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10 people who PAID for expressing their opinions

July 23, 2013 19:17 IST

10 people who PAID for expressing their opinions

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We, the people, specialise in taking offence.

Our delicate sensibilities are offended, alarmingly frequently, by anything -- be it books, films, comments, cartoons, even restaurant bills!

The Indian Constitution may guarantee its citizens the Right to Freedom of Expression, but we Indians don’t really believe in such a concept.

Here, then, we recap some of the many, many times our sensitive selves were shaken by those who thought, mistakenly, that Freedom of Expression actually existed in India.

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10 people who PAID for expressing their opinions

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Hell hath no fury like a political party ridiculed.

Srinivas Shetty, owner of a restaurant in Parel in central Mumbai, learnt this the hard way when he decided to express his displeasure with the ruling government.

Disgruntled by the hefty service tax levied on air-conditioned restaurants by the central government, Shetty tried to explain the issue to his customers.

"As per UPA government, eating money is a necessity and eating food in an A/C restaurant is a luxury," read the little addendum inserted at the bottom of the bill.

While most of his patrons were amused, some Congress workers bereft of any sense of humour, were left fuming at Shetty’s cheeky message. They promptly returned with their party goons and forced the eatery to shut down.

But the owner has refused to back off and has since reopened the restaurant.

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10 people who PAID for expressing their opinions

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Sociologist Ashis Nandy landed in serious trouble when, during the controversy-happy Jaipur Literature Festival, he stated, “It is a fact that most of the corrupt come from OBCs and Scheduled Castes and now increasingly the Scheduled Tribes”.

Self-proclaimed leaders of the downtrodden, including those like Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan, immediately started frothing in indignation.

Nandy tried to justify his comment by saying that he had merely pointed out that while those from upper caste communities got away with brazen corruption, those from Dalit communities didn’t.

But his justifications made little headway. He was forced to leave the festival, a FIR was filed against him and the Supreme Court had to step in to prevent his arrest.

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10 people who PAID for expressing their opinions

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A bunch of Muslim outfits saw red when it was reported that actor Kamal Haasan’s ambitious venture Vishwaroopam “portrayed Muslims in a bad light”.

Ironically, the reports surfaced days before the film’s release, before any member of these outfits had even seen the film.

The Tamil Nadu government promptly placed a temporary ban on the film.

When Haasan approached the high court for a reprieve, the court decided it would have to watch Vishwaroopam to take a call on whether it offended the sensibilities of the minority community.

Vishwaroopam was finally released after Haasan reached a settlement with the Muslim outfits and agreed to a few cuts.

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10 people who PAID for expressing their opinions

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When actor Shah Rukh Khan wrote an article about what it meant to be a Muslim in India and in a post 9/11 world, little did he know that his heart-felt words would bring on such a backlash!

In his usual charming and articulate manner, the star had described the irony of being one of the most loved actors in India, yet always being part of, and sometimes being targeted because of , the ‘other community’.

Some right-wing political parties immediately hauled the actor over the coals for being "ungrateful" to the country that had given him so much. Some dim-witted netizens even accused SRK of "betraying" his country by his candid confessions.

The actor, no stranger to controversies, dismissed the latest one as "nonsense".

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10 people who PAID for expressing their opinions

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Author Salman Rushdie's visit to Kolkata to promote Deepa Mehta's film Midnight's Children, based on his iconic novel, had to be cancelled due to “security issues”.

According to reports, Rushdie cancelled his visit after reports surfaced about a major protest being planned by a number of Muslim outfits.

The city police refused to make any effort to arrange for additional security to facilitate the author’s visit.

Ironically, Kolkata is widely believed to be one of the most progressive cities in India while its people are known for being connoisseurs of culture.

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10 people who PAID for expressing their opinions

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Pragaash, Kashmir’s first all-girl band, had brought a whiff of hope and fresh air to the stifled Valley.

The band, formed by three class 10 students, had won accolades for their first public performance. And in an incredible instance of cutting across ideological lines, the band had been appreciated by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah as well as the hardline Hurriyat

But within days after their performance in Srinagar, the band started receiving online threats and absurd comments, which was followed up with a fatwa (religious decree) issued by the Grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad.

Tired of the threats, the girls finally decided to call it quits in the wake of the Mufti's controversial decree.

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10 people who PAID for expressing their opinions

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Beware Facebook addicts. Ranting on the social networking site may get you arrested.

Shaheen Dhada, who had questioned the total shutdown in Mumbai in the wake of the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray in a judiciously worded Facebook post, was arrested by police in Palghar, Thane.

Her friend Renu Srinivasan was also arrested for merely ‘liking’ the post. Shaheen’s uncle’s clinic was vandalised by local Shiv Sena goons.

To make matters worse, instead of being released by the local court, the girls were sent to judicial custody over such frivolous charges.

The state government only woke up after reports about the arrest triggered indignant disbelief and outrage across the country.

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10 people who PAID for expressing their opinions

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Not even the most devoted supporter of Mamata Banerjee can accuse her of possessing a sense of humour.

For she has neither sense nor humour. What she does have in ample measures is a persecution complex the size of the Writer’s Building.

The West Bengal chief minister believes that the whole world is conspiring against her. And she is not afraid to air her views, no matter how ludicrous, in public.

So, to no one’s surprise, Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mohapatra was arrested for merely posting a cartoon spoofing the mercurial CM on a social networking site.

In what is increasingly becoming a pattern in the politically unfortunate state of Bengal, Mohapatra was beaten up by Trinamool goons, arrested and branded an ‘agent‘ of the Communist Party of India-Marxist.

Of course, Banerjee also helpfully explained that the cartoon was a “well-planned conspiracy” to assassinate her.

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10 people who PAID for expressing their opinions

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Can a mere cartoon be powerful enough to "incite discontent or rebellion" against the mighty government of 1.2 billion people?

The Maharashtra government apparently believed so when it arrested cartoonist Aseem Trivedi and slapped the serious charge of sedition against him.

Trivedi was accused of insulting India's flag, Parliament and the national emblem via his cartoons. But the furore over the laughable arrest forced the government to drop the case like a hot potato.

Meanwhile, Trivedi, a hitherto unknown cartoonist, had the last laugh as the case got him immense publicity and a spot on popular reality show Bigg Boss.

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10 people who PAID for expressing their opinions

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Even actor Aamir Khan’s legendary skills of film marketing flopped, and how, when they came up against the stone-cold reality of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s autocratic ways.

In 2006, Khan had jumped on the bandwagon of the Medha Patkar-led Narmada Bachao Andolan for a couple of days to milk some publicity for his film Fanaa. He reportedly criticised the Gujarat government’s handling of the dam issue, specifically its failure to rehabilitate farmers displaced by the project.

His comments did not go down well with either Modi or the people of the water-starved state.

Multiplex owners were forced to cancel shows of Khan’s film Rang De Basanti while Fanaa never saw the light of the day in the state.

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