In Delhi, recently, the onion prices shot up to Rs 80/kg and now tomato prices have become the same. Meanwhile, the economy of India is at an all-time low, the share market is still finding it hard to recover but the centre has managed to keep the focus of the media on Pakistan, Ram Mandir and related issues. However, now in India more than anything, the most costly thing is freedom of speech.
Recently, in a bizarre move, a case was filed against a group of critics, writers, filmmakers and activists who wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi. “A Muzaffarpur-based advocate, who filed a case in a Bihar court against the 49 noted personalities who had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi raising concern over the growing incidents of mob lynching in the country, has been charged by police for filing a false case,” noted a report published on the Network18 website.
In the past few years, under the Modi regime, the attacks on critics have become a regular phenomenon. These attacks are not only restricted to social media but also occur in mainstream media, by the politicians, and by the people affiliated to the ruling regime. India has never witnessed such a hardcore right-wing political regime before, hence, the question arises, why are right-wingers against freedom of speech?
The strangest part here, is the way such attacks start in the mainstream media, where questions are raised about why these people did not criticise the earlier government, and why they are so active in criticising the current regime?
Firstly, criticism is a matter of choice, hence, just because someone did not say something earlier, that does not mean that the person should never come out and criticise. Secondly, the basic problem which we are overlooking is that the attacks on these critics are not ideological but fully political. Lastly, by attacking the critics, the ruling regime is trying to form an environment where the people are afraid to raise any questions and that is alarming.
For a healthy democracy, criticism should be given more value, as this highlights possible mistakes by the government and also creates the opportunity to rectify them. Right-wing politics in India is very much based on nationalism and also communalism, which creates the space to claim that any person who is criticising the government must be “anti-national”. This way the right-wingers want to create a country, in which, those in power will not be questioned, and I must say, that they have succeeded in some ways already.
In my opinion, right-wing politics in India, which is based on the Hindutva ideology, is trying to curb the freedom of speech, because they are scared that the diversity of India could create noise, which would destroy their political narrative. I believe that we should not mix this situation with the result of the election. It would be a bizarre claim that every person in our country who has voted for the BJP wants India to become a Hindu Rashtra.
The basic idea of India is diversity and the people of India always support that diversity. The ruling regime, which is the political counterpart of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, knows this fact very well, and that is why they want to create an environment where nobody talks about the diversity of India.
In recent years, we have seen an increasing number of hate crimes and the fundamental idea behind these hate crimes has been the communal factor, and also the caste factor. In India, communalism never overpowered the social structure of the country but the right-wing forces want to create a nation based on religion and not diversity. When someone says that he or she does not like criticism, that proves the person is authoritarian and I don’t believe India has ever been under such authoritarian power before.
Lastly, I believe that in India, diversity will prevail, questioning the power will prevail, and the idea of unity will prevail, but doing that will not be easy under this regime, hence, such attacks will happen and the people will have to fight back.