If a speaker cannot express their views then a listener cannot receive information. Writing empowers people — speech based on data and knowledge and dissent based on constructive criticism for better decisions. Every individual, while growing up, learnt that asking questions helps form a clear image in mind and helps in better understanding of concepts. When you question a thing, you are not disrespectful, but instead, you ask for clarity and a more open discussion for the benefit for everyone. However, the scenario seems to have changed.
In a democracy of 1,38,00,04,385 people residing in India, we all have the Right to Freedom under Article 19 that guarantees all its citizens six rights:
All these six rights provide every individual with the ability to raise their voice and question the government to practice the right to dissent.
In India, the bitter truth is that the party formation is based on religion, caste, culture, race etc. For example, the Shiv Sena, Hindu Maha Sabha, Muslim League. Requirements of a developing nation such as economic growth, eradication of social stigmas, keeping a check on the political play and so on are not considered.
Dissent is not anti-national; it instead helps people question the government that comes to power. After all, democracy is what we have learnt from childhood; it is of the people, by the people and for the people. People choose their representatives to reflect upon their demands and not what the government wishes to do on its own.
Propaganda has become news and abuse is the new form of debate in today’s time. Currently, society is being captivated by fake news and rumours that have always been the preferred weapons of fascists and majoritarian fundamentalists in democracies. A look around at perfect democracies and the World Freedom Index, where India is at the lower end, questions the very integrity of the system and those in power suppressing the voices of citizens.
Stringent laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the National Security Act (NSA) is slammed on activists nowadays without a thorough investigation. Journalists and a majority of youth have been put behind bars for protecting the morality, sovereignty and integrity of the nation. Our nation was built to uphold the equality and dignity of individuals and have an inclination towards public interest and unity in the country.
Records show how discrimination has prevailed in society related to arrests as well. Recently, lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan was charged under contempt of court for criticising the Chief Justice of India and Supreme Court. The top court fined him one rupee. But at the same time, the story of Justice C.S Karnan is forgotten. He was put behind bars on allegations of corruption in the judiciary against twenty judges. However, he was sentenced under the Contempt of Courts Act without any proceedings for his impeachment. He raised his voice and claimed his identity, being a Dalit, was the primary reason he was looked down upon and no importance was given to him.
Such differences and discriminations that prevail in our society make it challenging for people to coexist peacefully. When the anti-CAA law protests took place in India, the nation became a ground of communal hatred and violence spread everywhere. Circulation of fake videos and hate speeches couldn’t stop. According to The Hindu, more than 800 people were arrested for their involvement in the February violence, with 25-30 arrested since the lockdown was announced. Most people arrested belonged to a particular community because of the prejudice against them and the seeds of communal hatred that were sown in society.
Appreciation for movements led by the youth of India from prestigious universities like the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), Delhi University (DU) poured in. The movements for an Azad Kashmir, the farmers’ march to New Delhi to demand legislation for a guaranteed minimum support price and the formation of the queer movement for decriminalising consensual same-sex relations are some of the powerful movements. The Pinjra Tod and Nirbhaya Movement asking the government for more stringent laws for the protection of women are also important.
Raising your voice for what belongs to you doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s an expression of empowering everyone around you who face discrimination and are suppressed, be it a trans person or a person from North-East India or a Dalit or a person belonging to any minority group. All of us have the Right to Equality under Article-14 and that right cannot be taken away from anyone.