By Kanika Katyal:
As a citizen of India, I think it definitely has been a historic moment; freedom of speech has triumphed. My faith in the Indian Judiciary has been restored. There is hope after all, even in this grim Machiavellian world.
In recent times, we witnessed many cases where artists had to face a lot of threats with regards to their creative freedom – movies were banned, websites of artists were taken down, comedy shows were taken to courts, writers were murdered and so on, all because they had ‘offended’ the sentiments of someone or the other. Most of this was happening on the internet! So the verdict comes as a breakthrough because there is a certain kind of creative freedom and freedom of expression that the internet, in particular, not only entails but also necessitates. It is a liberal and permissive platform (away from state-censorship and corporate pressures). People belonging to my generation, especially, always saw expressing their opinion on the Internet as a fundamental right. In the past decade, if social media has emerged as a potent tool for propaganda, it also has risen as a tool for generating protest, mass mobilization and awareness. Hence, I think the Internet plays a big role in maintaining that equilibrium of the contraries; the balance in the universe, so to say. It gives me immense sense of peace to know that the state will not be able to selective in its actions.
The issue around Section 66A , in a broader way, addresses the politics of public and private spaces. I think there are no fine lines. What is private is always political, and why not? Everything that we do is informed by our consciousness. If I am feminist in spirit, I cannot be patriarchal on the web. It won’t happen, because my thought-process will reflect on what I write. If I feel strongly about women issues, then the kind of links that I read or share on social media will be charged with that activism; even if doing that disturbs the status quo. So the verdict is also empowering in that sense. Now I have the freedom to claim and assert that sense of self even more aggressively.
As a writer at Youth Ki Awaaz, the verdict got us all a little teary-eyed, because we pride ourselves upon being a community-based journalistic platform – always seeking to initiate dialogues and discussions on issues which are not talked about in mainstream media. Those issues are usually the ones which are offensive to the majority. Sometimes we were given titles – ‘anti-establishment, overcritical’ etc. I’m glad that we can be who we are, say what we want and stand for what we believe in, more fearlessly now.