Boston:Recalling that the rise of Hitler in Germany and imposition of emergency in India came through normal democratic process, actor Kamal Haasan said "constant vigil" is required to safeguard freedom of speech in a democracy.
"Democracy is often touted as the only bastion of freedom of speech. It is a work in progress. Constant vigil is necessary to safeguard it," Haasan said at the annual India Conference of Harvard University last evening.
"It is only through the offices of democracy that Adolf Hitler rose to the power. In the Indian political history, emergency was promulgated and voices were silenced," he reminded.
In his keynote address, the "Vishwaroopam" star, who is a part of the reform committee that is going to recommend changes in the functioning of Central Board of Film Certification in India, said freedom of speech should not be taken for granted.
"I have taken the opportunity to put on record here and in India we can't take freedom of speech for granted and complacently think that democracy automatically means freedom of speech," Haasan, 61, said. He, however, pointed out that he is not criticising the democracy of India and, in fact, is proud of it and wants the country to set an example for the whole world.
"Not only India, but the world is in transition. The world is going to face new challenges, find new opportunities. We want India not to be complacent, but set world standards," he added. Haasan said "religion in politics" is not healthy.
"What Nehruji spoke of once of unity in diversity, now we are trying to lose it very fast. In a world of open source, protectionism cannot work like medieval times.
"Those evangelising democracy nowadays want us to believe that it is the only hope for freedom of speech. I, as an artist, believe that freedom of speech is separate from the ruling political state."