”There are two freedoms – the false, where a man is free to do what he likes;
the true, where he is free to do what he ought. ”
Freedom…that is the word going through my mind since the past few hours.
A rather interesting discussion has been going on a friend’s blog.One who write fearlessly on diverse issues,specially those pertaining to Islam which she deals with quite sensitively.Thank you for sharing all that you do Nimmy.:)
It was a discussion on her blog that I jumped into with both feet…and with a heart full of conviction ,that I too had something to share.:)
What is freedom?
Freedom can be of different kinds.
Rather than gettting into the different kinds of freedom and all that they entail,I would first like to just share what our Constitution says about this word called ‘freedom’.
The preamble first.
The Preamble states:
The original Preamble to the Constitution of India.“ WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN
SOCIALIST`[Note 1] SECULAR[Note 1] DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity[Note 1] of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY
ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.
Please note that,The preamble delineates the basic structure of the Constitution of India. It does not contain laws enforceable in a court but, no law can be enacted or amended in a manner that violates the spirit of the preamble.
The Preamble lays down the most important national goals which every citizen and the government must try to achieve — justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity.
Are you with me till now?:)
Good:)Lets proceed further.
The Fundamental Rights in India enshrined in the Part III of the Constitution of India guarantee civil liberties such that all Indians can lead their lives in peace and harmony as citizens of India. These include individual rights common to most liberal democracies, such as equality before law, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, freedom to practice religion, and the right to constitutional remedies for the protection of civil rights by means of writs such as habeas corpus.
The six fundamental rights are:
Right to equality
Right to freedom
Right against exploitation
Right to freedom of religion
Cultural and educational rights
Right to constitutional remedies
Now that we have discussed the rights,of which freedom somehow is always topmost on our minds.It is almost like we are obsessed with it,like we suffer from a paranoia that a little slip and it will be snatched away from us.
That’s good because that keeps us on our toes and is also our duty as a citizen.How?
AS a citizen, besides the duties of voting,paying taxes,serving in the armed forces when the need arises and obeying the laws of the land,there are other moral and ethical duties too…
1)demonstrating commitment and loyalty to the democratic political community and state
2)constructively criticizing the conditions of political and civic life
3)participating to improve the quality of political and civic life
4)respecting the rights of others
5)defending one’s own rights and the rights of others against those who would abuse them .
Now ,I am pretty sure that all Indians do this rather enthusiastically particularly the second point(though its constructiveness is debatable)
Reasonable restrictions can be imposed in the interest of public order, security of State, decency or morality.
The government restricts these freedoms in the interest of the independence, sovereignty and integrity of India. In the interest of morality and public order, the government can also impose restrictions.
Right to freedom of religion, covered in Articles 25, 26, 27 and 28, provides religious freedom to all citizens of India. The objective of this right is to sustain the principle of secularism in India. According to the Constitution, all religions are equal before the State and no religion shall be given preference over the other. Citizens are free to preach, practice and propagate any religion of their choice.
Please note that the objective is to sustain secularism.
Now of course we all know that no government (doesn’t matter which political party)
does any such thing!
The government merely sits back like a passive spectator and enjoys the show.
If the government did all that it was supposed to do,do you think Babri would have happened?
Wouldn’t all those mad ,crazy kar sevaks have been locked up even before they could reach the city?
But this is India.And as you say there is no curb on freedom.
Do what you want ,say what you want…you have freedom without responsibility,a freedom that is unchecked.
And so it was with the Babri case.Hundreds of goons were let in by both parties….one pseudo secular ,the other a saffron brigade and there was no stopping of the kar sevaks.
Freedom of course.
”What can we do?”,The governments said and shrugged, State and Centre both,each waiting to see how this would play out,each letting this pass in the name of freedom.
Come on,these guys were just assembling in a small town!What harm could they do? They told us.
Well…we saw what havoc they created.
DO you see what kind of madness ensues in the name of liberty?In the name of letting goons run riot ,simply unchecked?
Now,this whole discussion and this rather long ramble on the consitution started as a question that a blogger friend raised which went thus,”I am against moral brigade being the guardian of any religion. Religion should be able to ignore and rise above all taunts and provocations. Otherwise what is the purpose of religion?”
Pray ,let us just pause for a moment here shall we?I would love to know the last time that this ,the scenario above that is,happened.Do tell.I am most eager to hear it.
Actually there were two questions.,that the friend raised.
1)Do you think then that all writers and painters should get prior approval from there self styled saviours of religion?
2)Are their religions so weak and frail that a work of art will destroy it?
We will come to these two questions later.The whole post revolves around them.
But there was another statement.One which I thought tarred us all with the same brush.
Us,the ones who call for some limits to freedom.
”your argument is the typical victim blaming argument of fundamentalists. Then you should not attack rama sena. Their sentiments were hurt seeing hindu girls in skin showing costumes drinking and dancing in bars”
Anyway let’s leave that aside for a moment and proceed yet further.We will come back to these later.
So I say,fair enough and I know this blogger friend knows what he is talking about because I have been to his blog and quite simply I do agree with a lot of things said there….
But,how can one just make a statement, a rather sweeping one at that,that religion HAS to be ABLE to rise above all this pettiness?And that once that is done ,things will be all right?Of course they will be because such a day will never come.It would be a veritable Utopia!
Hasn’t one seen what havoc religions can cause?Then how can one still make this statement?
As an atheist, in so much so that I have been able to understand that word,let me assure you that even religions like Buddhism and Jainism did not appear as if by magic.They were a direct result of Brahmanical patriarchy and suppression in other forms.And look at their state today.One is fighting for survival grappling with displaced refugees,the other is filled with sundry mahatmas and gurus. No religion till now has been able to acheive this feat that my friend speaks of.
No religion has even tried.
Maybe some time in the future, a day will come when religions will be able to rise above all this.
Till that happens ,let us treat religion with kid gloves, shall we?
So much for religions rising above everything.Religions are the CAUSE of all the strife in the world.
A Muslim fights to be a martyr,to kick out all the kaffirs,he follows only Allah,a Hindu thinks destroying a centuries old mosque will bring back his little itsy temple to its full glory,that Rama will indeed smile from the heavens and bless him.
A Sikh thought he could carve out a separate state.
So, I repeat when has religion been able to rise above petty things?
Give me one such example and I will be more than satisfied.
I am all for personal freedom.And I would fight for yours too.
But only if it is justified.You cannot in all justification paint/draw/create an artwork or write sommething that is just a figment of your imagination (as all art works are)but ALSO has the potential of offending someone,or an entire religious community or people of a land.
When you talk of absolute freedom ,please let me intervene and clarify that the word freedom itself is bound within restrictions.Freedom with responsibility.
Freedom with a sense that you are a part of a society ,one that could go up in flames at the very mention or glimpse of your work/deed/creation.
Are they crazy all of them?These people who would give up their lives and kill each other all in the name of religion?Or in the name of a work that simply offends their senses?
Of course ,as any sane human being knows.They are led by mob madness.If they were not,we would have had more people who would be totally nonchalant about what a Hussain draws or what a Danish cartoon represents.
But the reality is not so..
And this is why one has to work ,live,create,draw,paint keeping all this in mind.
Because the moment, you as an artist as a creative soul or even as a simple human being refuse to recognize that others exist and create only for yourself,then you cease to be a part of the world that comprises of other human beings.
And if you create only for yourself as all creative people claim to do,then for god’s sake keep that artwork however beautiful it is to yourself.
Keep it in your personal space.Display it for your visitors,to your friends …heck!hang it in the drawing room,but don’t show it to the world….becasue you never created it for us did you?
If for some reason you do feel the need to put up something kinky or a fetish that you have always had,then as an artist keep it within the confines of your walls.
Or better yet take a look at the society around you and then decide.
If,however you do decide to display this work,then be prepared to wacth madness unfold.
It takes only a spark to set off fires that engulf whole societies.
There is freedom and then there is freedom as a friend most dearest says, and she is right.:)
Freedom in your personal sphere is all fine by me.Even by the law.(unless ofcourse you are running a mafia in your house or making a bomb or two,THEN we would have problems)But otherwise all things being equal I am all for this personal freedom that you crave for.
However,Public space is another matter.Totally different and very,vERY hazardous.
The best of us slip.
How would you like to have a leader one who is very competent ,very able ,very good human being otherwise(he/she never thinks of murdering someone ,has never done so,is not corrupt and is really honest in all his/her public affairs)
BUT,and here’s the catch…this leader you see, is a rather creative person…..one who likes to paint….
One day he will draw the Prophet having sex,the next day a Hindu goddess would be painted naked engaged in some creative pursuit (all very artistically of course)
But he is also leading the country forward and how!The country is progressing by leaps and bounds.He/she just has this one kink.
Do you see the dilemna here?Now you as a very enlightened soul and being a very liberal minded individual, might still be okay with it.As I am.
But what about the millions of others for whom their gods and goddesses,their religion is the only solace?
Will they be able to understand this ‘Creative freedom’ that you speak of?Will all the progress in the world make them forgive this nice human being?
Would you rather let a country go up in flames so that one person’s creative freedom survives?
Wouldn’t it be better if the person simply realises and becomes aware that people are rather sensitive and could be hurt by what he draws?
I am not talking of any moral poice or any hooliganism in the name of restrictions on freedom.
I am simply saying that STOP PASSING EVERYTHING, WHETHER GOOD OR BAD OR VULGAR IN THE NAME OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION!!
Freedom is never absolute.There are always conditions attached to it.
WHEN I SAY FREEDOM SHOULD HAVE BOUNDARIES I AM TALKING OF SELF IMPOSED BOUNDARIES AND CULTIVATION OF A SENSITIVITY.
NEVER ONCE HAVE I SPOKEN OF MORAL POLICE OR THOSE WHO ARE RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISTS.
WHY DO YOU WANT TO GIVE SUCH TWO BIT FUNDAMENTALISTS SO MUCH OF IMPORTANCE?
AND HOW CAN ONE JUST PASS OFF THE HURT FEELINGS OF SO MANY PEOPLE AS SIMPLY RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM?
DO YOU MEAN TO SAY THAT PEOPLE ARE NEVER HURT AND ARE REALLY GULLIBLE FOOLS WHO GET CAUGHT UP IN THE SWEET TALKS OF THE FUNDAMENTALISTS?
DO YOU MEAN TO SAY THAT AN ENTIRE SOCIETY (ALMOST ENTIRE)STANDS UP IN PROTEST MERELY AT THE BEHEST OF A FEW?
IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE THAT SOME PEOPLE COULD HAVE BEEN GENUINELY HURT BY SUCH ART WORKS???
IT ALMOST SEEMS TO BE A CASE OF SELF DESTRUCTION JUST COZ WE HAVE A POINT TO PROVE TO THE FUNDAMENTALISTS.
SO THE LIBERAL SOULS TELL THEM..
”KEEP TAKING ADAVANTAGE,WE WILL KEEP PRODUCING SUCH WORKS WHICH MIGHT BE BLASPHEMOUS TO SOME RELIGIONS,SURE PEOPLE WILL DIE,AND WILL KILL AND GO MAD,BUT WE HAVE A POINT TO PROVE TO YOU.
WE ARE FREE AND YOU ARE NOT EVEN IF WE DIE SAYING THIS!”
IS THIS WHAT WE WANT???
Your freedom has to respect the freedom of others,respect their feelings,their sentiments.
Your freedom also has to keep in mind the fact,that your actions no matter how inconsequential,can or might in all probability hurt the sentiments of others.
To quote what I have emphasised elsewhere,
”I fail to see the need why CREATING ONLY A PARTICULAR piece of art pertaining to a RELIGION would satisfymy creativity and nothing less…
WHY?AS an artist is my creativity that limited?Can I only attract attention by drawing that which might incite riots(whether right or wrong)by doing exactly that which I know will result in a loss of life?
My duty as an artist is to create,…yes…But my FIRST duty is towards ensuring that lives are not lost,that tensions do not arise BECAUSE of what I create….
I cannot escape the deaths that have happened because of me ,the blood that is on my hands merely by saying that this is artistic freedom….
And in this Dystopian world, Freedom is only judged and allowed to the extent that it does not take yet another life…
The moment it takes another life ,no matter what the cause..
Then the very same creative ARTIST BECOMES A MURDERER.
and no amount of saying that this was done in the name of artistic freedom is going to convince me otherwise… ”
This then was my view.
Freedom with boundaries.
Freedom of expression as it is being practised in India ,indeed has been practiced…is very convoluted in a lot of ways.
I think freedom should have limits and that some people might get offended by what another paints/makes/creates/says,and
therefore the artist/speaker/ should act responsibly.
Responsibly how?Well by choosing a subject that he/she knows will be beautiful ,creative and not offensive.
I find it very difficult to believe that the only subjects that inspire and are left in this world are all offensive or controversial.
Why can you not pick another ‘inspiration’?
I know it will pain your creative heart so…but please do try it for the sake of humanity,so that people dont burn embassies and go on rampages.
Mad all of them ,I know,but please do bear with the ignorant souls..
Now,Based on this belief of mine I was asked that it must be then okay for me to let go of the Shri Ram Sena goons??
Because you see I unlike others do not club people or incidents under one umbrella or group,nor are my definitions binding and tight knit..
What did the Shri Ram Sena do?
They were beating up girls because they did not like what they were wearing and what they were drinking.
To me this looks like a clear case of human rights violation.
I don’t know what it looks like to you.
The girls were in a personal space.They were enjoying ‘THEIR’ personal freedom,one which was not in a public domain.
They were in a space where other like minded individuals were sitting .
It was these men who barged into that space and then claimed to have been offended(offended enough to beat them?)
It is the equivalent of barging into an artist’s house ,his/her personal space ,tear a painting off the wall of his home ,claim that it offends and then proceed to beat up the artist.
Now these men could have registered their protest by filing an FIR ,perhaps citing obscenity and god knows what else,(as others like them hounded Khushboo)but they infringed upon the personal freedom of these girls ,the moment they laid a hand on these girls.
A woman in Pakistan is stoned to death because she was supposed to be having an extra marital affair…
Now you might throw my logic back in my face and say sarcastically that ”oh!but the men were offended by what she did”
I, however, file this away also under a clear violation of human rights .
A life was taken .Period.Who were these men who intruded into her personal space?She did not intrude into theirs did she?ANd yet she was killed.Killed!Do you realize how absurd this looks in contrast to what we are talking about?
I do not see the world in black or white.I see many shades of grey.I cannot make sweping generalisations and put the Danish cartoon and the shri ram sena hooliganism in the same category.
One offended sentiments.
The other was about brutal ,physical assault in broad daylight.
Where is the confusion?
Ultimately all artists create and put their works in the public space for fame/recognition/money. There is no fourth option.
If the artists were truly just creative souls creating for themselves and no other,then they would have kept these creations within the confines of their own house,taking it out of the box from time to time,dusting it lovingly and gazing at it fondly.
But they have to eat and put food in their bellies.Hnece the drama and controversy,for in this world where fame is just a fleeting mirage ,what better way to do it?
Freedom is limited by choice.Choices negate freedom as opposed to, when one thinks, that to have choices is to have freedom.In this case ,that is of India,the choices are rather limited because of the society we live in,choices are usually ‘either’ & ‘or’.
Whatever your personal opinions might be ,the moment you are in the public space,in the public eye,in the limelight ,holding a place of responsibility ,one where a lot of faces look up to you,please handle that responsibility that you have been given with the utmost care.
One has to learn to work within those boundaries.And keep testing them from time to time to see how much can they be stretched.But not at the cost of lives.
I agree with Neitzche when he says,
”Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves.”
~Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, 1888
But that responsibility if left to each individual to decide would result in chaos.
The government should keep law and order,should punish those who seek to disrupt peace and should in rare cases, decide if a particular work should be taken out of the public arena because it threatens to disrupt the peace and stability of the nation.
But which government has ever done that.?
SO it is back to our own self imposed restrictions and a sensitivity that we have to cultivate.
No moral police is required at all.
”The fact, in short, is that freedom, to be meaningful in an organized society must consist of an amalgam of hierarchy of freedoms and restraints. ”
Freedom without boundaries will lead to a society that will be nothing less than dystopian(as it still is)instead of the Utopia that you dream of.
Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.
~George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, “Maxims: Liberty and Equality,” 1905
Just one question.
If freedom was indeed intended to be absolute ,then why have all the founding fathers of democratic countries ,left a system of checks and balances with us?
Did they not trust us you think?:D
Of what use is that unbridled freedom that seeks to devour our nation?
Please have boundaries and limits and do not be such a liberal that you forget ,that there indeed are other human beings who do not think such exalted thoughts as you and instead do get offended when their gods are insulted.