A lot has been made of the fact that a large number of Non-resident Indians (NRIs) are going back to India because of her sizzling economy and a desire to be close to family. However, the recent spate of controversies over the right to free speech and the lack of India’s commitment to it should be reason enough to give freedom loving people a reason to reconsider their decision. If I ever decide to return back to India (or if I am forced to, given the green card mess in the US), I would be more worried about my rights rather than the supposedly sizzling economy. Here are some of the recent controversies and issues that really have made me disappointed and angry:
- A 26 year old blogger gets arrested in Bangalore because he supposedly posted some pictures of that great Maharashtrian icon, Shivaji on Orkut and Airtel ratted on him. Compare that to what happened recently in the US where the US Congress took Yahoo to task because their Chinese subsidiary gave him a political activist in that country. Jerry Yang, Yahoo’s co-founder and CEO got an earful from the Congress and apologized to the mother of the Chinese dissident.
- Madhuri Dixit’s comeback vehicle, “Aaja Nachle” gets banned in certain states because apparently it contains some derogatory references to a particular community. C’mon folks – for how long will Indian political leaders continue pandering to special interest groups?
- Tasleem Nasreen gets booted from, yes of all the places, Calcutta. Goes to prove that political expediency is certainly thicker than both, claims of intellectual honesty and cultural and ethical relations. After all, the left has always boasted about its commitment to free speech and of course, Tasleema Nasreen is a fellow Bengali. India made a royal mess of things and became a laughing stock with the spectacle of this courageous woman being carted around in an attempt to appease a group of extremist Islamists. It really made me ashamed of the country of my birth.
- Fittingly, the disgusting behavior meted out to Ms. Nasreen brought back memories of the “Satanic Verses” controversy. It has been pointed out that Indian intellectuals and Indian extremist Muslims had the head start in starting this controversy. The Indian political establishment promptly capitulated and Khomeini joined in the fun soon after. I have a copy of Satanic Verses on my shelf and it is on my to-read list. Unfortunately, people in India have been denied this right.
So folks, gloat all you want over the well deserved giant strides that India has made recently in economic development, but when it comes to moral standing in the world over freedom of speech rights and the ability of the state to treat all its citizens equally, India has a long way to go.