The Rushdie debacle is an indictment of India’s democracy

By Ram Mashru
The Independent
31 January, 2012

“Here, Nick Cohen’s point about power resounds: “few admit that what makes liberal democracies liberal is that “power” will not throw you in prison [for speaking freely]”. Freedom of expression exists therefore only to the extent that the State will protect it. In this instance, the “power” of the radical, militant few was allowed to stifle free discussion because of the absence of political will. This apathy amounts to an abdication of the responsibility, shared by alldemocratic governments, to safeguard the right of free speech.

“The most pernicious implication of the Rushdie debacle is self-censorship. As Nick Cohen points out in his timely book, fear is the greatest threat to open discussion. Extremists, by definition, flout both the moral consensus and the law. The refusal to apprehend the threat of violence and the patent indifference shown towards free expression by India’s governmentrisks establishing a dangerous precedent. The risk is one of fundamentalists filling the power vacuum left by the absence of political will.”
Carry on reading

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