written to express the fears of the happenings in the country. He mentioned that if it was true, then there was reason to suspect the judicial system, he said.  Pointing out the country has seen people shooting the model of Gandhiji as part of commemorating Nathuram Godse’s shooting of the father of the nation, he said that no court had registering any case against that person.

The letter was signed by 50 celebrities including director Mani Ratnam, Aparna Sen, Konkana Sen, Ramchandra Guha and Shyam Benegal. A court in Bihar had the other day ordered to file an FIR against these 50 persons. The FIR was based on a petition that alleged that said that writing a letter to the Prime Minister on mob lynching and other things on democracy tarnished the image of India and undermined the performance of the Prime Minister.

Writer Amit Chaudhuri said that democracy did not mean being silent but it was the voice of many.

Some of the social activists were of the view that democracy is being murdered. Ina democratic country, where freedom of speech exists, no one can say anything against the government or the rulingruling political parties, they said and added that such a situation was not good for the country. They asked how could pointing out the flaws in democracy could be detrimental and also tarnish the image of the country. Moreover, they also noted that the prime minister was only part of the democratic system and that the people had all right to criticise him. They also doubted if the country was moving towards an authoritarian state.

Reacting on the issue, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged that those who say anything against Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the NDA government are put behind bars. Stating that everyone knew what was going on in the country and that it was not a bring secret, he said that India was moving towards an authoritarian nation.

Sashi Tharoor, MP from Thiruvananthapuram, termed the FIR as “legal” harassment. In his tweet, Taroor said that it was shocking and chilling that an FIR has been registered. He also asked where the country was headed if free expression was countered by such kinds of  “legal” harassment.



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