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Kerala Govt’s attempt to muzzle free speech shows Left’s hypocrisy

Kerala Govt’s attempt to muzzle free speech shows Left’s hypocrisy

The prominent American conservative author David Horowitz, who is a former New Leftist, famously said, “Inside every progressive is a totalitarian screaming to get out.” The Left government in Kerala vindicated his signature quote for the nth time by bringing in a repressive legal provision to curb free speech. Owing to the unease within the coalition and criticism from the Opposition, the CPM-led LDF government has put the provision on hold, but the very attempt to silence adverse comment is symptomatic of the inveterate intolerance which is the characteristic feature of communism, socialism, progressivism, etc.

As my colleague Deexa Khanduri pointed out, “<a href="https://indianarrative.com/india/kerala-scraps-anti-free-speech-act-but-left-liberals-never-opposed-it-27790.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Left-liberals were conspicuous by their silence over Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s assault on freedom of expression. Left leaders like Sitaram Yechury and D. Raja obviously didn’t slam the state government move</a>.”  She went on to add, “This is in sharp contrast to their pro-liberty stand regarding criminal cases against Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam and Kanhaiya Kumar.”

This, however, was not the first time the duplicity of India’s Leftists and liberals on freedom of expression was on display. When a government under the Bharatiya Janata Party—at the Centre or in states—comes up with anything curtailing free speech, these self-appointed champions of liberty are loud in their condemnation of the move.

They also vociferously denounce the Hindu groups that indulge in vandalism. They quote John Stuart Mill and demand that the rule of law be upheld. But when the culprits are Muslim fundamentalists, our intellectuals prefer to remain silent.

Consider the case of M.F. Husain’s paintings about nude Hindu goddesses. In September 2008, the Supreme Court called his controversial painting ‘Bharat Mata’ a ‘work of art.’ The apex court’s support for Husain was indeed a fillip to the cause of freedom in our country. The court’s stand was intended to discourage testy people and publicity seekers who cry about ‘hurt sentiments’ and want to restrict the realm of creativity.

In May 2008, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul of the Delhi High Court had pronounced a similar verdict, supporting the freedom of expression. His liberal cheerleaders were also jubilant at the discomfiture of the saffron brigade which had been inveighing against the artist, and also when Justice Kaul supported Husain. Author (and eventual Congress leader) Shashi Tharoor, for instance, wrote two articles in <em>The Times of India</em> in which he quoted Justice Kaul’s judgment at length. He hailed the ruling as “a remarkable charter for artistic freedom in India.” The two articles ran to about 2,000 words, but not once was the name of Taslima Nasreen or Salman Rushdie mentioned. Nor was there any mention of the Danish cartoonist who had made a cartoon of Prophet Mohammad and who was being hounded by Islamists.

This selective championing of the freedom of expression is obnoxious and hypocritical. Why didn’t liberals make their campaign to safeguard the freedom of expression more comprehensive? Why didn’t they also take up the cause of other creative people who were hounded by the jihadists? Why didn’t they stand up for the dignity of Taslima Nasreen, Rushdie, and the Danish cartoonist?

There are others as well who have suffered for ‘hurting the sentiments’ of Muslims. For example, in February 2006 Alok Tomar, editor of a Delhi-based Hindi magazine, was arrested for publishing one of the Danish cartoons of Prophet Mohammed. He had to pay Rs 50,000 and provide a personal surety for release.

That time neither Tharoor nor others took up his cause. There were no protests, candlelight marches, or symposia in Tomar’s support. This was because his tormentors were Muslims.

Such has been the doublespeak of our intellectuals over free speech. If there is a totalitarian in every progressive, there is a delinquent in every liberal squirming to be enslaved by the Left. Liberals have become the enemies of liberty..