Lockdown doesn’t mean locking the minds and closure of reason. Democracy rests on few principles of debate, discussion, dissent and free flow of ideas and information. On the basis of free flow of ideas and information we make our rational choices in a democracy. We know and expect that these ideas and information that comes to us will be loaded with some values and biases because nothing is value or bias free. The transaction of providing free information and ideas is the responsibility of ‘Free Press’. That is the reason we call it the fourth pillar of democracy. The quality of democratic government depends largely upon the quality of ideas and information that flows from the ‘Free Press’.
But today when the whole world is witnessing a lockdown because of the Corona Covid-19 Pandemic, in our society one more virus in the form of fundamentalism is gripping and choking that segment of mind where our conscience, on the basis of which we make rational decisions rests. The virus of fundamentalism, unlike Corona is not a new virus. Fundamentalism can be of various kinds like religious fundamentalism, ideological fundamentalism, cultural, racial and male chauvinistic fundamentalism. And this virus thrives on blind faith. Where questioning is a taboo. It primarily believes in a make belief world where it is assumed that all the answers to our existing problems lie in this given fundamentalism. Some of our media persons have been infected by this virus of religious fundamentalism. They sadly have reached stage three of the fundamentalism virus and are busy spreading the same in our body politic. This spurious campaign has been unleashed in the name of ‘Free Press’ (Corporate Owned Press). These people have maligned and targeted minority communities to an extent that their livelihood is under serious threat. Can any society develop and grow when one segment of its people are stigmatized? The latest attack on Smt Sonia Gandhi by a media person has to be seen as an act of desperation to muzzle the voice of sanity and reason. Today, Smt Gandhi is not only the leader of Congress but the leader of reason and freedom of conscience. This is also a deliberate tactic of these people to spread the virus of fundamentalism in the garb of Coronavirus to an extent that we as a conscious society stop asking questions about the relevant issues of hunger, lack of testing, availability of PPEs to our medical personnels, status of ventilators and so on.
Although our scientists are struggling hard for developing a vaccine to combat the Corona pandemic but the time tested vaccine against fundamentalism of any kind is the supremacy of reason and the freedom of conscience. Let us love and have compassion towards those who are suffering from the virus of fundamentalism so that they can have confidence in their own self, to visit their own conscience and reason in order to demit from the ‘Shouting Brigade’ and start contributing to ‘Free Press’. The real ‘Free Press’ means free flow of reason and freedom from ‘Shouting Brigade’. Journalists are jurists of the social conscience and not agent provocateurs.
Stay at home, contribute generously and unlock the mind.
The article is contributed by an Industry, political and education expert in the country