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Amartya Sen’s freedom of expression and Left’s amnesia

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Satish Kumar
Committed to Engineering. Having affairs with Philosophy. Heart goes to Linguistics.

With the progress of time as the furor over India being lynchistan was getting settled, Indian left liberals are again enraged now as their freedom of expression is in danger. This time, the patriarch of Indian progressives, Amratya Sen’s freedom of expression is allegedly in danger.

As per the media reports, a documentary titled ‘The Argumentative Indian’, directed by Suman Ghosh has been asked to beep four words-cow, Gujarat, Hindutva and Hindu Nationalism by Central Board of Film Certification to get U/A certificate. While whether it constitutes to someone’s attack on freedom of expression can be debated, Indian left liberals have instantly determined that it’s the attempt by an authoritarian regime to curb the freedom of speech of Amartya Sen and all the rational voices. One can do well by examining their claim of being the champions of freedom of speech, there isn’t any shred of doubt regarding their amnesia and hysteria.

In the last 70 years when Congress was ruling this country with the support of Indian communists, freedom of expression has always been a concept to be repeated time and again in theory but seldom practiced without any reservation. The very existence of CBFC points out that there is an institution which is implementing censorship and this particular instance isn’t unprecedented which may cause such uproar. However, left liberals are extremely vocal about their freedom of speech, the freedom of speech of their ideological opponents doesn’t need any consideration.

Sitaram Goel, noted historian and political philosopher who was denied his due place in academia due to the hegemony of Marxists and left liberals here, the hardships which he faced in his career is enough to reveal that Indian left only cares about its own freedom of expression. Ram Swarup, Hindu Philosopher, had written a book titled ‘Understanding Islam Through Hadith’, published for first time in 1982 in USA. Sitaram Goel was the long time compatriot of Ram Swarup and decided to publish his book in India in 1983. The first Indian edition was sold out quickly after the publication.

In 1987, Sitaram Goel decided to publish its another edition along with its Hindi translation. This move was enough to enrage Muslims who started asking for ban on the book. Government succumbed to the pressure of Muslims and seized all the Hindi copies of book and Goel was arrested. He was released after 18 hours of police custody. This book is still banned in India. Now, comparing this particular event with Amartya Sen saga, one can gauge how actual assault on freedom of expression looks like. Interestingly, none of the left liberals came in support of Sitaram Goel or Ram Swarup and defended their freedom of expression. However, as we have seen systematically in Indian history that any criticism of Communism and Islam isn’t covered in the freedom of expression, criticism of India and Hinduism is always their prerogative.

While everyone has seen what could be the result in case of someone exercising his freedom of expression related to Islam, any such freedom of expression related to Hinduism only results in few litigation and beeping of certain words. If one is for the unconditional freedom of speech, he must be defending the freedom of speech of both the camps but Indian left has established different precedent. Owing to multiple reasons, criticism of Islam is almost nonexistent, it becomes laughable to talk about absolute freedom of speech in Indian context. People advocating for the freedom of expression of Amartya Sen only are either suffering from amnesia or selectively defending one ideological side.


Freedom of expression is essentially linked with human’s natural freedom but this fundamental right can’t be invoked in the selective manner to champion one’s own cause and to suppress other’s. Any right is the result of social transaction based on the set of rules agreed upon but that seems nonexistent in Indian context. Labeling any criticism of left and Islam as trolling while that of Right and Hinduism as rational endeavour, one endangeres the very foundation on which freedom of expression rests by discrediting other’s opinion without examining. When Sen and his compatriots starts getting the taste of their own medicine in mild manner, they resort to invoke the very principles which they’ve always violated. Although, this hypocrisy is counting its last breath now a days.

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Satish Kumar
Committed to Engineering. Having affairs with Philosophy. Heart goes to Linguistics.

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