Law is in favour of those who claim to be offended: Shashi Tharoor

In a remarkable speech at the open forum held as part of the International Film Festival, Dr. Shashi
Tharoor opined that nobody should have the right to say what should go on in a movie or a book. We have reached a critical point where those who claim to be offended manage to get their way. All you
need to say is something has hurt your religious sentiment, let it be a book, a movie, an article or even
a headline, and it doesn’t matter even if it is accurate or truthful but the law is in favor of them. It is
because the British wrote a law in 1920’s which says anything that offends the religious sentiment of a
community is punishable by such and such. Sadly we haven’t removed this from the law and it has
become the favorite tools of those who have a problem with the freedom of artists. He also said that he
knows a Rajput princess who had seen the movie Padmavati and she felt proud as a Rajput after
watching the movie. The whole controversy against Padmavati is totally absurd. Dr. Shashi Tharoor
was delivering his keynote address in the open forum on the topic ‘Freedom of Expression’. The
function was inaugurated by famous Bengali Director Aparna Sen. Turkish Director Semih
Kaplanoğlu, Malayalam actress and activist Sajitha Madathil, and Director Santhosh Babusenan were
in the panel.
In her inaugural address, Aparna Sen said that the idea of freedom is non-negotiable, especially
for the creative artists. “People ask me why you are protesting for a movie when there are thousands
of farmers who suicide every day in India? But the fact is we are not protesting for merely a movie.
We protest because the creative freedom and freedom of expression in our country is at stake. We are
living in a time of fear and every ones freedom is challenged. This is how dictatorship begins.
Everybody has the freedom to protest, write and express. But they shouldn’t create a law and order
situation. They can’t say a movie shouldn’t be screened or else it’s actress’s nose will be cut”, She
Sajitha Madathil expressed her views on Freedom in a diverse viewpoint. She said the idea of
freedom of expression has always been related to gender. She mentioned about the online attack
against those Muslim girls for participating in a flash mob dance performance in Kozhikode wearing
their Hijabs. People who tried to support them were suppressed and silenced by fundamentalists. All
these incidents are creating a fear psychosis among those who usually respond to such things. There
have always been violations of freedom. Take the cases of Manipur and Kashmir. But unfortunately
we were not concerned about it then because it was happening in a different place. But now it has
reached our very doorsteps and we are worried.
Santhosh Babusenan said that restrictions and power are some things the government enjoys.
That’s why these draconian laws are not removed by the changing governments. We shouldn’t fall
prey to the false sense of morality these people are trying to inflict on us.

The forum was moderated by senior journalist Gouridasan Nair. Chairman of Kerala State
Chalachithra Academy, Mr. Kamal was present at the occasion. The forum was dedicated to the fond
memories of former Chalachithra Academy Chairman and noted filmmaker KR Mohanan and VC
Harris, who was a critic, theatre personality and a beloved teacher.