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Thursday, November 29, 2007

On Freedom

Rimi has an amazing post on Nandigram, the protest march, and the associated riots.
It's rather long, but well worth the read.

I had some comments regarding that, which I am pasting below. I am not sure if it's good blog decorum to paste here the comments I have written on another blog. But heck, a newbie like me wasn't going to let a largish comment go unpublished here.

Some of the problems with how the system in India works are:

1. The system's unwillingness to uphold the right to free speech, garbing it under euphemisms such as "considerations", "hurt feelings", etc. But that's not how right to free speech works. Everybody should be free to say whatever they want, as long as it doesn't infringe upon other people's rights. For example, Tasleema Nasrin is free to write whatever she wants to write, as long as she is not writing anything libelous against anybody, in which case the concerned person can sue her. The problem with our system is that we allow legal recourse for "hurt feelings", which is absolutely subjective, unethical, and reeks of moral arrogance and superiority.
Of course, the rioters were also within their rights to demand Ms. Nasrin's expulsion; but it's not their right to riot--which brings us to the second problem.

2. Our tacit approval of mob violence, which is again furthered by an amazing degree of laziness on the part of the judiciary (can't find the reports comparing how underworked our judges are compared to their counterparts in US, while they regularly gripe about how they are understaffed and how they have to deal with a lot more cases). Partly responsible for this is the heavy politicization of our police forces, which is unavoidable considering the amount of power wielded by politicians over the day-to-day functioning of the police. No wonder we have instances where the police stand back and do nothing, others where they are too eager to do something.

3. How avoidable the whole Nandigram fiasco would have been if we had fundamental right to property instead of the mere legal right. And none of the draconian land-control measures, including ban on selling of agricultural land for other purposes. This is very much a libertarian argument well expressed by Amit Varma in IndiaUncut in his Thinking It Through columns. They are much better than whatever I could write here.

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