Evelyn Beatrice Hall, who wrote under the pseudonym S.G. Tallentyre, had famously written “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” to illustrate Voltaire’s beliefs in The Friends of Voltaire. This quote of Hall is often cited to describe the principle of freedom of speech, and is also a favourite of this writer. Scary is a world where bloggers are stabbed to death, rationalists are gunned down, atheists are burned because some religious leader considers it blasphemy. Claustrophobic is a world in which ideas are gagged and books are burned, and at a time when terror is spreading faster than ever, it is the responsibility of writers and artists to speak without fear.
India has had its share of shame when it comes to curbing down freedom of speech. Now to go back to 1920’s and start right from Rangila Rasool would be a tedious and probably a never-ending exercise. The then ruling party at the centre, today touted as the liberal and secular Congress, has made sure that we who research on the topic of the infringement of freedom of speech, have a very steep volume to look into.
One look and it is easy to say that in India, the blame of gagging free speech has always been bestowed on the right wing, or as our leftist friends say on the Sanghi goons. The communists and leftists are however given the liberty to justify the burning of the Manusmriti or the attacks on Taslima Nasreen. That’s what immaculate English, some foreign degrees, a hundred placards and some quotes by international writers does. It lets you gag ideas and expressions.
The right-wing in India has been unfortunate in this aspect. So when I came to know about the fact that True Indology Twitter account might have been suspended, I wasn’t surprised. However, in India, the benefits of freedom of expression are not extended to the artists and writers of the right wing or people who do not identify with the left. Talk about one way streets!
For the uninitiated, True Indology was a twitter handle run by a private citizen and was known to expose the distortions in the mainstream narrative of Indian history. One might question the facts the handle posted, as it is the mark of a good researcher or a history enthusiast to do so. But why would one need to suspend the account (If that indeed is the case, and the user hasn’t deleted his account on his own)? It is not that True Indology was spreading hate. And to talk about hate, Twitter is so toxic that if it were to identify the handles that really spread venom, it would be in a spot.
So what could be the reason behind True Indology ‘suspected’ suspension? Does it belong to an alien? A covert ISIS handle? A secret Trump agent?
Or is it because it was exposing the leftist historians’ distortions of Indian history?
— Sankrant Sanu सानु (@sankrant) March 20, 2018
— Ratan Sharda (@RatanSharda55) March 20, 2018
No prizes for guessing! Twitter India has almost at all times been harsh on right-wing twitter handles. And True Indology must have hit the ecosystem where it had begun to hurt. Clearing misconceptions about Indian history is a concrete step in educating the Indian masses. It would also give the common citizen the power to question things that have been shoved down their throats for all these years. And good samaritans like True Indology are working relentlessly on that.
This is not the first time that True Indology has been pulled into a controversy on Twitter. In an article on Swarajya, the creator of the handle had written about it at length.
It is not just about one Twitter handle. It is about our identities, our right to live and flourish and exchange ideas in this great nation. Hashtags like #RestoreTrueindology are not enough. The question is, is the Indian right-wing prepared to stand by its intellectuals or will it fall prey to the allegations of the Indian left that it is devoid of knowledge and intellect?
The bigger question is – who is afraid of True Indology? Not the state of course. Then who? In a parallel world, there would be an open forum and we would ask this to our hashtag liberals.