HT Image
HT Image

Let freedom reign!

We must fiercely protect everyone's rights or else we risk losing our own, writes Sunil Lala.
By BOSTON DIARY | Sunil Lala | PTI
UPDATED ON JUL 07, 2005 04:55 PM IST

A Happy Fourth of July, from the land of Liberty, to all my readers!

My last column - Born Free - seems to have evoked some raw passions. I have received countless emails and comments on how I could ever support a concept as brazen as absolute freedom. People have offered numerous justifications for the government's proposed policy of denying us our vote.

What has absolutely amazed me though, is the apparent willingness of people to give up their freedoms so easily. We have been so brainwashed into believing that absolute freedom is an impossible concept, the government does not even pretend to justify potentially illegal actions anymore. They have a ready army of loyal citizens marching to the drumbeat of propaganda and fear mongering - and that, my friends, is a scary scenario.

Of course, when people support the idea of diluting someone's freedom, the thought that this could happen to them, is far from their minds. It is always us versus them, the definitions of "us" and "them" being completely fluid, and changing according to the need of the hour.

So, "our" voting rights are important, but "those NRIs" don't really deserve it. "We" are mature enough to make decisions for ourselves, but "those illiterate villagers" can't be trusted. "We" can handle adult content in movies, but the censor board is needed to prevent "the youth" from being corrupted. And on and on it goes.

What we fail to realise is that a strike against the freedom of any citizen is a strike against the freedom of all. A clarification about my last column is in order here. I did not claim the right of dual citizenship for NRIs. I understand well that there is no such right, and that the government of India can indeed decide to not grant NRIs the privilege of dual citizenship. My argument was that once citizenship is granted to us, we automatically come under the protection of the Constitution, and the State then loses all power to deny us rights on a piecemeal basis.

Want to know why people thought that was a bad idea? Here's a sampling of some arguments:

1. The "no taxes no vote" Argument: The logic behind this argument is, unfortunately, too simplistic - NRIs do not pay any taxes in India, so they do not deserve the right to vote. This is the most flawed argument of all, and is easily debunked. Voting rights are neither based on, nor representative of one's economic status or tax bracket. Citizens' rights are not for sale to the highest bidder. American citizens, who live abroad and do not pay any taxes to Uncle Sam, regularly mail in their votes, come election time.

If one were to apply this absurd reasoning, all unemployed people in India would automatically lose their voting rights. So would all people who evade taxes. And that, by my calculation, would include a large number of our "holier than thou" citizens.

2. The "Duties versus Rights" Argument: A colleague walked up to me the other day and suggested that I do not fulfil my duties towards India, and so, do not deserve the right to vote. This argument is ill informed, jingoistic and extremely dangerous.

I do not know how this person came to the conclusion that the level of my patriotism was less than his. However, that is a moot point. Let us accept the premise that one citizen of India is somehow "less patriotic" than another. Does it then give the government the power to take away the rights of this "less patriotic" person? The answer is a resounding - NO!

And who decides which one of us is patriotic and which one isn't? The Prime Minister? A kangaroo court? Your local MLA or Congressman? The Internal Revenue Service? Is residing outside India somehow indicative of lack of loyalty?

"Patriotism" is the last refuge of the scoundrel, and has for centuries been a convenient excuse for abuse of power. From the Soviet Union to North Korea, governments have used it as a tool for oppression. The United States and India have not remained untouched. The Red scare and the communist witch-hunts unleashed by Senator Joseph McCarthy, and our own Emergency should serve as dire warnings. We cannot give the government or our politicians the power to measure our level of patriotism and use that as a weapon against us, the people.

3. The "Security" Argument: This was the most bizarre argument made in support of disenfranchisement of NRIs. The argument goes like this - if voting rights were given to NRIs, India's security will be compromised and criminals and terrorists of all persuasion would flood the country and annihilate it!

Huh? Did I miss something? Let me get this straight. OK, I got it - this is how it works: there are terrorists and criminals who want to harm India. Fair enough. But, here's the caveat - they are waiting for just the right opportunity before they can embark on their evil mission. Stay with me now, readers - the next set of events is critical.

One fine day, the Indian government gives us NRIs the option of dual citizenship. The evil terrorists and criminals continue to wait patiently. You see, they have no other option. They cannot destroy India yet - the NRIs haven't been given the right to vote! Then, the government buckles under tremendous pressure from my Boston based attorneys, and restores our voting rights.

WHAM! This is the moment these wicked people have been waiting for! As soon as they hear about it, they all crawl out of their mysterious hideouts, and enter India in droves, because obviously, the restoration of voting rights for NRIs has completely destroyed our immigration and airport security systems, and left the country completely vulnerable. Enough said!

The bottom-line, dear friends, is that we, as citizens, must fiercely protect everyone's rights or else we risk losing our own. So, let the light of Liberty shine brightly upon us. Let us not make lame excuses for our governments. Let us not surrender our freedoms so casually, no matter how trivial they may seem at the time. Let us fight every government regulation, every MLA, every cop that encroaches upon our rights under the pretext of patriotism or duty or moral obligation or national security.

Let us fight as if our very life depended on it. Believe me - it does.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Earlier in the day, Agra zone additional director general of police Rajeev Krishna announced a cash reward of <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>1 lakh for information on the mail accused.
Earlier in the day, Agra zone additional director general of police Rajeev Krishna announced a cash reward of 1 lakh for information on the mail accused.

2 held for murder of sexual assault survivor’s father

By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Agra
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:05 AM IST
  • The ADG has constituted teams of police personnel from Aligarh to assist the Hathras police.
Close
The post-mortem report showed she was strangled to death, the officials said.(HT file photo)
The post-mortem report showed she was strangled to death, the officials said.(HT file photo)

Teen held for murder of girl after rape bid

By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Agra
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 01:58 AM IST
  • The incident took place on Sunday afternoon, when the girl went to a wheat field, owned by the family of the accused, to collect fodder and water.
Close
A district magistrate in Manipur on Tuesday withdrew a notice served by him to a talk show under the new rules framed and announced by the Centre last week.(Unsplash)
A district magistrate in Manipur on Tuesday withdrew a notice served by him to a talk show under the new rules framed and announced by the Centre last week.(Unsplash)

Only Centre can enforce new digital media rules: I&B ministry to states

By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 01:51 AM IST
  • The provisions under the new rules relate to the code of ethics for digital news publishers, setting up of a grievance redressal system and the requirement of disclosure of information to Centre, the ministry said.
Close
The instrument costs nearly <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>4 crores and has been named Aries-Devasthal Faint Object Spectrograph &amp; Camera (ADFOSC), the release said.(Representative Image)
The instrument costs nearly 4 crores and has been named Aries-Devasthal Faint Object Spectrograph & Camera (ADFOSC), the release said.(Representative Image)

Spectrograph designed for Uttarakhand telescope

By Anonna Dutt, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 01:47 AM IST
  • The instrument will support the 3.6 metre Devasthal Optical Telescope (DOT) in Uttarakhand, an official release from the department of science said on Wednesday.
Close
Lt-Gen BS Raju said this truce deal is desirable for both India and Pakistan and it is the need of the hour.
Lt-Gen BS Raju said this truce deal is desirable for both India and Pakistan and it is the need of the hour.

‘Ceasefire need of the hour... desirable for both India, Pak’: Lt-Gen BS Raju

By Ramesh Vinayak, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 01:38 AM IST
  • Lt-Gen BS Raju said a quiet LoC will allow us to address the challenge of terrorism in a focused manner.
Close
Enforcement Directorate (ED) has launched a money laundering probe against Franklin Templeton(Bloomberg News)
Enforcement Directorate (ED) has launched a money laundering probe against Franklin Templeton(Bloomberg News)

ED begins probe against Franklin Templeton

By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 01:15 AM IST
  • The central agency has registered a case on the basis of an FIR registered by Chennai Economic Offences Wing in September last year.
Close
Over 70 people died after the February 7 floods that occurred after a lake breached at Nanda Devi glacier in the upper reaches of Himalayas(HT_PRINT)
Over 70 people died after the February 7 floods that occurred after a lake breached at Nanda Devi glacier in the upper reaches of Himalayas(HT_PRINT)

Experts slam claim that human activity not behind recent flood

By Neeraj Santoshi, Jayashree Nandi, Amanjeet Singh Salyal, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh, Dehradun, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 01:31 AM IST
  • Dhyani added that the burden on the ecology due to construction on Himalayan slopes made the region prone to disasters.
Close
Civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha was first arrested in connected with this case in August 2018 when the case was probed by the Maharashtra Police. After NIA took over the probe last year, Navlakha surrendered in April 2020. (HT PHOTO).
Civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha was first arrested in connected with this case in August 2018 when the case was probed by the Maharashtra Police. After NIA took over the probe last year, Navlakha surrendered in April 2020. (HT PHOTO).

Supreme Court issues notice on Gautam Navlakha’s plea for default bail

By Abraham Thomas
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 12:49 AM IST
  • Navlakha claimed in his petition filed through advocate Shadan Farasat that the 90-day period for filing of charge sheet was over and he was entitled to default bail under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
Close
After the arrest, Lama was admitted in a district hospital since his blood pressure shot up. (GETTY IMAGES) (Image used for representation).
After the arrest, Lama was admitted in a district hospital since his blood pressure shot up. (GETTY IMAGES) (Image used for representation).

GJM leader close to Bimal Gurung arrested under POCSO in Sikkim

PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 12:38 AM IST
  • Lama was being considered as the GJM candidate for the Kalimpong assembly seat in the coming polls later this month.
Close
The top court which is examining measures to fast-track cheque bounce cases in a suo moto proceeding had on February 25 sought the view of the Centre to create additional courts for exclusive trial of such offences. (HT PHOTO)
The top court which is examining measures to fast-track cheque bounce cases in a suo moto proceeding had on February 25 sought the view of the Centre to create additional courts for exclusive trial of such offences. (HT PHOTO)

Centre differs with SC on additional courts for cheque bounce cases

By Abraham Thomas
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 12:18 AM IST
  • Unhappy with the response, the bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to appear in the case along with Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Vikramjeet Banerjee, who presented the note to the Court.
Close
The officer cited spinal disorder as the reason why he planned to ride a horse to reach office instead of a bike.(Representational Photo)
The officer cited spinal disorder as the reason why he planned to ride a horse to reach office instead of a bike.(Representational Photo)

Man in Maharashtra wanted to ride horse to office to overcome spinal problem

PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 12:13 AM IST
  • The officer withdrew his request after an orthopaedic surgeon said his purpose would not be served by buying a horse.
Close
The actual agreement on the missiles is expected to be inked during a meeting of leaders of the two countries this year.(HT file photo)
The actual agreement on the missiles is expected to be inked during a meeting of leaders of the two countries this year.(HT file photo)

India signs pact with Philippines for supply of BrahMos missile

By Rezaul H Laskar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:25 AM IST
The signing of the “implementing arrangement” for procuring of defence materials and equipment was announced by the department of national defense of the Philippines on its Facebook page.
Close
HT Image
HT Image

Only Centre can enforce new digital media rules: I&B ministry to states

PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 11:48 PM IST
New Delhi The information and broadcasting ministry on Wednesday told all states and Union territories that no state official, district magistrate (DM) or police commissioner has the power to seek information from any media house under the new digital media rules unless information is sought by the central government
Close
The Union health ministry has been making modifications to the vaccination process since it was opened for the general public on March 1 to suit the needs of the elderly and those with comorbidities.(REUTERS)
The Union health ministry has been making modifications to the vaccination process since it was opened for the general public on March 1 to suit the needs of the elderly and those with comorbidities.(REUTERS)

Govt allows 24x7 vaccination as surge continues in six states

By Rhythma Kaul, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:12 AM IST
Hospitals welcomed the move, saying segregated timings would mean less crowding.
Close
A file photo of a health care worker preparing to administer a dose of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine. (REUTERS)
A file photo of a health care worker preparing to administer a dose of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine. (REUTERS)

Covid-19: Canada receives 500,000 doses of Covidshield vaccine made in India

UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 11:50 PM IST
Delivery of the first tranche of a total of two million doses scheduled by mid-May was announced by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP