Iqbal Bano in 1986 took to the stage before an audience of 50,000 and sang Hum Dekhenge (We will see) while the crowds roared like a fierce ocean. Her act of defiance was against Zia-ul-Huq. She was draped in a black saree, black to be interpreted as the symbol of protest and saree was prohibited by the then Pakistani president Zia. We saw that song, originally a poem by acclaimed poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, was again stirred by Indian protestors against the bill for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Any civilized society grants its people of the rights to protest and express their views against any evil.
Protest, the inviolable right of a citizen, is often despised by the evil elements of society or state. New laws are introduced, unlawful detention and raids are conducted, to silence the voices that make them uncomfortable. Just a day ago police put a mother and her teenage son behind bars for more than 13 hours for protesting against the encroachment of a playground in Kalabagan in the capital for constructing building. The mother whose son might have grown up playing in the ground could not bear the very field to be occupied. The city is already converting into a concrete jungle, where children are growing confined in their two or three BHK apartment and nowhere to play.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
We often find our leaders bragging about children’s rights and their healthy development on children’s law while the playgrounds, although just a handful, are despoiled in the name of development.
Several media reports revealed the police initially wanted to charge the mother with two cases, one under penal code and another under digital security act. However, later the police released the mother and son in the face of protest from different levels after 13 hours. They were made to sign a bond. The argument is patently invalid whether the police have the authority to detain them in custody as our constitution enshrines the right of every citizen to protest, assemble or express their views. Also the country is committed to international law that ensures individual liberty and freedom of opinion. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in its article 19, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
I don't use Facebook, I don't respond to most e-mails. You have to think even when writing a book. That's why I write travel stories.Former Election Commissioner M Sakhawat Hossain
Everybody is entitled to the right to speak free and raise their voice against any harmful law, policy or action. The state cannot or must not keep them mum or deprived them of their citizen rights. Despite backlashes from all levels, laws like Digital Security Act or OTT regulations have been enacted. What is this act of silencing citizens? Which fear drives it? Just two days ago Prothom Alo published that a report compiled by a research group led by Ali Riaz, a distinguished professor at the University of Illinois State University in the United States, revealed around 400 cases were registered in just two years for expressing views on Facebook.
Former Election Commissioner M Sakhawat Hossain said in that webinar that he had to ponder before writing articles because of the Digital Security Act. "I don't use Facebook, I don't respond to most e-mails," he said. “You have to think even when writing a book. That's why I write travel stories.”
Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing freeness of speech.Benjamin Franklin
Does the above remark not tarnish the image of a country or the democracy? The laws and regulations are the silent and gradual process of encroachment of the people’s right to express. The government and its machinery must understand denouncing government policy or any of its body is not unpatriotic or anti-national.
We cannot be treated like Hypatia, the greatest philosopher of Alexandria. Her learning and defiance was so profound that those in power killed her as they could not bear with her opinion. We cannot be the victim of the state body that is paid with our tax money. That is neither right nor healthy for democracy. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing freeness of speech.”
Lack of criticism and defiance results in lack of accountability and eventually in indefinite chaos. Such eventuality can lead us to an extremely selfish society. What is the use of the development without good governance, which requires people’s liberty? The state can kill or maim the entire flock of troublemaking mocking birds. Then everything will fall into the deafening silence that comes after apocalypse.