I admit that I do not know as much as I should about Lady Thatcher. I would also admit that 3 years in UK do not qualify me to have an informed opinion about the politics here. That being said, I have witnessed something remarkable in past few days which has given me a great appreciation of the great democracy that UK is.
After Lady Thatcher passed away, there were 2 diametrically opposite reactions which were expressed publicly with equal intensity. Let me rephrase – both the sets of reactions were allowed to be expressed publicly. There was no censorship of any sorts which was great to see. There were no stones thrown at people who were organizing parties to celebrate Lady Thatcher’s death and people who praised her were subjected to no ridicule. For me this was a great advert for sanctity of freedom of speech and a great example for how democracy should be practiced.
Imagine the same situation happening in India. Would we spare anyone who is having a party to celebrate the death of one of our idols? I bet the answer is no. I am sure that person will be beaten or the least his property would be vandalized. There would be political parties ransacking his/ her house or painting the ‘culprits’ faces in black.
When I compare the Indian scenario with the event in UK for past few days, I almost feel embarrassed. Right from criticizing religion to criticizing politicians, everything is censored – some legally and some not so legally. You are likely to face public wrath (physically), if you so much whisper an idea which is against the majority. This censorship is not just limited to speech but has also affected other areas of our lives. We are now arresting people for expressing opinions on social media!! As a society we have become so intolerant that we cannot exist in a world which is not conforming to our view of it.
We take pride in running the largest democracy in the word but we have almost given up on freedom of expression in almost all it’s forms. What matters is just the majority opinion as that is what wins elections and that for me defeats the very purpose of being a democratic country. To sum it all up, I am going to leave you with few lines from one of my favorite movies – ‘The American President’. As someone who has left the country for more than 3 years, my opinion might not count for much but hope that it is allowed to exist.
‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’ You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, and celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.’