Monday, February 11, 2008

Everyone ought to have the privilege of expressing opinions which are unpopular or distasteful

Title : Of dissent... Author : Soli J. Sorabjee Publication : The Times of India Date : January 11, 1997
Thirty years ago the Bombay High Court in the case of Anant Karandikar in the context of adverse criticism of Gandhiji in certain articles observed:

"The right to dissent is the very essence of democracy. Conformity to accepted norms and belief has always been the enemy of freedom of thought... everyone ought to have the privilege of expressing opinions which are unpopular or distasteful."

The relevance of these observations cannot be underestimated in view of the rising trend of intolerance of dissent. The right to dissent however does not permit the expression of views which have the inherent potential of incitement to offence or disturbance of public order, as, for example, the vilification or scurrilous abuse of founders of any religion or its tenets, as distinct from sober criticism of the validity of its claims or dogmas.
Title : 'Distortion of history' Author : V Krishna Ananth Publication : The Hindu Date : January 8, 1997
Excerpts from the interview with Prof. Irfan Habib, eminent historian,
Just as an impartial judge must be bound by the law and his perception must be based on the law, a historian cannot be partial on his premises. There are two aspects to this; one is the technical of history particularly that of testing of evidence. This applies to everyone. To that extent, even a communal historian like R. C. Majumdar was very much annoyed when the RSS promoted a theory that the great Delhi and Agra monuments were built by Hindu rulers: He wrote to them saying that since they had given space to such nonsense he was not going to contribute to The Organiser. I respect this stand. What I mean to say is that the sanctity of technical aspects of history must be respected by all historians. Historical linguistics, inscriptions and the canons of archaeological excavations mean nothing to our friends in the VHP and the only thing that matters to them is working up religious sentiment.
One factor is that the nationalist tradition and the historiography handed over by it is running out of steam: not because the evidence has changed but because the environment today dislikes ideals. When ideals do not matter then many aspects which we thought were accepted premises of scientific history, as for instance, hatred against poverty are no longer guiding intellectual thought. You can not look at them clinically or not look at them at all. Well, I would say that the religious cults are trying to occupy the political space increasingly and are being confronted by some values of the nationalist movement already there in the popular consciousness.

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