I know I take it for granted as an American. We say “free speech” jokingly all the time to friends and family when they don’t something we might have said.
But I am not living in America anymore. How free is speech in India? I actually don’t know the answer to that question. What I do know is Americans are truly lucky to have free speech. We can say anything we want and the government won’t arrest us.
I remember a few years ago when Bush was in office and there was an uncertainty about how privacy would hold up next to the very new Patriot Act. I was chatting with a friend of mine on Facebook about No Child Left Behind. I was telling him I thought NCLB was the worse bill to be passed into law for a very very very long time. I said something about how Bush should die for the law. I said it in jest, with no serious intent to it whatsoever. Context would have proven that. But my friend was very concerned, since this was “said” over a chat line. I could be arrested. They are watching us, he said, and listening. He begged me to put into writing that I was joking. “I’m joking,” I wrote, to ease his mind.
Freedom of speech.
This is a long introduction to the reason for this post. Recently an Indian political activist from Mumbai passed away, and the city closed down — Mumbai completely closed down — to honor the passing. A 21 year old woman wrote in a comment on Facebook that she felt it was ridiculous that Mumbai shut down. Another woman, a friend of hers, “liked” her comment. Both the girls were arrested.
Here is a link to one of many articles on the arrest. This one is more of a summary, but it’s trending…
My oldest son has not made the best ethical choices on social media, so I felt a parental duty to warn him. I told him that this had happened. “You’re not in America anymore dude, just be careful.” It made him think a bit. It should. Freedom of speech is not something one should take lightly. Prominent Indians seem to be divided about whether the arrest was justified. In America, there would be no question.