Home to the second largest population and one of the fastest developing economies, why is the phrase “Indian democracy” oxymoronic? Even though it has been over 70 years since our emancipation from the British rule, why are we still oppressed?
Despite our many scientific advancements, creatively, we still face a backward system. We are still stifled by our own notions which inadvertently have disallowed our own growth. The fields of media, more particularly, are fraught due to the restrictions imputed onto their creativity by the very industry they represent. Boasting democracy cannot be juxtaposed with thwarting freedom of expression. We have one of the largest youth populations and the potential we hold, to dominate all fields, is colossal. Of course, our cultures must be respected- and they are- as we are proud our diversity; but we must not lose our ability to detach from our cultural and religious faiths when dealing with opinions, thoughts and ideas. The examples of these two distinct, different streams intersecting, overlapping and conflicting, are unending, but to aid understanding, I would like to delve into a few.
Let’s begin with perhaps the most famous; the scandal surrounding Anurag Kashyap’s “Udta Punjab”. The movie strove to display the prevalent drug issue in Punjab but was somehow misconstrued as an endorser of drug abuse and merited 94 cuts by the Central Board of Film Certification. Reading their name, one can tell that their role is merely certifying films based on their content to ensure that the more mature films are prescribed only to the mature audiences. However, they repeatedly have crossed the boundaries of their duties and modified and even rejected films: Indian films that won awards around the world like “Margarita with A Straw”, “The Pink Mirror” and internationally renowned films like “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and even “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”. The documentary “India’s Daughter” about the brutal, rape and murder of Jyoti Singh in 2012 was also banned. Sexual harassment and assault already being an extremely prevalent issue in the country, education cannot be denied through such mediums. Until people do not understand the horrors committed and the very real, very painful consequences of the same, change will not commence because it must be evoked since it is not being regulated. The story of a victim of one of the country’s largest issues, was banned by the country- and that should be unacceptable.
Deviating from this long list, another series of unfortunate, unnecessary events arise. Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel “Satanic Verses” invited controversy and fallouts from all over the world but India not only banned the book, but even the author until 2015. Despite the book’s connotations, the choice people deserve of reading/not reading or liking/not liking the book was stolen away based on the opinions of the people in power. The book is still banned in India.
In the 2st century.
In a democracy.
If that wasn’t redundant enough, one of India’s finest painters MF Husain, renowned around the world for his work, was forced into exile because the sentiments of religious groups were hurt to the extent that they took to vandalizing his home and art. A man that put India in the global art conversation was forced to flee his country out of fear for his own safety.
"No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world."
Our immense population holds a countless number of words and ideas. They deserve to not only be told without being modified or stripped of their meaning, but heard, without preordained biases, threats and hatred. It is only our reaction to these events that will have any effect. We can witness our country’s ascent to brilliance in all fields, or be bystanders as we trample over that very potential.
“And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”
Leo Aakash Nair,
Alpha Leo Club of SVKM International.
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