Development and right to express are allied. Be it a common man, a politician, a film maker or a press reporter, every human has a fundamental right to express thoughts, and the same is appreciated by the Indian constitution. Unobstructed speech paves way for all-inclusive betterment and furtherance of unnoticed groups. Hasn’t press reports revealing corrupt behavior of politicians and bureaucrats, films like 3 Idiots and Mother India, and public protests such as the one in mid-1970s, the Sampoorna Kranti by Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan and the one by activist Anna Hazare, the movement for Jan Lokpal Bill aroused the conscience of millions of Indians? The flaws of any society and its political and economic structure cannot be remedied unless voices of people are allowed to flow freely. There, however, exists a distinct aspect as well. A press report that presents a suspect as guilty, a film that surpasses the limit of religious tolerance, and a movement that beats the intentions of law are as much detrimental as is the corruption of our governments and cases of women harassment. Truth, a basic requisite for the functioning of democracy, must prevail, but unethical and anti-social is what that should not be allowed to propagate in the name of freedom of speech.
I, in my former article, ‘Deemed-Guilty before Judicial Judgment’, have emphasized on how media houses relish their freedom of expression overlooking the fact that innocent men face the heat of society as a result of their misreporting and manipulating of details. A controversy has lately sparked in India over the release and broadcasting of a film, which, according to some religious groups, embraces disreputable facts regarding God and alleged God-men. This isn’t new and we have all seen suppression of freedom of speech in the past in the name of hurting of communal sentiments and accord. Accept it;India is a community-rich nation and such large number of religions and languages not just make us different from other nations with respect to secularism, but also in terms of social equilibrium and tolerances. Some of the religious clustersprotest even genuine movement of expressions, but the other side of the coin is that a few film makers too cross the limit of forbearance, outcomes being adverse to our shared consensus. Protests and right to free speech both have certain boundaries and these binding limitations make these two yield positive returns. Then the need is to diagnose few basic issues related to our freedom and to cure them.
This is a bit challenging; in case the government bans release of films and press reports that exceed the level of religious/ social tolerance, the news and film makers would cry unfairness and clampdown, on the other hand if such adverse expressions are allowed to flow freely, the secular and social balance of India comes under vulnerability. Then we also have some clusters which come into action promptly when a not-so-kind media is released. These groups leave no stone unturned in disturbing communal equilibrium, asking for ultra vires demands, and damaging the public property. There have been, in the past, instances when state governments have taken tough stance on the release of films that are not in accord with the so-called secular thoughts of religious leaders and some political ones too. Why can’t these political parties and religious leaders judge the purity of many television series that amenably promote vulgarity and nudity? Isn’t that obvious, to make big news, retaliate something big, no matter the trivial ones are more harmful. Most of the programs that are aired on Indian television are an adaptation of a popular overseas’ series, they run and control the minds of Indian viewers, but have we ever thought over the difference in culture and religious scope between India and U.S.?
Sony Pictures stalled the release of a film owing to warning by North Korea since the leader of the country was made a part of the film; the stepping in by the U.S. President, however, furthered the release and as a retaliatory measure the U.S. has imposed some economic sanctions against many North Korean government agencies. Similar approach with problems related to suppression of freedom of speech lacks in India and the same can be attached to vote-bank and caste-based politics. I would not approve or condemn the retaliation by Hindu groups of a recently screened film; however it has been seen that in cases of alleged hurting of minority sentiments, many political groupsrespond hurriedly. To put to rest any prejudiced verdicts, the key is to make the Censor Board so capable, responsive and commanding that any of their conclusions should become binding. Electronic media in India runs in a strange manner where some reports and films are objected just because they are not in consensus with a few groups, while those films, advertisements and TV programs which in every possible way play with the ethical and moral values of India are allowed to air freely. Now that everyone knows what those surrogate TV commercials of Music CDs of hard drink producers mean and aim at, the authorities are still silent. Tally the revenues of such companies from the music CD division and compare if that division is capable to handle such lavish commercials on TV. I am sorry, but even after searching for these music CDs in super stores, I wasn’t able to get one since they are never on sale. On similar lines are the commercials of elaichis by the manufacturers of tobacco.
Television, films, advertisements, and news reports are the most heeded substances. It is then very crucial to accord some sort of norms that shall be adhered to in the wake of religious richness and centuries-old culture and values of the Indian society. Need is to fortify the Censor Board of Film Certification by adding in it members holding acumen from distinct faiths. Post the Censor clearance, state governments cannot be allowed to stay the release of any film, save in conditions that are exceptionally nerve-racking, and which if held judicious should restrict the release round the nation, not in just a state or two. In the era where televisions have such high viewership, contrary-to-Indian values programs cannot be endorsed. A Censor Board for Television broadcast is much-needed in the light of wide access to satellite TV. Plus, TV commercials that are deceptive and promote forbidden goods are to be stopped with immediate effect. Press Reports that convict a suspect are the killers of right to dignity and thus should be regulated. It is imperative to realize that in the name of religious copiousness, honest endeavors and freedom of expression cannot be hindered, but the same also cannot be permitted to overdo the parameters of forbearance. The ultimate aim of all censorship boards should be to ban any forbidden endeavors that can disturb communal harmony and/ or Indian values and ethics, be it by way of films, TV programs or commercials.