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The Free Voice: On Democracy, Culture and the Nation review: Looking through glass

The Free Voice: On Democracy, Culture and the Nation; Ravish Kumar, Speaking Tiger, ₹499.

The Free Voice: On Democracy, Culture and the Nation; Ravish Kumar, Speaking Tiger, ₹499.  

On fake news and the extraordinary dangers we face

In normal times a journalist doing his job should not be singled out for praise. After all, he is just doing his job which is to report and hold the government of the day accountable. But The Free Voice reminds us that we live in extraordinary times when journalists invite abuse — from unidentified leaderless armies who brook no dissent. When religion becomes a marker to be singled out by nameless foot-soldiers who fight on the ground and online, ostensibly to protect the “honour of the country and the honour of those who lead the country.” Where the weapons of war are incendiary tweets, Facebook posts where the lines between the imagined and the real are blurred.

Author Ravish Kumar reminds us on every page the dangers that people face today. He poses a simple question: Should you report the truth and run the risk of being dubbed peddler of fake news or should you settle down to being the cheerleader of the Government in power and win praise? In settling down for the former, Kumar puts himself out for being singled out by the government.

It is almost as if we live in a fictional state in a place far, far away, but the reality hits home. In this state of the nation, aided by technology, unnamed armies wage wars on behalf of the government. They are the chief censors whose rallying cry quickly gathers a mob. They are the chief nationalists who wage daily battles and slay imagined enemies of the state. They hunt in packs and take down people. It is an apocalyptic vision of a country where people are at war with each other. The author reminds us of the dangers ahead when he harks back to Hitler and the propaganda machinery which transformed people into willing participants in an imaginary nation-building exercise.

Here too, history is being selectively re-written and figures from the past are appropriated and pitted against each other. Nehru vs Patel. Nehru vs Bose. Nehru vs the current dispensation. A fictional queen versus historical facts. It’s a deliberately muddled state of affairs to keep a nation on edge. The way out suggested by the author is twofold: keep your pen straight and tongue clean.

The only problem with the book is its uneven translation. Despite this, it is a mirror of our times. And these are indeed dangerous times.

The Free Voice: On Democracy, Culture and the Nation; Ravish Kumar, Speaking Tiger, ₹499.

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Printable version | Jul 3, 2020 11:45:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/the-free-voice-on-democracy-culture-and-the-nation-review-looking-through-glass/article23465517.ece

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