What India doesn't get about free speech

In calling for Vir Das and Kangana Ranaut's arrest, Indians are repeating the blunder of choosing knee-jerk responses over matters of principle

Vir Sanghvi

Illustration: Binay Sinha

When it comes to freedom of speech, there are some things that should be self-evident. But sadly, they are not — at least in the current political climate. And so they may be worth repeating.
The first is that there is no constitutional or moral right to not be offended. In fact, without the right to offend, free speech is meaningless. If I say something and nobody minds, then I don’t need my right to free speech to be protected. Why would I need any constitutional guarantees to be allowed to say what I want if everyone likes what I say?
And yet, in India, we fail to grasp this central fact. Yes, people are offended all the time. I doubt if movie stars like the abusive reviews that their performances often get. I doubt if Mamata Banerjee was delighted when the Prime Minister took to taunting her with “Didi Oh Didi” at every election rally. I, personally, am offended every time a political leader does some communal d
Disclaimer: These are personal views of the writer. They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of or the Business Standard newspaper

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First Published: Nov 24 2021 | 11:38 PM IST

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