Can we really hail the right to privacy?- An onlooker’s rant

Source: India CSR Network

A journalist gets murdered outside her house

A certain community is being deported because they don’t belong here, there or anywhere

A family is ripped apart because they had a hand in exposing a certain Godman

A girl is arrested over a seemingly harmless post on why a city needs to shut down because another Godman died

A teen commits suicide because he was fat shamed on social media

Now these are completely arbitrary headlines that a lot of us scroll through while reading the news with hardly a glance to spare because well, what can we do after all? Things like these happen on a daily basis. We can pay attention for a while as long as it’s making headlines and then move on with our lives. It doesn’t REALLY concern us. And if you feel this is arbitrary then you shouldn’t continue further because this is a rant and it is not going to be organized carefully with logic and more importantly, the metrics of prose. You have been warned.

Look closely. With growing intolerance spreading its talons like a ravenous predator over the nation, these headlines could be about any of us. So staying blissfully indifferent is no longer a great choice. Preferable yes, but a poor choice nonetheless. It’s time to cultivate an awareness and ensure that we change this status quo fundamentally and be the nation that our forefathers envisioned us to be- secular, socialist, democratic, and republic to invoke those precise terms.

In a remarkable decision by the Supreme Court of India (and I have to say that there has been a series of remarkable decisions lately), the right to privacy finally became a fundamental right for every Indian citizen- a decision that deserves to be lauded nationwide for finally coming about. This is because this right that entails guarding one’e privacy without any judgement from others and possessing the freedom to express oneself, no holds barred, should forever have been an integral part of the constitution of a country that boasts of being the largest democracy in the world. The very idea that a particular section of the society is dictating the terms on how another section eats, what it wears, how it lives and who it loves, may sound ludicrous to a passer-by’s ears because any adult with a sound brain doesn’t need or want anybody else laying down a moral code of conduct for him or her.

This brings us to the center piece of our discussion: the freedom of speech and expression, the base on which the foundation of right to privacy is balanced precariously. So, before we begin to rejoice and make merry over this celebration of freedom, we need to objectively understand the difference between possessing a right and abusing it; understanding where its rightful usage ends and blatant abuse begins; because the line, from where we stand currently, is barely discernible and if we don’t draw it correctly, firmly, then at the risk of sounding like a disgruntled pessimist, I’d like to say that the day isn’t far when these scattered instances of religious, social, and ideological extremism, amalgamate into a storm big enough to engulf the nation.

And I do have my reasons for such a negative take on things. I find it ironical how our esteemed politicians can spew venomous statements in front of thousands of people to incite religious violence and even riots, and walk away with a ‘get-out-of-jail-free-card’; but a journalist is executed in front of her own home, her sanctuary, for doing her job honestly because her comments did not go down well with a similar set of bigots. It’s also ironical to be fighting for a right to privacy to secure our data from being extracted in the name of Aadhar cards when we ourselves are willing to put it all out and much more in front of data super-giants like Google and Facebook, laying it all down on a silver plate, for them to know more about us than we do ourselves, making ourselves vulnerable to an inescapable world of fake news and echo chambers. The same irony persists when we diss people on social media on speaking their minds but at the same time have no qualms in disrespecting people’s privacy, body shaming or gender shaming or whatever’s-the-current-fad shaming them into virtual oblivion. Yes, the irony fails to escape even an inexperienced eye.

The examples are endless and I could go on all day because it is a rant after all but then it would hardly make a difference. My point, to bring some order and perspective to these disorganized thoughts, is that as we enter this new era where privacy is our fundamental right and free speech its integral part, we need to be prepared to conscientiously shoulder the weight it brings with it. As they rightly say, ‘with great power, comes great responsibility’, and it’s our turn to uphold that responsibility.