Dissent and free speech must be perceived, pragmatically, like the whistle of a pressure cooker.
The Telangana police arrested and prevented two sets of activists who wished to address the media at different events in Hyderabad on the Supreme Court's verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute: One was a group of trade unionists; the other a group active in the Muslim community.
Yet another action to protect the nation, democracy, law and order, and society against the threat of unhindered free speech of a citizen is just that — bunkum in its threat perception, overreach in action, and a naught in what is achieved. There is nothing reasonable in restricting speech, and nobody gains — not democracy, not society.
It is incredulous that any state establishment thinks that a Supreme Court decision can lose its validity by citizens expressing dissent or discussing its legal correctness. It is the same when the nation's sovereignty or security is involved — ideas and words seldom pose any risk.
Dissent and free speech must be perceived, pragmatically, like the whistle of a pressure cooker. Nobody need pay attention. But forcibly silence it, and it sets off an explosion. No policeman rushing to stop a debate or a public event, or arresting someone with contrarian ideas, has protected anything.
On Kashmir or on the Ayodhya verdict, let India allow, even enable, those who disagree with the policy action of the government or the SC verdict to vent their ire. It would harm no one, least of all our democracy, but throttling voices of dissent would put a question mark over our commitment to our foundational values.
The founding fathers of the nation, the creators of our Constitution, did not conceive of a police state, but its exact opposite. Irresponsible exercise of free speech is the best guarantee of democracy, not its worst danger.