Until sometime ago, I didn’t really read the newspaper; I just scanned the headlines, read the piece if it interested me and returned the newspaper back to its place. I’d once thought of giving up reading the newspaper completely because they are always filled with so much of negativity – politics and thefts and rapes and pollution reports. It could easily ruin your good day if you’re like me – the kind of person who is more worried about the world than herself. I don’t like reading reports on how the Arctic is melting or the house sparrow is endangered or that people are dying because of the drought. I’m tired of reading about rapes – babies, toddlers, wives, old women, tourists – every single day. And I’m speechless when I realize that these are the cases that come into notice while there are a thousand others that go unreported daily.
But then, I’m also very opinionated. I like to take a stand on every issue rather than be in the background and stay confused about what’s going on. I want to know what I think about a particular issue and I want to share it with others. I like being a part of the conversation. And not reading the newspaper, not knowing what was going on in the world was not helping. If I were to raise my voice, I had to know what the issue is. I did not like the idea of being ignorant. So I cancelled the idea of not reading the newspaper.
But then I read it and I realized that the newspaper is filled with ignorant people. Half of the times they don’t know what they’re saying and people agree with what they say blindly, simply because they do not like going against the popular opinion. Some people speak up, but then they are trolled or abused or threatened. People do not understand what freedom of speech means.
And in India, people do not even bother to understand.
The right to freedom of speech is a Fundamental Right guaranteed and protected by the Indian Constitution. The only limitations on this right are that it must not be used to offend or disrupt public peace and order. It should not hurt the sentiments of people, especially where religion is concerned, since India is a large country accommodating people of almost all faiths. However, people take it to mean that no individual is supposed to speak anything that contradicts them. They think that only their opinion is valid. Everything others say is worthless and thus should be silenced. You cannot disagree that this is not the case. I have examples, very recent, to prove it.
When the actor Aamir Khan, like a normal person does in his day-today life, expressed that his wife was worried about the growing intolerance in India, people tried to boycott his films, spurred hatred against him, directed it towards those who supported him, told him to leave India and move to Pakistan simply because he is a Muslim, and even went ahead and boycotted the brands he endorsed. All because of the simple but true statement he made. All the so called “nationalists” refused to accept the fact that the country was intolerant and Khan himself said, in a post responding to all the criticism, that they only proved his point by disagreeing.
Or take the very very recent example of Gurmehar Kaur, who in a video told her story of promoting peace, through placards. One of the placards she was holding proclaimed that not Pakistan, but War killed her father, Captain Mandeep Singh. People, especially nationalists, took no time in trolling her. Even the famous cricketer Virender Sehwag and actor Randeep Hooda joined them, not realizing the sensitivity of the issue. Kaur is a peace warrior and as a headline in today’s Times of India said, people are missing her point.
There are crores of “patriots” who are in favor of waging war against Pakistan, who think that all Muslims are Pakistanis and all Pakistanis are terrorists. They think that Kaur was stupid to make such a statement. Kaur has said what 99 percent of people fail to see – that the solution to a problem is to look at the root cause and take action to eliminate it. It was war that killed Kaur’s father and hundreds of other martyrs. Pakistan did not kill them. The unrest between the countries and their people that led to war killed these brave soldiers. Pakistan is not our enemy, war – of any kind – is.
Yet people refuse to acknowledge that. I had come across the issue only yesterday, and within a span of twenty-four hours, I woke up to read that Kaur had received rape threats from nationalists. She had to temporarily deactivate her Facebook account and also leave for her hometown of Jalandhar.
Tell me, is this nationalism? Is this how you show your love for the country – by calling all the people of a nation and religion terrorists? Is this how you show respect to your motherland – by threatening rape? Do you think violence is the only solution?
This is not nationalism. You are not raising your voice to make the country a better place to live. You are only screaming so that the voice of those who are speaking the truth is muddled in the noise you make. Nationalism means taking action. Nationalism does not mean promoting violence, spreading hate, inciting fear or threatening rape. It does not show how patriotic you are. It only shows how disrespectful, xenophobic and sexist you are. If being proud of your country by sacrificing other’s dignity, respect and rights is your philosophy, then you seriously need to re-examine your values and motives. Because this is not nationalism, not matter how loudly you roar “Bharat Mata Ki Jai.”
“Our wretched species is so made that those who walk on the well-trodden path always throw stones at those who are showing a new road.”