Freeze your ‘FREE SPEECH’

Indian values teach us to respect parents like Gods and to respect all religions.

Sushmita Dutta

They joke about the Golden temple and call it constitutionally protected...

Jay Leno, the famous talk show host, landed in the eye of a storm when he suggested the holy Golden Temple was the summer home of Mitt Romney, a leading Republican presidential hopeful.

How can any religious place of worship be ever compared to a summer homes? The US government might term this as freedom of speech, but one cannot just open his mouth against anything in the name of free speech. In the name of free speech, Jay Leno had earlier in 2007 also termed the Sikh community as ‘diaper heads’.

The US State Department said the remark was constitutionally protected under the free speech and dismissed it as satirical in nature. But something that is satirical to one person could really be offensive to the other person. Here it was downright offensive for the Sikh community. It was the holiest place of a community that was being made fun of. There is nothing satirical about that. It definitely was not in good humour and the community had every right to be miffed about it. This is definitely not the first time Indians have been subject to such kind of offensive treatment.

They drive a Jaguar with a toilet fitted to its back to portray India’s poverty…

BBC’s star programme ‘Top Gear’ and its host Jeremy Clarkson drove straight into controversy when he took irresponsible digs at Indian toilets, clothing, food and history. In the show, at one point, he was seen ridiculing the unhygienic conditions and the lack of proper sanitation in the slum areas of India. Clarkson was seen driving around in a Jaguar fitted with a toilet. It not only portrayed India in poor light, but was also demeaning to the Indian psyche.

The show went even further and shocked the audiences with below the belt scenes. Top Gear went into ‘top gear’ in ridiculing and insulting Indians. They put banners on a coach of a train promoting British industry. The banners had exclaimed things like ‘British IT is good for your company’ and ‘Eat English muffins’. When the carriage split these messages turned really nasty and obscene.

Jeremy Clarkson, in part of the show, was also seen stripping off his trousers in front of two Indian dignitaries and showed them the usage of a trouser press. And what was worse that such kind of portrayal about India was shown just two days after the murder of the Indian student in UK, Anuj Bidve.

Someone should wake up Mr Clarkson; India is not about what you have shown in your show. This kind of mentality and coverage is perhaps why foreigners think that India is full of filth and still a land of snake charmers. A negative canvassing of a country by such widely followed shows is just not acceptable.

They say we will show you the real picture of India i.e. - The poor people, Dharavi slums………

It is not very different with the movies as well. The Oscar winning movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was a similar example. Was telling a heart wrenching story of a dirty and filthy slum an easy way to walk into the hall of fame? Why not show a movie with the brighter side of this nation? India definitely is not about its slums and poverty. India is the fastest growing economy in the world and its skills have been appreciated all over the globe. The presence of India is felt throughout the world, but the story is always of the downtrodden and despicable.

The story does not end here only.

Even Hindu deities have not been spared from ignominy. Supermodel Heidi Klum put on the attire of Goddess Kali for a Halloween party. How absurd is that! Maybe she doesn’t even start to understand the relevance of what Goddess Kali has in our religious beliefs. At times our gods and goddesses were seen imprinted on two piece bikinis and at times found on shoes. The Australian fashion house Lisa Blue had to apologies and stop production of its swimwear for putting the deities on them. NBC’s famous show showcased Lord Ganesha in a sex act. How insensitive can they get? Is it okay to first insult and then to say sorry. The fact that these kinds of acts are taking place shows the shallowness of their minds and lack of knowledge about India.
We say we can take jokes on ‘US’……

In a country where Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikhs and many other religions breathe and prosper together, if everyone uses the freedom of speech and does not think before speaking, imagine what the outcome will be. It would be sheer bloodbath.

Indian values revolve around the word ‘RESPECT’. Our values teach us to respect parents like Gods, to respect all religions like our own, to respect sacrifice as the best gesture, and wish well for all. This is the reason India is a melting pot of so many cultures and traditions.

The issue of international TV hosts making jokes of India in some or the other way isn’t just about being offended. There’s a social issue: it widens the cultural gap between the host and immigrant communities. And this plays a major role in increasing violent incidents.

Disrespect provokes anger and anger provokes violence. So, a small joke can become too dangerous. Surely, foreigners won’t be amused if Indians start making satirical references about their culture and beliefs, though that’s not a part of Indian culture!