Consider the following sequence of headlines:
- Penguin agrees to axe Wendy Doniger’s controversial book The Hindus: An Alternative History. (India Today, February 11, 2014)
- Mulayam Singh on rape: Boys make mistakes, why hang them? (Hindustan Times, April 11, 2014)
- Protest held against Aamir’s movie PK (The Indian Express, December 23, 2014)
- Girls must not wear short tops to avoid rape, says Rajkot BJP mayor (IBN Live, December 24, 2014)
- Indian MP Says Every Hindu Woman ‘Must Produce’ Four Children (TIME, January 7, 2015)
- Gun attack on French magazine kills 12 (BBC, January 7, 2015)
- Tamil author Perumal Murugan gives up writing after opposition from Hindutva groups (ABP News, January 14, 2015)
In her biography on Voltaire, Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote the phrase: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” as an illustration of Voltaire’s beliefs. The freedom of thought and expression is one of those core ideals that powered revolutionary and world transforming movements like the Enlightenment, Renaissance and the French Revolution. Today perhaps, the likes of Voltaire and John Stuart Mill would turn in their graves after seeing what has become of their cherished ideals
In the following portion, we describe a hypothetical news report set out in a future Indian society where the right to free speech has been withdrawn except for the political class. It intends to bring out the double standards and hypocrisy that we have been witnessing in the public discourse. On the one hand, creative expression is being silenced while on the other, some leaders have made the most bizarre and absurd statements. It is not intended as a personal attack on any one in particular.
Today, the 18th of January, 2040 is the 25th anniversary of the repeal of Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. On that historic day, that right was replaced by the right not to be offended. Today, people were made to celebrate the day all across the country. They were told to meet people they don’t like and do stuff they didn’t want to on this auspicious day.
The world is so much more peaceful now. With no common man allowed to speak up in public, there is much less noise pollution. But of course, the politicians are allowed to say what they like. All hail our great politicians. They gave us new ideals to live by. They helped us identify the real reason of rape. Chowmein is now banned and women are allowed to wear only bedsheets covering them from head to toe. However our leaders are very empathetic. They have allowed women to make holes in the bedsheet at the location of the nose and eyes so that they can easily breathe and see. This still hasn’t solved the problem of rape but what can one do. After all, boys will be boys.
Students have really benefitted from the new laws. The Annual Status of Education Report, 2039 revealed that almost all students have improved their grades and learning levels. The report revealed that the real problem in the pre-2015 era had been the size of books and the variety and diversity of perspective given in the books. According to our respected Education Minister, Parampujya Shri Shri Bigot Singh Ji Maharaj, “See the problem before 2015 was that students had too much to study. Why do they need to study Leftist perspective, Rightist perspective, Feminist perspective. All they need to know is that India is great and all our religions are great. For that we need only one chapter in History book. That is why we have seen this great development in the education sector. With every student passing his exams and getting good grades, now we can easily reap our demographic dividend.”
On the economic front too, we have made huge leaps. Initially after the nationalisation of the book, magazine, news, television and film industries and layoffs of the liberal, modern and progressive elements in these industries, there was large scale unemployment. The problem was compounded by a population explosion since all women were now required to produce four children. This increasing workforce needed to be absorbed. Our great Government once again came to the rescue. It liberalised and deregulated the religion and allied sector including dhongi baba industry. The dhongi baba industry along with the PSU “Protest Authority of India Limited” and the new Moral Police Force provided the necessary jobs for the large and unskilled workforce. The macroeconomic data have been encouraging. Last fiscal, our GDP growth rate touched 100%, we posted a Fiscal and Current Account Surplus of $1 trillion and inflation is at – 10%. These figures have been released by the Central Statistics Organisation and the National Sample Survey Organisation. But no one knows whether they are correct or not. Because we cannot question Government data. See, that’s the beauty of it. Foreign investors believe us and are flooding the country.
The useless Science and Research departments everywhere have also been closed. This was done for two reasons. One because they pose useless rational questions and two because there is no need for science research in India. We have science in our blood since 1000 BC. Since then we have been making aeroplanes and doing plastic surgery.”