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Where is the freedom?

We take great pride in being called the world's largest democracy, but are we really a democratic country in the true sense? When India gained independence from the British, the Constitution was drafted keeping in mind that the citizens of this free country are provided with various freedoms -- freedom of speech, freedom to practice the religion of their choice, freedom to peaceful assembly and association.

The need for these civil liberties and rights stemmed from the fact that India was under oppression at the hands of the occupying British. A struggle for freedom followed and India gained its independence. The path taken for this struggle was ahimsa (non-violence). Peaceful marches, silent protests and civil disobedience were some of the tools of this struggle. And it worked. However, post independence, this freedom has been misused in many innovative ways. From hurling chappals at politicians, attacking civil rights activists in public, blackening the faces of educationists, to slapping lawyers in their chambers -- the means of protest have changed drastically in this free country.

Recently, two members of social activist Anna Hazare's team were attacked over their comments. SC lawyer Prashant Bhushan was slapped, kicked and abused over a comment made on Kashmir, while his counterpart ArvindĀ  Kejriwal had a chappal hurled at him over the same issue. In the past, Home Minister P Chidambaram has been the target of a flying shoe hurled by a journalist. The scribe was peeved over the clean chit given to a Congress leader over his role in the 1984 riots. BJP leader L K Advani was another politician in the line of fire, when a party youth leader flung a slipper at him in 2009.

Keeping these incidents in mind, we should ask ourselves -- are we really a democracy? If citizens of this country will be slapped and beaten by slippers for their views, then where is the freedom of speech that we take so much pride in propagating?

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