Ramachandra Guha’s 8 threats to freedom of expression

December 06, 2015 09:09 am | Updated 09:11 am IST - Bengaluru:

Historian Ramachandra Guha during the Bangalore Literature Festival in Bengaluru on 5th December 2015. Photo : Bhagya Prakash K.

Historian Ramachandra Guha during the Bangalore Literature Festival in Bengaluru on 5th December 2015. Photo : Bhagya Prakash K.

“While it is true that writers and thinkers in India enjoyed more freedom than in totalitarian regimes like China and Russia, they find their space curtailed compared to vibrant democracies like Sweden,” city-based historian Ramachandra Guha said at the Bangalore Literature Festival on Saturday, as he discussed the eight systemic threats to freedom of expression.

Mr. Guha said that while retention of archaic colonial laws such as sedition, gave latitude to governments and courts to restrict freedom of artists, lower courts in our judiciary tended to be eager to entertain petitions seeking bans.

“Dinanath Batra, the dogged litigant who got the book by Wendy Doniger withdrawn, files most of his cases in Dera Bassi, a small kasaba in Punjab. M.F. Hussein died in exile as he was harassed by 12 cases in various courts across the country,” he said.

Mr. Guha attributed the rise in taking offence by groups and communities to the rise of identity politics. “Every icon of a particular group has become flawless suddenly… I have stated it is difficult for me to write a biography on Ambedkar as I am neither a Dalit nor a Maharashtrian,” he said.

What only adds to the woes of a writer is that the police and the political establishment only support the bullies who take offence and never the writer, he pointed out. He also argued that the dependence of media organisations on government as well as commercial advertisements, only stifled debate and critical opinions of government and corporates.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.