January 21, 2020
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The Right To Write (And Offend)

The Right To Write (And Offend)
outlookindia.com
1970-01-01T05:30:00+0530

Now that the redoubtable Mr Digvijaya Singh has jumped into the fray ("It's a very bad article and it is seditious also") after the Harvard students who wanted that the university "end its association with religious extremist Subramanian Swamy"  for his distasteful  op-ed of July 16 in the DNA, it is perhaps time to compile our old short-takes and also revisit Salil Tripathi's article in the Mint on July 20:

If the secular, liberal, and leftist Indians want views like Swamy’s to be restricted, then the right-wing nationalists will want views like Arundhati Roy’s to be restricted. This is not to suggest that Roy and Swamy are in any way comparable, except to suggest that both arouse visceral responses of similar intensity among different types of Indians, and India is a better society if it aggressively protects free speech. Disagree with them by all means; challenge them, debate them. Don’t stop them from speaking. Otherwise, as the late Behram Contractor, who wrote as Busybee, astutely observed about the emergency, the only safe topics left to discuss will be cricket and mangoes.

As Sandip Roy points out in the Firstpost, more than anything else, hounding Mr Swamy out of Harvard would only make him a "freespeech martyr".

The Harvard petitioners had better be careful that they don’t make Swamy a political martyr in their zeal to kick him off campus without real debate. That would allow him the perfect excuse to retreat to the safety of yet more newspaper op-eds, where he can sit on a pedestal and lob incendiary monologues.

Let Subramanian Swamy defend his ideas instead, and the whiplash-inducing twists and turns in his ideology, in an open forum...

Swamy clearly does not believe in a pluralistic “open” society. But that is no reason for the rest of us to cede those values in the name of opposing him. To repeat what he once said about Saudi Arabia: “We are not going to imitate them. Our society is different.”

Harvard students should hoist Swamy on his own words. Instead of sending him into exile, they should remind of this inconvenient truth: There is no democracy without debate.

Meanwhile, Mr Swamy seems to be revelling in all the attention that he has never perhaps got before in his life, not even for all his 2G activism, or so it would seem at least going by his tweets of the past few days, where he can of course choose to be selective in what he responds to:

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