Why should mention of the cow be excised, although it is a reality that several influential individuals proudly and publicly affirm the cow to be their mother? The mother of this columnist was not a cow, but a human being, but he does not have the right to deny to others the right to affirm the opposite. That is the requisite of a culture of free speech, of democracy, of the right to hold and publicly proclaim views of every person’s choice. Morarji Desai was sprightly even in his 90s, and it is difficult to prove wrong his belief that an early morning glass of his own urine was the cause of such longevity And it is not always possible to demonstrate that cow urine has miraculous properties. However, it would be wrong for agencies of the state or busybodies acting in their name to prevent individuals from either affirming or denying the properties of cow urine. As for Gujarat, Chief Minister Modi sought multiple times to get the Army to intervene, but was unable to persuade the Central government to do so early enough. Modi’s inspired stewardship of Gujarat convinced his political opponents that he would be their most formidable rival. There has been a coordinated effort to blacken Narendra Modi’s reputation, and even in 2017, anything that goes wrong in India soon gets pinned to the door of his South Block office, including this latest blooper of a cow bleeper from Pahlaj Nihalani, despite it being entirely a CBFC decision. The Prime Minister of India would not have had the time to intervene in the matter of a documentary about an economist, unless the day had 240 hours, rather than merely 24. This is clearly a Nihalani decision, but it is noteworthy that several of the members of that body are standing by the newly-established “Sen precedent” and defending a CBFC action designed to convince the rest of the globe that freedom of expression is dead in India.
If the members of the CBFC are to be believed, the mere mention by Amartya Sen of what he regards as the “criminality of Gujarat” in the 2002 riots would inflame the state such that there would presumably be fresh incidents of violence. Having gone multiple times to Gujarat, it is safe to affirm that yet another articulation (this time in the documentary) of the same view that Sen has expressed several times in locations across the world would not set the Sabarmati afire. Indeed, it would have passed unnoticed. Hopefully, the I&B Ministry will step in to ensure that the CBFC gets manned by individuals subscribing to the practices and needs of a democracy, or at the least, withdraws the order it is reported to have passed on the Ghosh documentary, before this country becomes a global object of ridicule and scorn.
Prime Minister Modi, now that he is entering the fourth year of his term, needs to ensure that India join the rest of the civilised world in removing such colonial laws as “criminal defamation” from the statute books. The thrust and parry of debate in a democracy will be fierce and often unpleasant, but it is a necessary condition not simply of democracy, but of the culture of freedom and transparency needed for Start-Up India to generate the thrust needed to create tens of millions of additional jobs. Freedom of the internet, the universal spread of the internet, high surfing speeds and a sensible policy towards education, are all needed to ensure that PM Modi’s dream of a youthful and innovative India energised and awakened becomes a reality during the time that he is in office.