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The lines or the piece of art might be hilarious, but they are more serious than the ‘serious’ ones. A piece of satire needs more creativity than a flat and hard-hitting one. The West is much advanced in this field. Be it satire writings, cartoons or art, they are much ahead of the East. The tragedy in Paris is definitely significant in terms of the vulnerability of freedom of speech at the hands of religious extremist force. But it is also for rest of the world to see that a thing called ‘freedom of speech’ exists in France. That’s why the incident is getting global condemnation. A similar incident in Middle-East or Africa would not have received such attention.

Although the Indian press apparently enjoys great freedom of expression, there exists no such satire magazine. There are satire writings and arts in bits and pieces in magazines and newspapers, but most of them are limited to targeting the political and bureaucratic establishments. The vices in the great world of religion have almost remained untouched. Of course, there is a major challenge in treating religious subjects as India is already suffering from multiple ethnic conflicts and communal clashes besides attacks of terrorism in the name of religion. An outrageous religious cartoon will put the life of a cartoonist at risk any moment. This shows the so-called freedom of expression in India is a myth. There may not be any highly visible attacks on writers or cartoonists, but there is little content to warrant such situation as well. The need of the hour is for independent and creative minds to deal with religious subjects in a different manner, like making use of satire.

Satire has been an important tool in art and literature for ages to convey great messages. But to allow the art of satire to grow the nation as a whole has to play a role, as the present West does. There has to be a huge level of acceptance and tolerance among the public, which is lacking in the East including India. It has to be noticed France has not seen any major retaliatory attack on the minority Muslim community. After the massacre of 10 Charlie Hebdo employees, the French public has not jumped into any conclusion to go and attack Muslims randomly, as seen in countries like India. There is a long way to go for India to attain freedom of expression as in the West.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on January 10, 2015)

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