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Freedom of expression, hypocrisy and democracy
Prashant Kanojia's arrest and subsequent release after SC's order has once again sparked the 'Freedom of Expression' controversy. Although SC didn't appreciate Kanojia's controversial tweet but asserted that he can't be jailed over it.

Just before this case, Priyanka Sharma from Kolkata was arrested for sharing a morphed image of Mamata Banerjee. The SC again ordered her release along with instructing her to apologize to Mamata Banerjee. In Karnataka also, Siddaraju and Chama Raju were arrested by the police for abusive posts against the Karnataka CM and his son on social media.

It's not just happening now; people have been arrested and booked time and again in different states ruled by different parties for posting or making satirical comments against the ruling dispensations. Thus, two questions arise here. First is whether the reactions are hypocritical and second is the validity of the freedom of expression.

For example, when Kanojia was arrested, because he was from the journalistic fraternity, all the media people reacted sharply. The non-BJP parties too criticized the BJP government of UP. But the same non-BJP parties remain silent when people are arrested for the same reason in West Bengal under TMC's rule or in Karnataka under JDS-Congress rule. Similarly, the BJP is critical about the arrests in West Bengal and Karnataka whereas it justifies the arrest in UP. Yes, reactions on such issues are full of double standards and hypocritical. In UP's case, the Editor's Guild criticized strongly because Kanojia is a journalist but gave lukewarm response to the other arrests.

Such things happen every now and then, but let me remind some important cases in this regard. Famous painter MF Hussein's nude painting of Hindu goddesses evoked strong reactions from the Hindus. Some radical Hindus even threatened Hussein as a result he left India and gave up Indian citizenship. The so-called intellectuals (I call then antillectuals) criticized such reactions terming it as 'intolerance' and an attack on the freedom of expression. Then 'Charlie Hebdo' published a cartoon of Prophet Mohammad. The same was criticized by those very intellectuals (antillectuals) citing the cartoon as hurting a community's sentiments. Even people like Mani Shankar Ayer justified the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo's office, which led to the loss of lives of many.

The hypocrisy is visible. If a cartoon of Prophet Mohammad is wrong, a nude painting of a Hindu goddess not correct either. How can you differentiate one as freedom of expression and the other as offensive to the sentiments of a community? How can you justify arrests in West Bengal as right whereas arrest in UP as wrong? But then, nowadays duality is the hallmark in every criticism, complaints, allegations etc.

The next question is the validity of the 'freedom of expression'. No freedom is ever absolute. Even the Indian Constitution says that the freedom to speak/express must be exercised with reasonable restrictions. What do reasonable restrictions mean? You are free to express anything. But the moment your freedom of speech/expression starts hurting someone's sentiments, then your freedom seizes. Everyone has the freedom of dignity and respect. You can't insult or hurt sentimentally anybody to exercise your Constitutional right. Your fundamental rights can't violate of others' fundamental rights.

Thus, whoever makes abusive posts or insults someone through any media platform must be booked. You can't abuse someone to exercise your Constitutional rights because the opposite party/person too has their rights mandated by the Constitution.

The bottom line is that we must ensure not to hurt anyone irrespective of the fact or evidences. You can criticize someone's act but can't abuse or offend in any manner because that's violation of the right to dignity. Then we must not behave like Hippocrates. Democracy doesn't endorse hypocrisy.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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