Diversity of thought and speech is India's lifeblood

Updated: Jun 12, 2019, 07:52 IST | A Correspondent

We live in a democracy; let us encourage all kinds of voices. We can be open to listening to a viewpoint and can surely disagree with it, that is our right

Diversity of thought and speech is India's lifeblood

On Tuesday, this paper ran an interview with a former IIT professor, Dr Ram Puniyani, about threats he claims to have been facing from the right wing about his alleged anti-Hindu activities.

Puniyani holds lectures and events across the country where he speaks about history with a focus on communal amity. He claims this is the second time this year that he has faced intimidation, the first coming in March, followed by a more recent, threatening phone call. The professor, who calls himself a rationalist and a humanist, has now been given security by the police.

It should be a matter of great shame that somebody had to be given security because of the work he does. There are avenues to oppose the professor, there is social media to engage. One can always attend his talks and present an argument during the interactive session. Yet, to shut down somebody because he holds a view different from yours and actually tell him to get out or warn him about harm to his family cannot be justified on any ground.

We live in a democracy; let us encourage all kinds of voices. We can be open to listening to a viewpoint and can surely disagree with it, that is our right. One can point out a contrary view and state that the speaker is incorrect, but can certainly not silence opinions. Diversity of thought and speech is the lifeblood of a democracy, let us keep that coursing through the veins of this country. In the second term in office, it is up to the Modi government to change this real or perceived image of a narrow, authoritarian and parochial regime. Let us begin by letting those who speak up have the courage and safe space to do so. A myriad of opinions and dissent unite rather than divide because of the respect that they foster. Differences are our strength, not our weakness.

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