Jan 29, 2021
FREE SPEECH BATTLES Interviewer: Matthew Berkman. The concept of hurt sentiments first became ensconced in the Indian legal code almost two-hundred years ago, under the influence of the British government official T.B. Macauley. As historian NEETI NAIR explores in a book progress currently in progress, the concept has expanded its reach in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh in recent years to allow for extra-judicial forms of censorship and political action – to the extent that India has been said to have become a “republic of hurt sentiments.” In her conversation with political scientist Matthew Berkman, Nair gauges the state of free speech and secularism in India by analyzing the reasons behind the censorship – or, alternately, the rampant/limited circulation – of key texts. These include the assassin Nathuram Godse’s defense statement in the Gandhi murder case of 1948; and four lines on the Ramayana epic, dating back over two millennia, that caught the unwanted attentions of a Hindu vigilante political party in 1993, then on the fringes of Indian politics. She also extends her argument to the recent Citizenship Amendment Act and its opposition.