Singhvi on free speech

Abhishek Manu Singhvi wrote an article for the Times last week – “Unpopular free speech”

Are we, as a nation, losing our capacity for tolerating free speech, which is contrary to our views or sensitivities? Are we so hemmed in by the burdens of propriety or public office or identity politics or regional compulsions or the pressure to conform or other media pressures that unconventional or radical views are suppressed? Are humour, creativity, free speech, the right to be eccentric and a maverick being compromised?

The boundaries of obscenity have, since time immemorial, been the battlefield of such conflicts. Courts have valiantly extended society’s limits of tolerance by inclining towards free speech and artistic expression. But the issue being raised here is not one of legal interpretation but of diminution of space of the simple right to hold and propagate unpopular views without being gagged or demonised.

Such an article is as pointless as lighting a candle for the victims of terror attacks. Singhvi has been an Additional Solicitor General of India. So, before writing nice articles like these, he should explain why article 19(1) of the constitution places “reasonable restrictions” on free speech, and what is the logic behind the laws on defamation, slander and libel. Once these two thorns are permanently removed, and the right to free speech is made absolute, the chaddi walas, and the crackpots protesting on the streets of Calcutta, and the Shiv Sena, and various “liberal” television reporters, and disgruntled police commissioners, and any other prudish fascist outfit or person can be told to take a hike – no Censor Board, no book-banning and burning, no nothing. Anyone in the government willing to take up the challenge? I didn’t think so – our free speech advocates have their own definition of “free speech”, just like Stalin and Goebbels.

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  • you12  On March 3, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    (That is actually the false letter,this is the original).

    People you don’t understand. We must protect the minorities.

    Unbridled free speech will spread animosity and hatred among the various religions and we must protect the sentiments of our people. Sure a woman got beat up because of minorities and sure we don’t have the balls to say that minority communities treat their women very badly, but soon under the guiding light of Smt Sonia Gandhi, all women in India will achieve the status of Devi.

    And you people must understand, The Congress Party is very busy with the continuous process of making India a great Gandhian nation and because of that we just can’t be bothered to protect your liberties and lives.

    And never ask for unbridled free speech as its just not Indian culture. That is why for the well being of the people and the nation, The Congress Party has created a monopoly over speech and arms. And in the spirit of continuing our constant endeavor for the wellbeing of the nation, we tried to install our great leader Smt. Indira Gandhi as the only leader since our poor people can’t afford the videshi sanskriti of elections and democracy. And as we have said before, too much democracy will create people like Mr Modi.

    But when Smt Gandhi was alive, she not only allowed minorities like the Khalsa Panth its due freedoms,but she also jailed communal forces like Mr Advani and Mr Vajapyee.So in order to create peace, we must have leaders like Smt. Indira Gandhi forever. People will be very happy since they will not have any other choice and they will accept the great leader sooner than they do in this corrupt system of elections.

    And the other thing people must understand is this- the only party that cares about Family and continuation of Family life is congress party, that is why we only allow a single family to run our party and the nation. We must protect family life.

    Thank you and Jay Ghind.

    A.M Singhvi

    • Aristotle The Geek  On March 3, 2009 at 10:57 pm

      You haven’t covered Rajiv Gandhi pandering to the Hindu right in the ’80s, but then the Congress is an expert in the art of divide-and-rule. After all, it was tutored by the acknowledged masters of the craft.

      As I have said before, the only party I actually hate is the Congress. However, there doesn’t seem to be any sane alternative left.

  • you12  On March 3, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    He did that? Then I don’t know much about that era. I thought he was all about the minorities, the Shaira Bano case and the Tree analogy. The Hindu groups sided with Sikhs during ‘the fall of the tree’.

  • undercover Indian  On March 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Free speach!!!

    Indian culture is about “respect”. From childhood, we are told to respect our elders, parents, teachers by not arguing with them so as not to “hurt” them. An alfa version of “free speach” is learnt there and then. Is it then not this same “respect” and “not hurting others” sentiment which can explain why we have article 19(1) in the constitution which places “reasonable restrictions” on free speech!!

    You see, free speach is not in our culture. We must respect others by remaining mute.

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