Context

  • As India march towards its ambitious goal of becoming a global power, hazes of unfreedom hover over the shadow of its individuals, as consumers and as groups within the would-be great nation

Good Muslims and Bad Muslims

  • The recent ban in illegal cow slaughter has massively affected the Muslim community who earn their livelihood from the meat trade.
  • Many people believe that this is however, a problem about a few Muslims, that there are “good Muslims” and “bad Muslims”, and that the problem would sort itself out by making all “good Muslims”

Cow Vigilantes

  • In the name of protecting cows, the self-proclaimed “cow protectors” unleashed violence in several parts of the country.
  • Though they were isolated incidents, the victims were mostly from minority and socially disadvantaged communities

Forced devotion for Dalits is not freedom

  • The implicit argument is that being a Hindu majority society, people ignore the fact that trade and livelihood interests of sections of Dalits are also at stake or the fact that the cow might not be a sacred animal for many Dalits

Pseudo Nationalism

  • Recent incidents show that may not be enough for a citizen to be patriotism and nationalism
  • The enforced ideas of patriotism and nationalism imply that it is simply not enough for a citizen to be a law-abiding person, co-operative and compassionate towards other citizens
  • Playing the anthem in cinema halls has become a new test of nationalism just like shouting Bharat Mata ki Jai becomes a new insurance for personal security from pseudo nationalists

Citizens have only duties

  • The censor board is an important flagbearer of this unfreedom.
  • The argument is that what is not “Indian” culture, should not be allowed on the screen and this argument believes that sexuality and sensuality are un-Indian.
  • Beyond politically more sensitive and publicized matters, our private persons and public lives and spaces are being gradually subjected to an unwritten censorship, as if Pahlaj Nihalani were writing the screenplays of our daily lives.
  • While official patronage to vegetarianism expands, the informal pressure against non-vegetarians is becoming palpable in many residential locations.
  • Instances of powerful communities demanding a ban on the trade of meat for long durations are gaining acceptance.

Defining a ‘good’ women

  • Violent protests have already taken place against women going to pubs. Implicit in such instances are small, disparate cultural norms that are emerging afresh to define what it means to be a good woman.
  • Dress codes are becoming prevalent and glorified.
  • The Hindu religious motif is so strong in regulating male-female interaction that recently a circular was issued by an officer of the government of Daman & Diu ordering all women employees to tie a rakhi to their male colleagues.
  • There are two critical aspects to this rejuvenated attack on our freedom. One is that we do not recognise the expanding realm of fear and unfreedom.
  • Instead of thinking of issues of freedom as a matter of principle, we treat them as matters of prudence.

State’s role

  • The other aspect is about agencies of unfreedom and the most usual suspects in the business of unfreedom are state and religion.
  • They are, of course, doing their best to live up to that reputation. But new social energies are involving themselves with the task of restricting the freedoms of individuals and groups.
  • There is a legion of self-appointed vigilantes who would define the limits of our freedom. The state seems happily complicit in allowing them a free run.
  • But more fearsome is the invisible expansion of the realm of unfreedom.
  • Not the state, not religion, nor even the vigilantes. It is simply a cultural norm and the fear of being singled out that reins in freedoms.

Need of the hour

  • As a society and as individuals, we are quick to succumb to this fear and to the temptation of being unfree.
  • It is thus important that people don’t just consider restrictions as mere ‘issues in society’ but as a parasite that is quickly but silently settling and gaining acceptance.
  • We as society , needs to understand the true essence of tolerance and abide by the rule of law

 

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