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Open Statement by concerned citizens to protect our constitutional and democratic rights #FOS #FOE

OPEN STATEMENT BY CONCERNED CITIZENS TO PROTECT OUR CONSTITUTIONAL AND DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS

 

TO FREE SPEECH AND EXPRESSION

FREE.jpg

I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

~Voltaire

No democracy can claim to be one, unless freedom of speech and expression are guaranteed by statute and where the state machinery works to ensure compliance not only in the behavior of government, but of its citizens. The curbing of expression with threat and through terror, increasingly more menacing, should be condemned and stopped, if our country is to become a mature democracy. Indeed, the expression of varied and differing opinions strengthen the political discourse and empowers people to make informed choices.

In the last fortnight there has been a resurgence of attacks to curb the right to free speech and expression of Indian citizens who did not share the euphoria, hope and enthusiasm associated with recent election results.

It is important to note that such attempts to curtail the right to free speech and expression of writers, academics, activists and ordinary citizens have been recurring incidents over the past two decades, irrespective of the political party in power. Last month, a widely respected and well known Kannada writer, U.R.Ananthamurthy was sent a one-way ticket to Karachi as well as threatened with phones calls asking him “when he was going to leave” for saying “ I would not like to live in a country ruled by Modi.” In another incident, a youth, Syed Vaqas, along with four friends from Bhatkal, Karnataka were arrested for sending a message (when the election results were announced) caricaturing the BJP government’s election slogan “aab ki bar antimsanskar (modisarkar).” A third incident is about a 31-year-old naval engineer from Goa, Devu Chodankar, for his alleged inflammatory comments against Mr. Narendra Modi on social media. More recently, in Bihar members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) disrupted a People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) seminar, to discuss the detention of Professor G.N. Saibaba of Delhi University (arrested for alleged Maoist links) and its implications for human rights. Or take the case of the two girls from Palghar, Maharashtra who were arrested for criticizing the shutdown of Mumbai for Shiv Sena’s chief Bal Thakeray’s funeral in 2012, even though the Constitution of India guarantees plurality of diverse political opinion. All these incidents signify acts of political expression that were reinterpreted as not conforming to mainstream positions.

In the two recent cases in Karnataka and Goa, the representatives of police in Goa and Bangalore have stated in the newspapers that these cases do not warrant arrests; but the PMO has remained silent on this blatant attack on curbing citizens’ free speech and expression.

As concerned citizens of a free and democratic India we protest against the continuing intolerant legislative attempts at criminalizing dissenting opinion and those in certain sections of society that take law into their hands to disrupt peaceful discussions and dialogue. In particular, we oppose the use of the draconic Section 66A of the IT Act. The IT Act has been worded deliberately to give unbridled powers to the State to clamp down on free speech. Section 66A prescribes criminal punishment of up to 3 years for merely sending messages which can cause ‘annoyance’ or ‘inconvenience’ or ‘danger’ or ‘insult,’ and gives unfettered discretion to enforcement agencies to enforce it. The recent incidents signify abuse under this provision that gives freedom to those in power to violate the fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution.

We believe that voicing of dissent, expression of concern, constructive criticism and adversarial dialogue are an integral part of deliberative democracy. The ongoing attempts to quell political dissent or dialogue among citizens through draconian laws for ulterior motives poses a grave danger to Indian democracy.

We the undersigned demand that the Government of India and all State Governments respect and protect all constitutional rights to free speech and expression, and personal liberty as guaranteed by Article 19 (1) (a), and Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

We fully support the right of all citizens to freely express their views, dissenting or otherwise.

We demand the concerned authorities follow due process and drop the exaggerated criminal charges against all these individuals.

We strongly condemn the use of social policing, boycott and other means of state coercion to silence citizens, legitimized through regressive legislations such as the IT Act. We demand that section 66A of the IT Act should be deleted.

We urge the Prime Minister, and the Government of India and all State Governments to respect the right of citizens’ to express their thoughts and views, guaranteed by the Constitution of India, without fear of retribution.

 

Signatories:

  1. Achin Vanaik
  2. Achyut Das
  3. Afroz Alam Sahil
  4. Amar Kanwar
  5. Amba Kak
  6. Amit Bhaduri
  7. Amit Sharma
  8. Amita Baviskar
  9. Ammu Joseph
  10. Anand Pathwardhan
  11. Anant Bhatnagar
  12. Ania Loomba
  13. Aruna Rodrigues
  14. Aruna Roy
  15. Arvind Ojha
  16. Ashish Kothari
  17. Ashish Sen
  18. Ashok Khandelwal
  19. Ashok Rao
  20. Babloo Loitongbam
  21. Bhanwar Meghwanshi
  22. Bharat Dogra
  23. Bhaskar Prabhu
  24. Bhupendra Yadav
  25. Bina Sarkar Ellias
  26. Biraj Patnaik
  27. Cynthia Stephen
  28. Darryl D’Monte
  29. Deep Joshi
  30. Deepta Chopra
  31. Devasahayam M G
  32. Dilip Simeon
  33. Dinesh Mohan
  34. Dipa Sinha
  35. DL Tripathi
  36. Dr. A Gopalakrishnan
  37. Dr. Anand Teltumbde
  38. Dr. Anandlakshmy
  39. Dr. Divya Singhal
  40. Dr. R. Padmini
  41. Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool
  42. Dunu Roy
  43. EAS Sarma
  44. Ela Bhatt
  45. Gautam Shonti
  46. Geeta Kapur
  47. Harsh Mander
  48. Harsh Sethi
  49. Henri Tiphagne
  50. Indira Chandrasekhar
  51. Jagdeep Chhokar
  52. Jarius Banaji
  53. Jasveen Jairath
  54. Jayadev U. K.
  55. Jayati Ghosh
  56. Jean Drèze
  57. Jyotsna Jha
  58. Kalyani Menon-Sen
  59. Kamayani Bali Mahabal
  60. Kavita Srivastava
  61. Komal Srivastava
  62. Koninika Ray
  63. Krishan Takhar
  64. Lakshmi Krishnamurty
  65. Lal Singh
  66. Lalita Ramdas
  67. Lawrence Liang
  68. M. Hasan
  69. M.K Raina
  70. Madan Gopal Singh
  71. Madhu Prasad
  72. Madhuri Krishnaswamy
  73. Mallika Sarabhai
  74. Mamta Jaitley
  75. Manisha Sethi
  76. Manoj Mitta
  77. Megha Kumar
  78. Meher Engineer
  79. Mrinal Pande
  80. Nachiket Udupa
  81. Nandini Sundar
  82. Nandita Das
  83. Neena Rao
  84. Neeta Haridkar
  85. Nikhil Dey
  86. Nisha Sidhu
  87. Nishat Hussein
  88. Nityanand J
  89. P L Mimroth
  90. Pamela Philipose
  91. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
  92. Parthiv Shah
  93. Praavita Kashyap
  94. Prabhat Patnaik
  95. Prabhu Ghate
  96. Pradip Prabhu
  97. Praful Bidwai
  98. Prafulla Samantra
  99. Prakash Burra
  100. Prashant Bhushan
  101. Prashanto Sen
  102. Prem Krishan Sharma
  103. Radha Kant Saxena
  104. Rajendra Prasad
  105. Rajni Bakshi
  106. Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu
  107. Rakesh Sharma
  108. Ram Rahman
  109. Ramaswamy R. Iyer
  110. Ramesh Nandwana
  111. Ranesh Ray
  112. Rani Sarma
  113. Ranjana Ray
  114. Rashid Hussein
  115. Ravi Kiran Jain
  116. Renuka Mishra
  117. Renuka Pamecha
  118. Revathi Narayanan
  119. Reyhana Datta
  120. Rohit Prajapati
  121. Romila Thapar
  122. S.G. Vasudev
  123. Sachin Jain
  124. Saikat Ghosh
  125. Satish
  126. Satish Deshpande
  127. Satya Sivaraman
  128. Sejal Dand
  129. Shabnam Hashmi
  130. Shankar Singh
  131. Shanta Sinha
  132. Shiraz Balsara
  133. Shomi Das
  134. Shripadh Dharmadhikari
  135. Siddhartha Basu
  136. Siddhartha Sharma
  137. Sister Geeta
  138. Sister Mariola
  139. Smita Gupta
  140. Soumya Datta
  141. Suchi Pande
  142. Sudha Bharadwaj
  143. Sumi Krishna
  144. Sunanda Bhat
  145. Swati Narayan
  146. Tarun Bharatiya
  147. Teesta Setalvad
  148. TM Krishna
  149. Utsa Patnaik
  150. V Suresh
  151. Vandana Mahajan
  152. Vasanth Kannabiran
  153. Vipul Mudgal
  154. Vivan Sundaram
  155. Vrinda Gover
  156. Yamuna Soma
  157. Zoya Hasan

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Comment (1)

  1. Communal Award

    If I were the Prime Minister of India, I’d roll-out separate currency for each state in India. http://pmindia.nic.in/feedback.php

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