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The Right to be Free and left the hell alone

By Mitali Saran
Last updated on: August 18, 2017 20:26 IST

'People who pooh-pooh privacy are like those kids who are so busy getting the right selfie that they back all the way off the edge off the cliff, and then look all surprised on the way down,' says Mitali Saran.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

For reasons best known to themselves, the mighty Indian people consistently fail to put me in charge of our great country.

My candidacy has been low key because of my idle recreational commitments, but still, this is very unfortunate.

Now we have a colossal jobs crisis, Amit Shah's bank balance is 300 per cent fatter than when he came to power, the national drink is cow urine, the Chinese are getting fresh with us, only the courts stand between us and Death Eaters, and the place is generally going to the dogs.

I'm not bitter or anything, but it serves the mighty Indian people right. They don't seem to know a good thing when they see one.

And apparently they don't know a bad thing when they see one either.


Just look at the number of people who think it's fine to say that Indians have no Fundamental Right to Privacy, and that it's okay to have to link your Aadhaar number every time you sneeze.

What have you got to hide, they ask?

You've got a smartphone and a Facebook account, why are you suddenly concerned about privacy?

Why are you standing in the way of development? What about Malda?

None of these people get the following basic concept: Choice/consent, O mighty Indian people, fundamentally changes the nature of your actions and how you feel about them.

For those who think this idea is overrated, here's a laundry list of things with and without choice/consent.

In each case, see if you can identify the option that includes choice/consent, and which option you naturally prefer.

Your wardrobe versus prisoner uniform.

Sex versus rape.

A volunteer army versus a conscripted force.

Signing up for Facebook versus signing up for Facebook at gunpoint.

Reading out bits of your diary to your friends versus your friends stealing your diary and uploading it on the internet.

Coming out to your parents when you're ready versus your trusted confidante telling your parents behind your back.

Locking your jewellery in the bank locker versus locking your jewellery in the bank locker and having the manager allow a bunch of companies to borrow and rent out your jewellery for profit.

Enjoying a bit of a flirtation versus being stalked.

Standing for the national anthem because you show patriotism that way versus standing up for the national anthem because you're terrified of being arrested or beaten up if you don't.

Executing a bungee jump after being appraised of the risks versus being pushed off a bridge.

How did you do?

Long-time readers of this column can testify that I am the absolute, no-contest empress of oversharing.

But I'm also nutso-style private about what I don't choose to overshare.

Choice/consent is everything.

We also have the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy.

We should be able to make a phone call without worrying that someone is tapping the phone, or travel without reporting our movements.

Our tiffin boxes should not endanger our lives.

All this amounts to the right to be free and left the hell alone.

Privacy obviously cannot be an absolute right. But the State must be made to meet a stiff legal standard to justify any encroachment on it.

People who pooh-pooh privacy are like those kids who are so busy getting the right selfie that they back all the way off the edge off the cliff, and then look all surprised on the way down.

I'd be quite pleased to watch them go if the rest of us weren't also being backed off the same cliff, but at gunpoint.

I remain available to be sworn in whenever you come to your senses, O mighty people of India. I'm very good at swearing.

Mitali Saran
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