If Jesus Christ were alive today he would have been over 2000 years old. But he isn’t alive. He was crucified, even if he were not, he would not have been living anyway; reason being, human beings don’t live that long. How do we know this? It is scientifically proven, and validated by deaths of lot of peer reviewers.
There are certain assertions which, through years of experience and debate, we now understand to be so fundamental that their veracity need not be questioned. For example: freedom of speech allows one to criticize any and all things, right to life cannot be taken away without due process, butter chicken sucks, etc.
It is thus wrong when in a prime time news show the debate is whether or not it is right to suggest that an individual be tied to the front of a jeep and paraded around. No, it isn’t right at all, and it does not need debating, because in question here is a fundamental right. (It is a completely different tale that Mr. Paresh Rawal when calling for Ms. Roy to be tied to a jeep was relying on a false story).
It isn’t a choice between ice cream flavors; it is an inalienable right that is being questioned. It is stupid to even discuss this, especially when it comes from a journalist. We do not have discussion on whether it is okay to kill someone; rape someone. Same way, we do not provide sanctity to a horrendous statement by considering whether or not it is correct. We condemn it outright, and maybe explain why it needs to be condemned.
Now comes the second part, of whether or not the ‘others’ have freedom of speech. This pertinent point being raised after Twitter suspended the account of Mr. Abhijeet, a singer and a full time filth generator, who amongst other things once called a former Army veteran ‘a Pakistani’.
Mr. Abhijeet made derogatory remarks about Ms. Shehla Rashid, and after being reported, was suspended. And obviously, all hell broke loose. Mr. Sonu Nigam, a connoisseur of civil rights, asked whether or not ‘Abhijeetda’ had a right to speech too.
Of course, he has the right, but he does not, however, have the right to be defamatory, abusive, or make statements that can be restricted by virtue of Article 19 (2). Needs to be mentioned that Twitter is actually not bound by Article 19, it can go beyond Article 19 (2) if it so wishes.
The Indian right-wing has a tendency to make poor arguments (just like right wingers everywhere), and while this tendency has not been scientifically proven, there are tons of anecdotal evidence available. And once they are done making those poor arguments, which are often accompanied with abuse, they ask ‘what about free speech?’ This is also when they are the most vociferous about denying others the right.
We can here use Damnum sine injuria principle to explain the so difficult free speech conundrum. Damnum sine injuria means ‘damage without injury’, it is applicable to cases where an individual may suffer damages but the act does not violate any rights.
For example, likes of Shehla Rashid take to Twitter and many a times cause damage to the rightwing and their super-inflated egos. Lacking in intellect, facts and figures by anyone dissenting triggers a fury of abuse, something Mr. Abhijit indulged in, and that does violate rights.
To answer Mr. Nigam’s query, the free speech right is limited to call out with whatever one assumes is wrong with a statement of Ms. Shehla Rashid, it does not extend to calling her a whore.
It is literally that simple.
Coming back to fundamental rights, unfortunately, not a lot of people understand them. It is thus incumbent that we take out time and try and inform people. The normal should not be people wondering whether Mr. Rawal was right in calling for Mr. Roy to be tied to a jeep, but an environment where people call out Mr. Abhijeet for his abuse.
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