“Can’t malign citing free speech. Malicious attacks must be dealt with firmly”. Says the honorable Supreme Court of India.
The honorable Supreme Court has delivered a hard-hitting judgement convicting a senior apex court lawyer, who his supporters say have 30 odd judgements to his credit. While a common man is attaching no importance to the judgement, a section of India’s elite has termed the judgement as “attack on free speech”. It appears that freedom of speech has different values to different class of Indian Society.
A vibrant democracy not only guarantees freedom of speech but also instils responsibility while enjoying freedom of speech. Unfortunately, the seventy-four years old Indian democracy has not matured to educate its masses the virtues of free speech that a democracy guarantees. “Excessive democracy” is a greater challenge to Indian Society than a pseudo-democracy. Worst still; while the common man is found to be more responsible while reaping the benefits of democracy; elites are demanding and demeaning democracy.
Take the case of India’s leader of opposition party and the Prime Minister in waiting. He and his party has suffered successive rejection at every democratic husting — be it elections or parliamentary debates. But he religiously exercises his democratic right of freedom of speech targeting individuals in power. He is not alone. We have the Ex-Governors of RBI, Press Editors, Renowned Historians and self-proclaimed Gandhian’s doing so daily.
Seventy-four years old Indian democracy has brought growth and prosperity but at the same time replaced the traditional caste-based system with the economic class-based system. India boasts of huge middle class that is the fueling economic growth. We have also seen during the Covid -19 times that migrant labour force is the real wheel of economy. Is this a misnomer? It is the rich elite class that rules over rest of the demographic classes. They act as constitutional custodians, protectors of free speech and individual privacy and conscious keepers of the nation.
Unlike the developed countries, elitism in India has two side. You become an elite by academic qualifications and money. A few become elites and celebrities by virtue of being born in the elite family. Having reached there, every elite wants power. In Indian context, what is money without power? Having denied power every elite starts attacking the people behind the institutions. Some elites carefully avoid attacking the institution because they are aspiring to be there — to govern the institution.
Eleanor Roosevelt has famously said “great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people”. There are umpteen examples of Indians “out-growing” democracy. They start demanding from democratic institutions what they feel is right. When denied, they attack people behind the institutions. The Honourable Supreme Court’s judgement is precisely about this!
Fortunately, the ruling NDA Government has done well to contain the elites and celebrities by focusing on middle and lower middle class, albeit with an intention to create a formidable political constituency. Every achievement originating from these classes is being highlighted as a national achievement. This has marginalized the elites. Neither do they have the Congress’s political umbrella to shield them in these rainy days. The imminent fallout is movements like award wapsi, hobnobbing with friends across the border thereby compromising national interest and attacks on security forces and approaching courts to stall development and settle personal vendetta.
Going by the current political discourse, what options do the elites have? Switch sides and embrace right wing ideology? This is a recipe for further marginalization. Wait for a political change? The elites could lose better part of their life years! A practical option would be to kick the elitist gear and join the mainstream as a common man.