Category Archives: Freedom of Expression

Freedom of Expression in India

Gauri_Lankesh_FB2

Written by Randeep Purewall

On September 5, Gauri Lankesh was killed outside of her home in Bangalore. Gauri was Indian journalist and a vocal critic of the Hindu right. Her death is one in a growing funeral procession in India in which Hindu Nationalists are killing scholars and activists, assaulting students and banning films and books.

India’s Hindu Nationalist movement is a neo-fascist movement. It seeks to create and enforce a militant, statist nationalism and portrays itself as a protector of traditional national culture. It is racist, xenophobic and scapegoats minorities and routinely violates civil rights and liberties like free speech.

Without freedom of expression, there is no democracy. Freedom of expression lets us share information and ideas with one another and enables us to speak up against injistice. It lets us answer questions, chart new frontiers and realize what we as human beings.

Freedom of expression is no less important to modern India. It is a legacy of the freedom movement when Indian leaders were imprisoned for advocating non-cooperation. It helped turn international opinion against the British when the journalist Webb Miller reported on their atrocities in India.

This tradition of free expression is now undermined by Hindu Nationalism. In fact, many think that freedom of expression will soon be a thing of the past in India.

What’s happening in India though, is not unprecedented. In fact, freedom of expression has always been engaged in battle against the State. In 1644, the poet John Milton petitioned the English Parliament against censorship during the English Civil War:

“Let her [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?”

Freedom of expression has fought openly with the Reign of Terror, Nazism, McCarthyism, the Indian Emergency and the War on Terror. If it is finally vanquished by the Hindu Nationalist, it will truly be history.

In memory of Gauri Lankesh (1962-2017)

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Censorship, Freedom of Expression, India, Uncategorized

India’s Terror

India Terror Raid

Written by Randeep Singh

In “India’s Silent Terror,” Jill McGivering looks at the rise of Hindu nationalism in India and the terror it is wreaking across the country.

In this India, children are recruited into the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (India’s Hitler Youth) to keep their country safe from its enemies. The cow-protection[1] movement scours the land in search of transgressors. Muslims live in fear, Christians are attacked, student activists are charged with sedition and history books published by those in higher education are banned.

There has been an increase in killings and violence against Muslims, Christians and members of other minority groups in India since the election of Narendra Modi in 2014. McGivering underlines the zeal of right-wing Hindu political activists in remaking India and the unease felt by minorities.

When she addresses these concerns with Dr. Hitesh Bajpayee (Madhya Pradesh) and India’s Minister of Education, Prakash Javdekar, McGivering is told that the remarks of those concerned are politically motivated. Javedkar even suggests that such remarks are used by the West to bash Modi and malign India.

I agree that the remarks of Shahid Muhammad Khan,[2] the student activist Kanhaiya Kumar and the NGO worker Ram Chand are politically motivated. They are political in that these people are claiming their basic rights to life, liberty and security and to freedom of thought and expression. They are political in that these people are demanding a respect for their basic dignity.

The remarks of the BJP Ministers are no less political. Javedkar describes the JNU protest led by Kanhaiya Kumar as a threat to the nation. Students must be taught the “right perspective” says Javedkar, a perspective which is also politically defined and one that the Hindu Right prefers not be subjected to scrutiny or debate.

The Hindu Nationalism project is tearing away at India. It is leaving a bloody, despotic and terrorizing trail as in the pogroms in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli,[3] the crackdown at JNU and in the growth of self-censorship. This is a different India, says one professor, across which a new juggernaut is rolling, flattening the country culturally and squashing those who get in the way.

BBC Radio 4: “India’s Silent Terror,” http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b084zk77

[1]  A symbol of the modern Hindu right.

[2] Khan has sold newspapers for a living for over forty years. He was more recently by a Hindu leader with defamation for selling a certain newspaper containing an article critical of that leader.

[3] Districts in Uttar Pradesh.

Leave a comment

Filed under Freedom of Expression, Hindu Nationalism, India, Randeep Singh, Uncategorized

Why Criticizing Islam is Not Islamophobia

220px-Hallaj

Written by Randeep Singh

Writing in the wake of Charlie Hebdo in Al-Jazeera, Abdullah Al-Arian argues that Islam has been “unfairly criticized and ridiculed” by the West for centuries. Such a history, he writes, has prejudiced the West into into painting Islam as illiberal and intolerant.

Islamophobia is a reality. So too are problems within Islam and the Muslim world. Islamophobia should be condemned; but not criticizing or questioning Islam or Muslim societies.

If I criticize Islam for engendering patriarchy, the persecution of minority groups and its smug, supremacist view of itself, it’s because I have criticized Christianity for the same reasons. I oppose Christian organizations for their homophobia, without hating Christianity. I criticize Israel without hating Jews. I criticize Islam without hating it. I am not hating or fearing anyone: I am striving for equality, inclusion and justice regardless of who or what we are.

The fight for freedom of expression is not a clash between civilizations. It has been happening within the Muslim world for centuries. Mansur Al-Hallaj (856-922) became a martyr for proclaiming “I am the Truth (God).” Sarmad (1590-1661) too was martyred for his “heretical” views. Bulleh Shah (1680-1757) challenged the mullah for his sectarian views. In modern times, Nazim Hikmat (1902-1963), Saadat Hassan Manto (1912-1955) Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1911-1984) and Naghuib Mahfouz (1911-2006) have all been imprisoned, exiled or censured for their art and political views.

Criticism of the Muslim world as illiberal and intolerant today is likewise vindicated. Just ask Raif Badawa, the blogger who recently received 50 lashes in Saudia Arabia. Or ask Aasiya Bibi, the Christian women who languishes in prison on charges of blasphemy in Pakistan. Or how about Salman Rushdie?

Without change, the Muslim world will become progressively more intolerant and creatively barren. Denying any criticism of Islam produces a culture which is afraid to ask questions and unable to find answers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Freedom of Expression, Islam, Politics, Religion