Don’t mind my saying this, but India has always been an intolerant country. We are a country that has all the laws and rights written down in paper but when it comes to implementation, we lack the will to actually implement them. Don’t get me wrong but I was not always a cynic when it came to my country. However, two specific incidents namely the controversy regarding the AIB video and secondly the manner in which attacks on minorities are taking place, seem to reinforce my feelings.
Coming to the AIB controversy, I feel that the reaction was completely unjustified and blown out of proportion. The Roast format of comedy is something that has always been hugely popular in other developed countries. The format of the programme is supposed to be filthy, rude and offensive. It is not something that was unexpected or done with the sole aim of abusing/offending people. Besides no one was forced to watch the show nor was it telecast on television. The people, who saw the show, did it out of their own free will. Filing a case against the show is like saying that just because I do not like chicken, I must file a case against everyone who likes or sell chickens. That is on the face absurd.
Talking about vulgarity, many comedy shows across various channels and regional languages are no less vulgar or absurd. Pick up any comedy show in India even the ones broadcast on television and you will realize that there are elements of vulgarity in all of them. Politicians say that the show hampers our culture. Wow!! When a rapist is not brought to justice; its culture, but when people above 30 crack jokes to entertain others; it’s against our culture. When people are allowed to use any kind of abuses on the roads, while quarrelling, that is fine but when the same is done on stage that is unacceptable? What kind of hypocrisy is that? More importantly an MLA can watch porn during the workings of a house and politicians can use profanity in their election speeches, all that is fine but a comedy show that was created with the intent to entertain and broaden the horizon of comedy in India can mean an insult to Indian culture. That is truly hypocritical in all aspects!
You can still find a number of videos of our beloved politicians on YouTube where they are seen intoxicated, abusive and vulgar. Why aren’t these questioned? Some even threatened to kill, why are there no action against them? I think AIB statement hit the nail on the head with this, ‘There’s a larger cultural conversation going on here, where we’re at the very edges of what it’s okay to say. And it’s a conversation we need to have now because the world we live in is entirely too complicated to be run by silences. We still stand by our belief in the right to absolute freedom of expression for us and for anyone who has anything to say about anything at all. We hope to be part of an environment that supports that sort of expression without fear of persecution, intimidation and most importantly, annoyance. As always, in our own AIB way we’ll continue to strive towards creating that very environment.’
Now, coming to church attacks in Delhi, I have always believed that religion is a very personal matter and must never ever be mixed with politics in any manner. I am not here to say that I am extremely religious and that is why this issue is causing me a lot of hurt and pain. Yes, seeing my community of believers harassed because of their faith is disturbing, but I am trying to address the larger issue at hand here. Any section of society, whether they are in a majority or minority deserve to have equal access to their rights and freedom. How does the head of a democratically elected government not say a word, when the secular fabric of the country is threatened in such a manner? Why does any section of the minorities be it Christians or Sikhs or Muslims have to prove their Indian-ness before they have access to equal rights and liberties?
Forgive me, but would the government be as quiet and unmindful, offering only police investigations as pacifications if one Hindu temple had been vandalized like the Churches. I think, we all know the answer to that. I strongly believe that if we do not acknowledge the rights of every person, irrespective of their caste and creed, we threaten the secular foundation on which this nation stands today.
I end with this amazing quote by Voltaire, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”