Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Category: India

Freedom of speech and tolerance

There are people who say freedom of speech and expression should be absolute. Freedom with restrictions is not freedom. Some talk of tolerance of differing opinions. Some talk of limits on freedom or self-censorship. Some claim to be liberals open to all ideas and tolerant of contrary views.
Tolerance is an illusion. Tolerance is a myth. Journalists who claim to be modern and liberal on English news channels are as intolerant as Al Qaeda, ISIS, Taliban, VHP, Bajrang Dal and so on.
Sakshi Maharaj came under attack for saying every Hindu woman should have four children. He wanted one to fight on the border and one to join sadhus. There are many countries where women are encouraged to have many children. In Australia a woman gets 4,000 dollars when a child is born. Germany has incentives for women to have children. In 61 countries/territories governments are worried about declining population and want more children. Japan’s population has declined over the years. In 2014 it declined by more than a million.
Ramesh Tawadkar, Sports Minister of Goa, came under attack for his statement on LGBT. He talked of setting up treatment centres similar to Alcoholics Anonymous to make LGBT youth normal. One anchor said his statement is shocking. One newspaper demanded his apology. Ramesh Tawadkar has freedom of speech and expression like every citizen of India. If his statement is shocking to bigoted journalists who consider themselves modern and liberal but are antiquated and illiberal so be it. Journalists and others who oppose him are intolerant. India is a sovereign country. IPC 377 is the law of the land. UN Secretary General has no business to tell what should be the law of India.
Who decides what hate speech is? It is subjective. David Brooks has written that what is legal in France would have been opposed as hate speech in USA.
Some anchors are hostile to people in favour of death penalty. Once Nidhi Razdan was hostile to Yashodhara Raje Scindia because her BJP colleague Sushma Swaraj had favoured death penalty for rape.
Charlie Hebdo had sacked a cartoonist Sine. He had drawn a cartoon of Jean Sarkozy who married a rich Jewess Jessica Seaboun-Darty. Charlie Hebdo succumbed to pressure from Jews.
Every country has limits on free speech. In France denial of Holocaust or Armenian Genocide of 1915 is a crime. In some countries denial of Holocaust is a crime.
There are two aspects of free speech. First is what is allowed by law. Second is reaction of people. Many times what is allowed by law is opposed by many people. The protests may be peaceful or violent. When protests turn violent what is legal is banned. Those who attack people and destroy property are not punished.
Many discussions on TV channels are fixed. Surjit Bhalla has written about his bad experience with NDTV Dialogues. He was called for a discussion to counter Jairam Ramesh. Before 15 minutes of discussion time he was told Jairam Ramesh is not coming and he can go home. After he went home he came to know that Jairam Ramesh and other panellists were there and discussion was held.

Charlie Hebdo attack

On 7/1/2015 terrorists attacked Charlie Hebdo office and murdered two policemen and ten others; according to one report all of them journalists, according to another report eight of them journalists, one maintenance worker and one visitor. Charlie Hebdo is a magazine known for cartoons that offended many people. Some cartoons offended Muslims. The terrorists had masked their faces. They claimed to be members of Al Qaeda. After murders they left in a car.
Leaders of different countries and Muslims leaders in France condemned the attack. John Kerry said the journalists were martyrs for liberty. People demonstrated against the attack and many carried badges with the slogan Je Suis Charlie (I Am Charlie.) Marie Le Pen demanded institution of death penalty.
Charlie Hebdo journalists knew their cartoons offended Muslims. They did not care. French law gave them liberty to draw those cartoons and they used it. They reprinted Danish cartoons. Many other newspapers and magazines had reprinted Danish cartoons. Charlie Hebdo’s previous office was fire bombed.
Terrorists kill many people. Some attacks make news. This attack made news because it happened in Paris and targets were famous people.
Many condemned the killings. Some of them said freedom of speech and expression should be limited and people should not do that offends others. Indirectly they blame Charlie Hebdo journalists for offensive cartoons. Some others said the magazine provoked Muslims. French ambassador Francois Richter said no one has to buy the magazine.
Laws regarding freedom of speech and expression differ from country to country. In some European countries denial of holocaust is forbidden. Muslims want ban on cartoons that offend them.
Charlie Hebdo had security but that was not enough. Policemen should have been bulletproof from head to toe.
Charlie Hebdo’s usual circulation is 60,000 copies. They want to print a million copies for next issue.
Offence is subjective. What offends one can be funny to another and vice versa. The Interview was a funny film for many Americans but offensive for many North Koreans. North Korea’s comparison of Barack Obama to an African monkey was offensive for many Americans but funny for many North Koreans. In India there were TV ads which were funny for Indians and offensive for Africans.
In India constitution and law limit the freedom of speech and expression. Many times what is legally permissible is banned because some people take offence and resort to violence. However if there is support from others there is no ban. Some people found PK offensive and wanted a ban on the film. They belonged to RSS group. Then Akhilesh Yadav said PK is a good film and made it tax free in UP. After that Nitish Kumar praised the film. There was no ban.
Some people in film industry who were vociferous votaries of freedom of speech and expression and were against censorship changed their views when they joined political parties. Khushboo and Mahesh Bhatt are examples.

Two terror attacks

On 15/12/2014 Man Haron Monis held 17 people as hostages in Lindt Chocolat Café, Marin Place, Sydney. He was the lone gunman. He made some people stand near the window. Some hostages escaped during the day. At night there was gunfire in the café. Commandos went in and shot him. Two others died. One was Tori Johnson, 34, manager of the café, and the second, Katrina Dawson, 38, an attorney. Some were injured. The siege was over by 2.15 a.m. on 16/12/2014.
Australians had first experience of terror in their country. It was by an Iranian who had sought asylum in Australia in 1996 and later became citizen. There were many criminal cases against him. He was charged with murder of his ex-wife Noleen Hayson Pal. He had a case of sexual assault against him. He was out on bail. It reflects poorly on Australian judicial system and badly on unscrupulous lawyers who represented Monis. This is a lesson to people who praise the policy “bail, not jail”.
Iran had warned Australia about criminal background of Monis. Monis’ original name was Manteghi Bourjerdi. Monis was on watch list of Australian Security Intelligence Oragnaisation in 2008 and 2009 and later his name was dropped. He was 49 or 50 years old. He claimed to be a cleric and had assumed the title of Sheikh. He had written to offensive letters to families of eight Australian soldiers who had died in Afghanistan. He wanted ISIS flag and wanted to talk to Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Abbott.
Many placed flowers outside the café. Abbott and his wife Margie were among them.
On 16/12/2014 terrorists attacked Army Public School in Peshawar and killed teachers and students. Many were injured. By evening 132 students and nine teachers had died. Few more succumbed to injuries later on. Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility and said it was revenge for attack on the Taliban.
In Pakistan many schools and students had been attacked before, mostly in tribal regions. This happened in Peshawar and on a large scale. In 2012 Malala Yousafzai was shot at. She survived the attack. The attack boomeranged on the Taliban. Malala became famous and at 17 went on to become the youngest recipient of Nobel Peace Prize.
Nawaz Sharif declared three days mourning. He convened all party meeting in Peshawar. He said there is no good Taliban and bad Taliban. He revoked stay on death penalty.
Pakistan’s army chief Raheel Sharif went to Kabul and demanded the extradition of Mulla Fazlullah. Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of abetting terrorism in Pakistan and wants extradition of Mulla Omar.
In India Parliament and schools observed two minutes silence. On #IndiaWithPakistan many Indians condemned Peshawar attack and offered condolences.
On 18/12/2014 there was outrage in India as Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi got bail in 26/11 case. India made it displeasure known to Pakistan. Pakistan put Lakhvi under three month detention.
Media persons should refer to terrorists as such and not as extremists and militants.
The children and teachers who died in terror attack in Peshawar are murder victims and not martyrs.
Some other incidents happened during those days but they did not get much publicity. There was terror attack in Saudi Arabia and kidnapping of girls in Nigeria.
It is foolish to show mercy to murderers and high criminals.
There are people who say a terrorist is a terrorist, he has no religion. Their ignorance is profound. There are passages in different scriptures that justify killing and violence. In Pakistan’s case it is an Islamic Republic. Non-Muslims are second class citizens. Some Muslims consider themselves true Muslims and others as infidels or false Muslims. They do not want democracy. Pakistan has to come hard on terrorism. Otherwise it may end like Libya.

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