ISI: Freedom of expression must for democracy – Dr. Syeda Hameed

December 22, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

“Freedom of expression is fundamental to vibrant democracy”, said Dr. Syeda Hameed, Member of the Planning Commission, inaugurating the Fr. Paul de La Gueriviere First Memorial Lecture at Indian Social Institute (ISI), New Delhi. She said, “With growing intolerance in the country freedom of thought and expression is at stake. As citizens, all of us have the responsibility to expand the democratic space, promoting dialogue crossing all barriers and bridging gaps”.

Freedom of expression is fundamental to vibrant democracyNew Delhi, December 21, 2012: Fr. Edward Mudavassery SJ, President of the Jesuit Conference of South Asia, unveiled the plaque naming the Documentation Centre at ISI, New Delhi, after late Fr. Gueriviere on his first death anniversary.

“Right to dissent is the essence of democracy”, said the speaker of the day, Dr. Ambrose Pinto SJ, a renowned sociologist, while delivering the Memorial Lecture titled ‘Attack on Free Speech and its Impact on Democracy’ at ISI, New Delhi this evening.

Citing several examples of intolerance of free speech since Independence, Dr. Pinto asserted, “In a democracy to stifle voices of dissent is to attack its very foundation, for without freedom of thought and expression, it is not possible to create a state of tolerance and affirmation, diversity and pluralism, discovery and exploration, inclusion and concern.”

He expressed concern that colonial era Sedition law has been extensively used to stifle political dissent in a way that threatens the functioning of a healthy democracy. It may be recalled that Dr. Binayak Sen and Ms. Arundhati Roy were among the prominent personalities from among thousands of people charged with this archaic law. Citing the example of world renowned artist, M.F. Hussain, Dr. Pinto pointed out that there have been gross misuse of laws governing free speech, which have been ambiguously worded by lawmakers so that they may become “a tool to suppress public expression and discussion of ideologies”.

Emphasizing the importance of free speech for healthy societies in a vibrant democracy, the Bangalore based sociologist remarked, “Free speech fosters authenticity, genius, creativity, individuality and human flourishing.”

Fr. Paul de La Gueriviere (1920 – 2011) was a French Jesuit, who came to India in 1947 and inspired young men and women, while teaching at Loyola College, Chennai, from 1959 to 1976. He, then, spent the last three and a half decades (1986 – 2010) at the Bangalore and New Delhi branches of ISI disseminating data and documents on Indian society, economy and polity. From 1980 – 1992, he was the Editor of ‘ISI Dispatch’, which was the outcome of his documentation work.

– joseph xavier sj

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