Friday, February 8, 2013

Free speech: Why Indian society unable to handle diverse and complex thoughts?

2013 seems to be a year of controversies involving ‘freedom of expression’. We have Ashis Nandy’s reference to Scheduled castes in context of corruption, Kamal Hasan’s Viswaroopam and Shah Rukh Khan’s take on being a Muslim in India becoming the hearsay. The three issues reveal the inability of media and citizens to handle complex thoughts.

For instance, the moment Ashis Nandy made his remark at Jaipur Literature festival, the news services across the country ran the headlines “SC/ST/OBCs most corrupt: Ashis Nandy.” The news was too simple to explain the context in which Nandy came up with such a remark. Also, it was misguiding enough to provoke the anger and offense across multitudes. Similar was the issue of Vishwaroopam. The media reported the movie as anti-Muslim. Without even a preview being shown, how the media analyzed the movie as anti-Muslim is not known. Whatsoever, diverse comments from functionaries and political leaders emerged. And finally, the movie was sacked. Shah Rukh Khan’s remark of being a Muslim in India in an article published by US based Outlook magazine too brought out a related, but not so huge uproar.

What lies behind this trend of being hyperactive? Is it the inability of the media to handle complex thoughts that led to this? Or is it the ‘murdochisation’ of news that makes the news less serious? If keenly observed, both the factors have contributed to this scenario. The ‘murdochisation’ has made the news too sensationalized and turned it into a form of entertainment. It has also encouraged the simplification of news, that any complex thoughts are disintegrated into meanings that contradict the original one. Besides misguiding the public, this has trained the citizens to think simple.

When the idea of complexity vanishes from the society, it becomes difficult for the people to present their opinions. Every divergent opinion is considered as an attack on some community. What is the need for a community to feel insecure when a movie is made or a comment is said? There is no definite answer for this.

In fact, it is only a matter of engaging with different viewpoints and being sensitive to each other. Also, the citizens need to comprehend an issue before they respond to it. Without these two being done, India will see more number of baseless attacks and arguments in the upcoming months.

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