Society

Bidding farewell to fear

Empowering minds: Sashi Kumar, Founder Chairman, Media Development Foundation and Asian College of Journalism
Photo: S James

Empowering minds: Sashi Kumar, Founder Chairman, Media Development Foundation and Asian College of Journalism Photo: S James   | Photo Credit: S_James

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Renowned media personality Sashi Kumar talks about freedom of expression and the right to live in a pluralistic society despite threats from radical forces

A quarter century before India achieved freedom, Rabindranath Tagore dreamt and spoke of a mind without fear, a world where knowledge is free and reasoning has not lost its way. After 70 years of independence, has his dream come true, wonders Sashi Kumar, the founder chairman, Media Development Foundation and Asian College of Journalism.

He was in town to deliver a lecture on ‘Where is the Mind without Fear?’ organised by The Study Centre for Indian Literature in English and Translation, The American College, as part of the Paul L. Love Endowment Lecture Series. And it could not have come at a better time when everybody is shaken by journalist Gauri Lankesh’s assassination.

Free speech can be countered by rude speech but sending a motorcyclist to gun down is an uneven battle challenging Constitutional rights. “The murderers have not only killed her physically but are also spewing poison in cyberspace now, said Kumar, adding that only in the protected environment of educational institutions the mind can hopefully be free with free wheeling interactions. “The outside world is increasingly intimidating. Every time we speak, we have to look around to see that we are not targeted physically. Where are we heading to?”

Cautioning that all this can have tremendous consequences on future generation because even knowledge is being used to homogenise our culture, Kumar regretted that Pt.Nehru’s dream of wiping out every tear remains unfulfilled still.

“The values that our freedom fighters and the pioneers of our constitution stood for are being challenged on daily basis. Our values of secularism, the very Preamble of our constitution are being ridiculed,” he asserted

Taking a dig at the Executive for keeping rural India in distress, Kumar said the dramatic growth stories of Gross Domestic Product have turned out to be humbug as the growth has not trickled down to the marginalised section. The society itself is narrow cast with prevailing caste, religious and ethnic identities. “The constitution is secular and gives every religion the space to practice, profess and propagate its faith. But unfortunately there is a subterranean move towards a Hindutva state now. The difference between the theistic state like Pakistan and India has become notional and religion is being used to mobilise masses towards a political agenda,” he said.

Pointing at the engineered instability in society, Kumar said, the era of proto fascism has begun. “It is not full blown fascism yet but first few steps have been taken because it is in the nature of fascism not to have communal harmony in the society.”

Kumar also came down heavily on the media for capitulating before the regressive forces. He did not fail to take note of the large section of media feeding to this vicious atmosphere and adding to the environment of sullenness.

“Media is supposed to describe reality and not prescribe. Increasingly, a lot of media is manufacturing news. It has also led to pre-emptive censorship in media, where journalists have begun to think whether what I say or write will upset so and so. If you must say democracy in one breath, you must be able to say a free media in next breath otherwise democracy is a big sham. My grouse is that they are using the freedom to enslave themselves,” he said.

However, Kumar exuded confidence that this aberration will not continue for long as it has shaken the resilience of the people. He also called on the youth to be aware of the information explosion and how it was both empowering and transformative in nature.

Kumar’s talk culminated in the screening of his self-directed 2004 film, Kaya Taran (Chrysalis) is based on the Malayalam short story When Big Tree Falls by N.S. Madhavan. It is set against the backdrop of 2002 Gujarat riots against Muslims and 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 5:45:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/renowned-media-personality-sashi-kumar-talks-about-freedom-of-expression-and-the-right-to-live-in-a-pluralistic-society-despite-threats-from-radical-forces/article19692952.ece

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