"I hope this letter to you isn’t being written in vain. In more colloquial words, if I may, I hope you are not dead."

A letter from Democracy to the Free Speech she misses A Bengaluru 17-yr-old writes Image courtesy: Newtown Graffiti via Flickr
Blog Free Speech Wednesday, March 08, 2017 - 12:05

By Kamya Vishwanath, a class XII student from Bengaluru

Dear ABV-

“WAIT, stop! What do you think you’re doing? Don’t you dare say a word. They’ll kill you.”

Well, alright then. If that’s how it’s going to be, I’ll start over.


Dear Freedom of Speech,

I’m writing this letter to you from India: a nation that prides itself in its Constitution. I whole-heartedly say believe that ours is indeed the most beautifully crafted document there is. But there’s something about the way in which we function, where beauty is appreciated but not respected.

I hope this letter to you isn’t being written in vain. In more colloquial words, if I may, I hope you are not dead.

“If I may”?

Who is to say what I may or may not say? What sort of preposterous regime has drilled into our innocent minds that we must bottle up our feelings to feel safe in our own skins?

Article 19(a) of our Constitution and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights happens to coincidentally be the Freedom of Speech and Expression and the Freedom of Opinion and Expression respectively.

So technically, we’re granted this right two times over, if not more. But we still find people being attacked, abused and trolled for things they say.

But it is frightening when the attentions shifts from the hate and assault people are subjected to for expressing themselves, to its justification. 

Instead of acknowledging the very fact that someone has been attacked, in what seems like the violation of TWO of our rights, media and every other person out there focuses on the statement: “Yaar, yeh ladki keh rahi hai ki Pakistan ek bura desh nahi hai!” (Dude, this girl’s saying that Pakistan is not a bad country!)

“Anti national!” “Terrorist!” “Traitor!”

And then, there would probably be pelting stones at their houses, inking them black and what not - things that I feel ashamed to write, so I’ll just leave them to your imagination.

The year has only just begun and we have already witnessed some shameful incidents.

We have Censor Board that that is as archaic in its thinking as the derivation of the word “censor” (mid-16th century). Depicting reality has become selective, and if it becomes too real or subversive – ban it.

Self-appointed custodians of culture have taken to attacking of artists for presenting “wrong facts”. Case in point: director Sanjay Leela Bhansali being attacked on the sets of his own film Padmavati.

For decades, films have played a major role in the introducing and normalizing new ideas: from love marriages to changing gender roles. And even if some films have no message whatsoever, it’s perfectly alright! They are still a media of expression, let them be!

Media is a secondary agent of socialisation, my Sociology textbook taught me. Suppressed media only subsists in a totalitarian state, my Political Science textbook taught me.

The Ramjas row that took place a few days ago concerns me. Beating teachers and students of one of the most prestigious of institutions for holding a seminar? Funny how some naïve individuals like myself think that education can solve all of our problems when a student wing seems to be the cause of things like these in the first place.

Soon after, the daughter of a martyr who simply voiced something that she is has the right to say, was subjected to so much hate and abuse online.

All this troubles me.

The checks on Freedom of Speech in our country are posed by sedition, defamation, and so on. But actual definition of sedition and the way it has been construed (and used) have come to be completely different things.

I am not accusing anybody of calling someone else “anti-national”. I am only accusing them of not realising that somebody else is entitled to their own opinions, as diverse as it is from theirs. Being different from the majority does not mean that a person wrong.

Therefore, Freedom of Speech, I hope you return to this nation as soon as possible. We cannot survive without you.

With love,


(Views expressed here are personal opinions of the author.)

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.