Millennium Post

Taking things in the right spirit

It is shocking how a professor can be arrested in Bengal for forwarding a cartoon on Facebook; how a cartoonist can be arrested for making a cartoon on the government and unbelievably, how a young girl – Shaheen Dhadha – can be arrested for posting something as basic as: ‘With all respect, every day, thousands of people die, but still the world moves on. Just because one politician died a natural death, everyone just goes bonkers. They should know, we are resilient by force, not by choice. When was the last time, anyone showed some respect or even a two-minute silence for Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Azad, Sukhdev or any of the people because of whom we are free-living Indians? Respect is earned, given, and definitely not forced. Today, Mumbai shuts down due to fear, not due to respect.[sic]’ – while another girl can be arrested for liking the post! Shameful! Disgusting! Dictatorial!

I am appalled how power makes people go peremptorily crazy and intolerant. It’s childish and gallingly immature of top leaders of this country to not have even a smattering ability to withstand cartoons made on them or to allow people to joke about them and vent their anger at their policies and thoughts, however correct the politicians might feel they are. At one point of time on Google, when you searched the word ‘idiot’, the name of ‘George Bush’ used to pop up on the first page. And why not? When he or Obama became the president of the United States, about 48 per cent of Americans were against them – from mild to extreme haters of their personality, policies, cult, and ideologies. And when these individuals go on the net and abuse, it’s only logical that even the president of the most powerful nation becomes the most abused man on the internet. Same is the case with Walmart, the largest corporation in the world; and the most abused one too. Our monocratic politicians and leaders need to realise this truth. Our politicians should nurture these supporters and think of ways of doing outstanding work so that they can win the rest over, instead of being in the picayune illusion that arresting the naysayers will solve the problem.

It never did; and even if it superficially did earlier, it never will in the new munificent age of Internet freedom. And thank god for that, for freedom of speech and expression is the biggest cornerstone of and for an emancipated democracy and humanity.

Our iniquitous politicians need to type ‘Barack Obama Jokes’ on any search engine once to see how tolerant that man must be, a gentleman who is the President of the United States. From pestiferous dark humour to odious sarcasm to below-the-belt ripostes, Obama is the butt of all jokes, with numerous belittling joke sites on him and millions of individuals sharing them all the time. It’s this virtuous ability to never bother about who says what and the incumbent ability to keep doing great work and winning over more and more people that make an Obama, a Bush, a Samsung and a Walmart what they are. In fact, these are the greats who use all the disparaging criticism to their advantage by searching out the real areas for improvement.

However, since that kind of consummate maturity is unimaginable in our mostly illiterate, political class of goons and power-hungry monsters, it surely is time for the Supreme Court to expediently interfere and lay down clear-cut guidelines to differentiate between what is freedom of speech and what is unacceptable slander punishable by law (because freedom of speech is also not the freedom to defame and insult mass sentiments in a public platform). Having said that, the biggest challenge in front of us is the inability of our judges to understand, follow and fathom the new world of Internet freedom and its possibilities and ramifications. They are mostly too old and too Internet-unsavvy to really come to the right conclusions. It’s important that our judiciary engages unbiased and qualified trainers from reputed international universities to train our judges on the new web-world; so that, subsequently, they can then step in with clear-cut new guidelines. The guidelines themselves should be simple and easy to understand. They should bring a new wave of positivity, hope and freedom amongst today’s youth with a conviction that they truly have the right to free speech. It should be similar to what the Supreme Court did with the national flag... In one sweeping punctilious judgement, the police and the administrators must be told about their limits on controlling the Internet and where they can’t interfere.

Because as long as things are kept vague, knavish goons and dictators who are hiding behind the garb of elected politicians will make use of the confusion and try and instill fear in the minds of people; a Chidambaram could get a man arrested for a debatable tweet, while a Mamata Banerjee could get another man arrested for a completely non-issue of a cartoon. After all, in this land of immature and intolerant politicians, the Supreme Court is our only hope.

Arindam Chaudhuri is a management guru and director of IIPM Think Tank
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