Kamal Hassan spoke at the annual India Conference of Harvard University in Boston on February 6th, 2016.
Democracy is often touted as the only bastion of freedom of speech. It is a work in progress. Constant vigil is necessary to safeguard it.
In 2013, the actor had talked about leaving India when his film ‘Viswaroopam‘ was caught in a controversy and certain Muslim groups wanted the movie banned as they believed it portrayed Muslims in a bad light. Disappointed at the state of things, the actor had then said:
If there is no secular state in India, I would go overseas…
We all know about the intolerant winds flowing through India. And many big names are getting caught in this wave of intolerance just for making statements that should, in a truly secular, tolerant nation, be protected under the right to the freedom of speech.
Amir Khan, who was the biggest competitor in endorsement space last year, has now been boycotted by almost every company. People misunderstood his statement about leaving India and called him intolerant. Priyanka Chopra’s comments about love and marriage were totally misunderstood by the public and received a lot of hate comments from the public.
In his Harvard speech, Haasan talked about how power has a tendency to be abused.
It is only through the offices of democracy that Adolf Hitler rose to power. In the Indian political history, Emergency was promulgated and voices were silenced.
Kamal Haasan spoke of the rise of Hitler in Germany and of the way the Indian democracy is molding/redefining the freedom of speech for it’s citizens. He went on to say that he wasn’t criticizing Indian democracy, his hope is that his country set an example for the world.
Not only India, but the world is in transition. The world is going to face new challenges, find new opportunities. We want India not to be complacent, but set world standards.
Th actor went on to say:
I have taken the opportunity to put on record here and in India we can’t take freedom of speech for granted and complacently think that democracy automatically means freedom of speech.
The world is changing and sources have become more open. Nehruji once said there can be ‘unity in diversity’, and that’s what we are losing with time. The society has changed and hence, expecting protectionism to work like it did in the medieval period is wrong!
He also expressed his views regarding religion and politics and said it is unhealthy combining the two.
Those evangelizing democracy nowadays want us to believe that it is the only hope for freedom of speech. I, as an artist, believe that freedom of speech is separate from the ruling political state.