Speech is no longer free

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I fear to be free

In any country with entrenched corruption and concentration of power in the hands of a few, it’s difficult for an individual to openly express their views. The danger that something adverse may happen is always at the back of our minds. It’s true in India as well. The self-censorship comes from a place of fear, and lack of courage. In a liberal democracy that functions under the principles of equality before law and equal protection of law, fear for life should never be a reason for someone to censor themselves. I worked for exactly a year at Government of India’s think-tank NITI Aayog. While I’ve shared my experiences with my close friends, I still haven’t found the courage to write or talk about it openly. May be one day I will.

Supreme Joke of India

Which bring me to the Supreme Court of India. I have certain legitimate angst about the way the court functions. Personally, I’d rather the court not involve itself in executive or legislative functions. The court’s job is to interpret the constitution and the laws when there’s a dispute. Our court has gotten too comfortable writing laws and executing them from the bench. The more recent concerns are about the court’s lack of willingness to protect personal liberty of individuals. Disclaimer: I’m no fan of Prashant Bhushan. In fact I’d rather nobody be fans of any other individual. Having said that, finding him guilty of contempt of court for legitimate criticism has to be one of the lowest points in the recent history of the court. Wouldn’t it be better for everyone involved to engage in self-reflection and make amends?

To write or not to write

So if and when I write about my experiences at NITI Aayog, will I be protected by the system? I doubt it. Systems have been modified to defend and protect itself rather than the individual citizens of this country. May be I’m overthinking - what I have to say probably is two years too late. It’s like how the series of events on Netflix’s House of Cards quickly paled in comparison to the real-world Trump Presidency. What I’ll do is this - I’ll start writing what I want to say, put it in the drafts folder, and when the time comes, I’ll publish it. How does that sound?

Final Take

India is a dangerous country to exercise our rights of free speech. It’s dangerous because it’s not just the fanatical groups that want to obliterate you, it’s the government systems as well. It’s dangerous because the protections are applied unequally. It’s dangerous because of the ingrained social inequality. Meanwhile, the guardian angel has been scandalized by a tweet and is on vacation.

Arun Sudarsan
Arun Sudarsan
Economist and Policy Researcher

Arun is an Economist, passionate about Open Data and its potential to increase state transparency and accountability. Loves teaching. Previously worked at NITI Aayog. To subscribe to this blog’s mailing list, please enter your details here. Check your spam folder if you are missing updates. Thanks for subscribing!

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