Right to Speak – ‘not Offend’

India: one of the largest democracies of the world. One of the few nations which did not fall into autocratic rule. One of the most liberal and accepting governments in the world. The credit for all of this goes not just to the people of this great nation, but also to the constitution and its makers. Our constitution is one of the most detailed and lengthiest constitution in the world. It is also a compilation of the best provisions of the constitutions of democratic countries across the world.

Our constitution provides for fundamental rights. These rights are defined as those provisions, without which, an individual cannot live a dignified life. Among the various fundamental rights that have been listed in the constitution, there is the ‘Right to Freedom of Expression.’ This right is one of the most widely used rights in contemporary India. Unfortunately, many do not know exactly how or what this right is.

Freedom of Expression means that we, the citizens of India have the right to express our views and opinions on any topic, via any medium and through any language— and no one, not even the government can curb or suppress these views. This also does not mean that we have the right to speak anything we want, without having to face the repercussions for it.

“Actions speak louder than words; but sometimes, words can hurt more than anything.”

Questioning the actions of the government, the ruling party, the administration is a sign of a healthy and thriving democracy. But if the questions are irrelevant or go against the interests of the people and the nation, they cannot be justified by saying, “I have the freedom to express my views.” Unnecessary accusations and questioning, that too without proof, harms the functioning of the country: the administration is bound to answer these questions, and thus it can get distracted from vital activities.

The worst use of this right is when someone uses it to attack an individual or an organization with baseless accusations that are not only false, but will harm the image of the organization or individual, permanently defaming and assassinating their character in the society. “Words can only be forgiven, not forgotten.” We should keep in mind our morality and be sensitive to others when it comes to speaking in public about him/her. Most of us attribute the taking of offense to a statement to the other person being naive, or not having a ‘sense of humour’; we fail to keep in mind that the concerned person or group may be going through some difficult situation or circumstance that prevents them from accepting our statement. We cannot be completely isolated from the views of other people, because in the end we are a society and we can only live when we have cohesion and cooperation among us.

We do not live alone on this planet. Thus, we must ensure that we include everyone as we move ahead on the path of progress. It cannot be an exclusive activity; it has to be inclusive of all sections of the society. In conclusion, we have the right to speak, but we also have the duty of respecting others and their views, as this is a democracy and not a dictatorship.

Priyamvad Rai

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