The Riddles of Ashis Nandy
When prominent Indian academic Ashis Nandy made a throwaway insulting remark about lower-caste corruption, he found himself served with several arrest warrants. In his latest piece, Vijay Prashad, author of The Poorer Nations (publishing next month) asks how free speech can survive in states "clumsy with their enormous power."
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[Nandy] moved the Indian Supreme Court on grounds that an idea cannot be penalized. The Court responded that if an idea is offensive and creates social harm, there could be a penalty (“Yes, an idea can certainly be punished under the laws. An idea is a summation of verbal acts and it can be penalized”)...
A film is banned, an author is not allowed into a city. These are routine moments in the life of the modern State. Here the example is India. It could be any State...The prosecution of speech is a delicate affair, which in most cases is indelicately handed. It is always good to err on the side of suspicion when a State decides to take in hand the words of a citizen.