Freedom under threat

By Adil Langoo

For all manners and purposes, the world in its entirety has evolved. From the time of inquisitions and heresies, from war and conquering, it has also suffered a lot. The modern world, particularly the west and democracies like India seem to have misunderstood the arguments that John Stuart Mill once gave in favor of freedom of expression. They seem to have forgotten how truth after great scrutiny does surface over time. How what we believe to be false always contains an element of truth to it. How horrible it is to sabotage freedom of expression. The world has witnessed the results of not heeding to the arguments of flaws in market economy. Indeed, the world has witnessed devastation by restraining voices that must be heard, by burying a myriad of crucial opinions and arguments.

In this era where freedom of expression has broadened its sphere tremendously to take on an entirely new form, Kashmir is still crawling on its knees in the pursuit of basic political freedom. Or rather, it has been forced to crawl. Whenever Kashmir has tried to put on speed, to catch hold of the wonders of freedom, it has been broken. Broken through coercion, cruelty and bullying. Freedom of expression and all channels of communication have been cut off every time in the recent history of Kashmir’s struggle for freedom and plight to be heard.  The most recent ones include the ban on SMS service and the barring of local news cable channels from telecasting news to the people of Kashmir. And of course, let’s not forget Big Brother’s watch on all Facebook activities. The opinions of the youth, which they express on social networks like Facebook, have been filtered and sabotaged – if they themselves have been left alive to speak. The perspectives of the local media and news channels have been met with an unsatisfactory and raging response.  The result is that information sharing, which is the glue in societal formation and which connects people, has been greatly restricted.

In an environment of acute democratic deficit that curtails the flow of information, all forms of expressions will only brew anger and dissent. Imagine- you try to access the internet in an internet café and are asked for your identity, phone number, and your signature before you are allowed to login. Imagine your friend who is studying outside the state asks you to SMS some crucial information – and you are reminded time and again of the SMS ban. Imagine that you want to upload a status on Facebook, to simply state the rawness of your feeling, and a threat of the Public Safety Act lingers in your mind like a razor sharp sword. Imagine – while searching for an IPL match you get a sneak of a local channel and are reminded of the news that you used to watch on TV, on those very channels. The SMS ban is looked at as a form of oppression, and it retains the thought that there is some authority that curtails and controls their life forcibly. Such feelings and all of this fear is what the Kashmiris are living with consistently as a part of their life, which does nothing but deepen their alienation towards the authorities.

That freedom if given space and allowed to flourish only helps in the smooth running of society seems to be unconceivable for authorities.  The fact that opposing views and perspectives are looked down at as an offence is only the first stage of dismal ruin. To hear only what soothes our ears is not being civilized. Understand – political freedom is a tool through which a sense of belongingness and trust is achieved between the government and people. In the long run, it ensures better governance and improved results in accordance and with full support of the people. By giving people the power to exercise freedom, you empower them with confidence, hope and allow the truth to actually surface. So let the authorities “allow” freedom and revoke the ban on channels of communication such as the SMS for the betterment of the authorities and of the society as a whole. Photo: thecommentator.com

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