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Is there too much freedom in India? This question does the round sometimes despite frequent concerns over curb on freedom of expression. All strong advocates of Indian nationhood and culture point out to the fact that this land was a hub of freedom for millennia. This land accommodated people from all across the world, from all religions, for thousands of years. Here is where the ‘rishis’ (saints) tried to find out ways towards ‘mokhsa’, the term which is much beyond the capacity of English word ‘freedom’ to describe. Here is where the way of life was defined first, without any provision to suppress anyone’s freedom. The caste system was made to categorise people according to their capability, with all means to switch over from one to another. Caste was never a birth right then.

The Narendra Modi-led NDA government has raised the freedom debate once again by seeking to curb on porn in the country. It has blocked around 800 port sites following a PIL filed in the Supreme Court. The PIL expresses concern over the psychological damage caused by free porn to Indians. There is no denying that porn viewing does no good to anyone. It’s a means of entertainment. The question is why are we not banning other means of entertainment? Some other countries do. Writer of a song that criticizes Kim Jong-un may be executed in North Korea. In that country, airing a programme like ‘So Sorry’, run by the channels of India Today group, that makes fun of political leaders including PM Modi, will not be someone’s wildest imagination. The government, while deciding to block port sites, might have felt there is too much of freedom in India. On the other hand, the pro-freedom group tends to say such ban would equate us with countries, not looked up to by the rest of the world.

The government should have looked at the country’s past when sexuality was a honoured subject. The magnificent stone sculptures of Khajuraho, which are not the result of the rebellious act of a lone sculptor or by the made initiative of a pervert king, are still a pride of the country. The sculptures celebrating sexual postures survived thousands of years, meaning there was a sense of acceptability for generations thereafter. This is the same acceptability we hate about the Americans or westerners towards sexuality. But, the Indian society turned reserved and we now do not want to be seen discussing sex as openly as westerners do. Even as there is a lot to say in favour of freedom (to watch porn or whatever), the fact is that porn viewing has led to many a crime. The government’s intention should not be doubted, but at the same time the government not think that by blocking 800 some sites an enormous problem like growing sexual offences can be checked.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on August 5, 2015)

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