JLF signs off with heated debate on freedom of expression

January 26, 2016 02:54 am | Updated November 17, 2021 03:06 am IST - JAIPUR:

Actor Anupam Kher during a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Monday.-- PHOTO: PTI

Actor Anupam Kher during a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Monday.-- PHOTO: PTI

The five-day ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) concluded on Monday with a heated debate on whether freedom of expression was absolute and unconditional.

While Bollywood actor Anupam Kher used strong language to establish that freedom of expression did exist in the country, journalist and founding editor of India Today Madhu Trehan “censored certain words in her speech” to establish “the fear” that she said society was under.

Speaking about the police complaints the comedy show AIB Roast invited from people offended by it and the arrest on January 13 of comedian Kiku Sharda for spoofing Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Singh in a TV skit, Ms. Trehan said: “The State and the government have always done it [censoring] but now we are censoring each other. What would be worse than to live in fear?”

Countering Ms. Trehan’s argument, Mr. Kher said: “[In a country] where you can abuse Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] and call him a psychopath, let’s not create a perception that the freedom of speech is under threat.”

The debate, which snowballed into a political battle between Mr. Kher, who defended Mr. Modi and joined the crowds in chanting “Modi, Modi”, and Aam Aadmi Party leader Kapil Mishra, was toned down by adman Suhel Seth who said “India is bigger than Modi and Kejriwal.”

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