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The selective outrage of the left and right over free speech, and how it hurts everyone

The assault on free speech in India is now a consistent phenomenon. We have had two attacks on freedom of expression in a matter of few days. In the 1st case, we have a 17-year-old student in Baduria, Bengal who has been arrested and jailed for some “objectionable” comments he made on Facebook. Not only was the boy imprisoned, but post that we have had reports of violence from mobs belonging to the Muslim community in some areas of Bengal.

As if this was not enough, we saw a news report where it is stated that the Mumbai Police has registered an FIR (50/2017) against a comedy group called AIB at the cyber police station in regards to an apparently “offensive” meme shared on Twitter, where they made fun of the Prime Minister of India.

And the reactions to both these cases have been predictable. The left wing has completely ignored the miseries of the 17-year-old boy being arrested in Bengal. If you go through the twitter timeline of a left winger, occasionally concerned about even a kid in Syria, there are no words for concern for this teenager. It is like it never happened or he doesn’t exist. Don’t be surprised that if you question a left winger about this, you might have reactions like “which Facebook post”, ” what 17 years old boy”, ” I don’t trust you Sanghis”.

But, the same left wingers will go on a constant diatribe about how Narendra Modi and BJP have destroyed the fabric of Indian democracy because of the FIR filed against AIB. They are all over Twitter posing as dogs since last evening, saving India from Modi. But the reality is that the Prime Minister or the BJP have nothing to do with this FIR. But, in the world of a left winger, whenever something bad happens, it is always BJP and Modi’s fault.

In Fact, the left has mastered the art of negationism/denialism. Some of you might wonder what the hell does negationism/denialism mean? In words of Koenraad Elst:

“Negationism means the denial of historical crimes against humanity. It is not a reinterpretation of known facts, but the denial of known facts. The term negationism has gained currency as the name of a movement to deny a specific crime against humanity, the Nazi genocide of the Jews in 1941-45, also known as the holocaust (Greek: fire sacrifice) or the Shoah (Hebrew: disaster). Negationism is mostly identified with the effort at re-writing history in such a way that the fact of the Holocaust is omitted.”

The Indian left has practised their unique form of negationism/denialism by completely ignoring the consistent Islamist and Marxist violence in India both, historical, and of the present times.

But the Indian left doesn’t understand one simple thing. Their consistent negationism is pushing a huge chunk of Right Wing (RW) or whom they call Internet Hindus, into a mental state of “reactionary survivalism”. The more leftist progressives practice negationism, the more Hindus go into reactionary survivalism.

When the RW Hindu enters the mode of reactionary survivalism, they start practising their form of soft negationism. The right wing has consistently been outraging about the arrest of the 17-year-old in Bengal. But, when it comes to the question of the FIR against AIB the replies one gets are fascinating. I am quoting a couple of the answers that I received on my Facebook wall verbatim over here

Answer No.1: “Well well u do that in China / PAKISTAN / Russia …Intel guys eliminate u & ur body will not be even found ..thank God they r in INDIA …its PM OF INDIA NOT SOME PETTY JOKER ….not Kejriwal or Pappu EITHER.”

Answer No. 2: “One must stay within limits. At least have respect for the high posts some people hold whether you like it or not. This poking fun at dignitaries is uncalled for and should be dealt with accordingly.

I have to concede that some prominent RW voices on Twitter condemned the Mumbai Police’s FIR against AIB, but the RW will also have to concede that the general mood is not really of unequivocal support to AIB.

Both the sides have locked themselves up in this ideological rabbit hole and the arguments presented are more about convenience and less about principles. I believe I am seeing a trend now. Both sides are practising a form of negationism/denialism, and neither are willing to recognise that.

The blame of this cancerous atmosphere lies primarily with the Left. They started this selective outrage game. But, now we have reached a stage where everyone is outraging selectively. The left will completely ignore the excessive bullying by the Muslims and blow the violence on the Hindu side out of proportion. e.g. How the violence committed by cow thugs has been blown up as Hindu terror, which is not the case. The RW, on the other hand, will completely ignore the bullying from some Hindu groups. And I am not saying both the sides are equally guilty. There is no false equivalence here. The right has still not reached (or fallen) to the levels of the left, but the process has begun.

And, in all of this, what we have is a situation of chaos in the country. Nobody wants to talk about the real issue in India. And this is what the political class wants. They want a society that is constantly angry. Because if you are at your primary innate tribal level, you will always fight with the so called “other”.

We have a massive law and order problem in India. The reality is that we don’t have enough cops. Just read this article, and you will understand the level of the shortage we have in India. We are a highly under policed society.

We have some ridiculous laws. This is the 21st century, but, we have blasphemy laws like 295A in India. The funny part is that we are a country in which around 75% of the population follows a type of a belief system that does not even have the concept of blasphemy. But for some odd reason, we have this ancient Abrahamic relic. We are indeed a weird country. We will cling on to everything ancient. It does not matter how silly or UnHindu it is, we will keep it and then start using it and shout “garv se kaho hum hindu hai”.

I want to disclose one fact; I am one of those few people who used 295A on the Hindu side (used it again AAP supporter Vishal Dadlani for his tweets on Jain muni), but I wanted to start a movement against it by showcasing how ridiculous that law is. But it appears I showed a way to get even. The right has found that they can use the tools that were used to silence them till now, and so instead of any demand for scrapping this law, there appears more interest in using these to teach lessons to the other side.

What is going on in India is frustrating. What is AIB’S crime? Or, for that matter what is so outrageous about what that kid from Bengal did? One made a silly Twitter meme and the other made a stupid Facebook post. Now I am not a fan of what both of them did. I don’t watch the shows of AIB, and whenever I discuss/criticise Islam, I do it respectfully. My criticism does not have abuses in it. But I don’t support this kind of bullying that is happening to both of them. AIB fortunately got widespread support and they are safe, but the kid is still in jail.

I stand for their right to make fun of any idea/religion/politician. And if you don’t stand up because this time it’s about a leader/religion/idea, you like then you are part of the problem. Always remember, the party of your choice or liking won’t be in power forever. And the day the other one comes they will go after you if you hurt them. Because that is the inherent nature of the political system in India.

So if you want freedom, learn to outrage on every assault on freedom of expression. Don’t be intentionally selective in this because it is for your good. The reality today is that there is no free speech in India. And as far as I am concerned, I support everyone’s right to make fun and hurt sentiments of others unless they don’t make a direct call to violence.

The problem in India is bad policing and bad laws. But no one fixes that. Everyone keeps outraging selectively as they practice this weird form of negationism/denialism and going on with their lives as long as they are not affected personally.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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