By Saloni N

Our preamble states that India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic and we recently celebrated 67 years of freedom. But there are several issues that are a threat to different kinds of freedom; the freedom to know, to choose and to express. And this threat is coming from our Parliamentarians and country-men.

The Parliament which can rarely come to a consensus and wastes useful working hours and money in walk-outs and logjams, quickly passed ‘contentious’ amendments in the Representation of the People Act (RP Act) in the Monsoon session, allowing it to keep criminality among its ranks. The SC had ruled on July 10 that people in police custody cannot contest the polls but MPs across all party-lines saw this as a witch-hunt.

The iconic Right to Information Act was also subject to efforts to curb its ambit. Our politicians did not want to disclose details about their parties and its accounts which is ironic because they claim to work for the ‘junta’ but while they can peek into our lives, theirs remain, ‘for their eyes only’.  Thankfully, the civil society has been very vocal against this and in this ‘almost-washed-out’ Monsoon session the bill couldn’t be tabled.

Lest you say this is all negative,  the Food Security bill and Land Acquisition bill were passed that seek to be pro-poor and pro-farmers.

It’s not just political efforts that have restricted freedom but people themselves. It doesn’t matter that article 19 1(a) of the constitution guarantees freedom of expression (subject to reasonable restrictions); certain elements in the society become the judge, jury and executioner. Creative licensing and expression in films, cartoons, art, books or any other medium isn’t allowed until it meets their yardstick of what is right, appropriate and Indian. Comparisons with China irk us because we allow freedom on the internet but do we really, when people are arrested for liking posts on Facebook?

M F Hussain was run out of his own country by such elements and died a Qatari citizen. Looking at recent events, students from Department of Performing Arts in the University were threatened by a certain ‘group’ for doing a play expressing their solidarity for students attacked in FTII in Pune. The organizers of the film fest Kashmir Before Our Eyes were assaulted and their property was vandalized because apparently their films were un-Indian? Let’s ask what does it mean to be Indian and who has the authority to decide that? Not our MPs, not some groups, it should be left to the laws that govern us. Our feelings of nationality shouldn’t be doubted by a few.

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