Monday, August 15, 2011

Freedom and the Fundamental Right to be Heard

There was an interesting thought that came to mind at work recently. We had to come up with ideas for posters to give to clients every month. And for August, we decided to give one on the occasion of Independence Day. All the advertising thoughts that came to mind boiled down to one thing. Freedom is something that we can never lose. It's something we can only abuse. It's not dependent on what we get. It's what we are indeed. Anything we feel we must protest for is something, that even if we get, will bind us within it. And every time we demand a certain freedom as a right to exercise, we also snatch a little of the same right from somebody else's.

It's a bit like that law about energy in Physics. The total amount of freedom in India always remains the same. If I'm free to stretch my elbows, they are bound to be in someone else's face in a matter of seconds. But then it's my right. I can't help it if it naturally deprives somebody else of theirs, right? Or not?

Yesterday, Aug 15th, was one of those days when everyone got poetic and patriotic. It amuses me, the passion with which we celebrate Independence Day. Independence from what, I say. If it was Independence from the British, we went from the frying pan into the fire. Wasting time on the details is useless. The bribe-takers-and-givers and the politicians have been sounded out to enough. If they aren't shameless yet, we should be loosing hope already. Let me talk about the most interesting of aspects about our freedom that made news this time around.

I have been amused by the policy of having to get permission to protest. Not just when Anna Hazare was refused permission to protest yesterday. But since time immemorial. In Bangalore, there's a park called Freedom Park, which is specifically meant for protests and such. It's like the government telling you that you can have your say, but only when, where and how we would like it. It is also saying, now that you have your say and have exercised your fundamental right to do so, be happy. What about the fundamental right to be heard? Or was there one at all, ever?

It was very funny that the Delhi Police restricted Anna Hazare's latest fast (I've lost count now of which one this is) to three days and five thousand people only. What kind of tokenism does the Government think any worthwhile protest should be? Just right, so that the shoe fits perfectly? Doesn't that make them fascists when their control of the situation is beyond excuse?

I think we need to stop talking about Anna Hazare and start talking about Irom Sharmila. The joke in this case is that she been "arrested" for suicide because she has decided to fast indefinitely for the ASPCA Act to be revoked in Manipur. She gets arrested every time she's in danger of dying and gets released when the government thinks that she will be OK for a while. The cycle repeats over and over again. And unlike Anna Hazare who fasts and breaks-fast at will, she has been force fed for the past close-to-eleven years now.

As for people who actually have bills to pay and such, we just seek to get to work on time and stay alive.

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