Popular Youtuber Filthy Frank once said, “In this day and age of the internet, ignorance is a choice, and people are still choosing ignorance.” And given the current pandemic, there are many issues where people turn a blind eye like the issues of farmers, the declining economy, the rising religious strives, racism, rising unemployment because of the pandemic, and other socio-political and economic issues.
People ignore these issues, or they are just afraid to express their opinion with the fear of being attacked by the mob or the TRP vultures of the TV Media.
What they don’t know is that they have the right to express their opinions, and they have a right to criticize or critique the government regarding certain policies and issues. Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution ensures that every citizen of the country has the right to freedom of speech and expression.
In other words, they have the right to express whatever they want. But freedom of speech doesn’t mean that they have the right to say whatever they want. This isn’t the First Amendment of the US Constitution, where freedom of speech is absolute.
Article 19(2) provides reasonable restrictions to protect the integrity, morality of the sovereign, and the foreign relations with the other states. This was also backed up by Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code 1860, the Sedition Law.
Now keep in mind that there were times that Section 124A had been misused by the media to paint someone as anti-nationalist if he or she even tries to give a valid criticism or critique to the government.
This isn’t the only cause. If someone dares to speak something critical which is widely accepted by the masses, then the person will be attacked by the mob as if he committed a crime, albeit the only crime he or she committed is to voice his or her opinion.
When the internet feud of the Youtuber Pewdiepie vs. T-Series happened in 2019, many people who supported T-Series attacked the people who supported Pewdiepie all in the name of patriotism. Pewdiepie supporters received tons of death threats, and they were called anti-nationalists by the supporters of T-Series.
In this case, Article 19(1)(a) was thrown out the window like it was nothing. Another example is the Agrima Joshua incident where the standup comedian made a joke about Shivaji Maharaj, and her set was thrashed by the mob leading her to apologize for the joke she made.
Shubham Mishra, an internet personality, then gave rape threats to the comedian for the said joke, which was condemned by many people. Because of this, Shubham Mishra was arrested by the Vadodara Police for the rape threats.
The Agrima Joshua incident is an example of both Article 19(1)(a) because she has the right to make a joke about any subject and Article 19(2) because Shubham Mishra made a rape threat against her.
Needless to say, people should understand that everyone is entitled to their opinions, and if they have an opinion that is dissenting from theirs, then they should learn to respect it because they have the right to do so.
On social media, people voice out their opinions where they criticize the government for its recent blunders in the economy, the lockdown, the situation with farmers, the growing concerns of religious conflict in India, and other major socio-political events.
Social Media is the epitome of the art of freedom of speech where many people have been allowed to voice their opinions regarding certain issues over the country. However, it could be misused for inciting hate speech regardless many issues in society have been solved by social media.
It has become a powerful medium where people can voice their opinions on subjects like rape and the safety of women in India, which is one of the most popular subjects and thus opens a dialog and conversation around these subjects.
India’s democracy has been functional thanks to the freedom of speech. Countries like China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Belarus, etc. have failed to do so.
Due to the lack of freedom of speech and the implementation of censorship at a greater magnitude, these countries’ government has been misusing their power against their own people for certain agendas. The freedom of speech in India has made democracy more healthy and stable, and it is hoped that it continues to do so.