ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Persuasions of Intolerance

As violations of freedom of expression pile up, how productive is it to defend freedom on the ground of tolerance for dissent? Marking out an opinion as dissent paradoxically enables the consolidation of the mainstream consensus. There is a clear shift in the arguments deployed to curtail free expression of ideas from hurt sentiments to truth. Such a shift is taking place in a public culture which requires individuals to have opinions, but is incapable of sustaining critical dialogue.

The political resolution adopted at the recent national executive meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) declared that refusal to hail Bharat was tantamount to disrespecting the Constitution. Party leaders and ministers have consistently qualified their support for freedom of expression to exclude any activity critical of the country and the only utterance of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on this issue was to castigate the agitations over the clampdown of dissent as “distractions” from the agenda of development. Convinced that the “JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) moment” is to its advantage, the BJP intends to play the game of anti-nationalism and simultaneaously blame victims and opponents for creating diversions. While the list of violations of freedom of expression in India over the past two decades runs long, the breakneck speed with which instances are now piling up makes it imperative to look beyond the violations and ask what is distinctive about the current debate over freedom and dissent. Why do these attacks on individuals and institutions have such popular traction as can be ascertained from the public response at offline and online forums?

Right to Dissent

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