The Censored Era

The Censored Era

 The dawn of May 10th 1951, was indeed a very promising one! The Indian democracy was strengthened by its newly made constitution. Fundamental Rights were laid down to preserve the dignity and integrity of the nation and its fellow citizens, and one of those was the Right to Speech! Since the day of drafting, no consensus has ever been reached in India regarding the meaning of free speech. The drafters of the constitution chose to frame free speech within the ‘context of constraint rather than in the context of rights’, that was when the ideology of censorship was born in this country. But the actual question is, what does the censorship actually entail in Indian context? I would like to establish a difference between two things which are often equated- ban and censorship!  A ban has an official implication and is state endorsed however censorship is more of a grey area and may include solely the involvement of non state actors like corporations, social groups and individuals. There is absolutely no doubt that when it comes to bans, India is a very bizarre country. We are probably the only nation in the world where a court took a daring decision and then a higher court pulled it out in a retrogress move and left it to the legislation to decide it. The same legislature that can’t decide on a woman reservation bill but recently tried to ban pornography!

The situation is quite curious; f5fe44b32b4a7e6367a5eb0afcb1548bthere have been cases where public affection of love also had to suffer through similar treatment. In the name of moral policing couples are beaten, made to do ‘ups and downs’’- quite simply humiliated- and in some cases are even forced to marry when they were found celebrating love in public! However, urinating in public is completely normal. Kissing is indecent and it is totally a western concept – not for India! We are the ‘sabhya’ people remember! And Kama Sutra is, well, an ancient thing! Governments are often accused of using censorship as a tool to create an environment of fear among people. The Gujarat Government banning ‘Fanaa’ after Aamir Khan spoke against the Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada is a perfect example. The weird cases do not end here. The Karnataka Government issued rules banning foreigners from attending parties. Moreover, censorship hasn’t even failed to highlight the gender bias that exists in our nation. Instances of banning women from singing ‘thumris’ or  even from writing poetry in the state of Tamil Nadu have been shockingly known.

 636037923867140209-683420833_worst-thing-about-censorshipIn such an environment of intolerance, the government must answer: Is it only Prime Minister Modi who has the right of ‘Mann-Ki-Baat’? In such dramatic times, journalists have to be braver than ever. Journalists are often fined 100-300 Crores, whereas online laws are even more draconian and can result in 3 years of jail or a 36 hour takedown request, which is why many journalists are choosing to pre-censor their articles. The inherent problem with many of these bans lies within the fact that this country is still running on the rails of Victorian era! We follow the laws made by the British which they forced on us hundreds of years ago. Irony is that the makers of these laws do not follow them anymore. Britain has got gay rights and Britain has one of the most uncensored media. So the real question is, what went wrong? Do we need to ‘ban-the-ban’? Well, senior Associate Editor of Outlook Magazine Anuradha Raman said once on the challenges journalists face in this censored world, ‘It is part of the job [for journalists] to fight … As long as we know that what we put out is right, and it has served a particular good, which is what free speech is all about, I think we are doing fine’.

-SAMADRITO BOSE
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