The second edition of Manorama News Conclave 2018 was attended by stalwarts from various frontiers of life. The conclave witnessed prominent politicians, police chief and film stars pondering and arguing over the definition of ‘Freedom’. From freedom of thought, to freedom to choose, the conclave witnessed high octane discussions. The audience witnessed convergence of ideas which opened new avenues in the protection and expansion of freedom and what it takes to move ahead.
The Manorama News Conclave 2018 was inaugurated by the Hon. Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Information and Broadcasting, Sports and Youth Affairs Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. Actor Kamal Hassan delivered the keynote address and Hon. Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju delivered the valedictory address.
“Nationalism is a good word and I take pride in being one”, said the Union Minister of State after inaugurating the conclave. He said freedom of speech and expression is an ‘unimpeachable’ feature of the Constitution. Taking a sweeping dig at ‘subversive’ and ‘terrorist’ elements trying to wage shadow wars on the country, he said the people of the country should be ready to counter the misinformation campaigns that fuel aggression, even against the armed forces.
Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said that the citizens should contemplate how ‘more free’ the country was in relation to the olden ages. The media is most active now and the government welcomes it. The need of the hour is to create a composite structure for a ‘future uniformity’ and continued sovereignty.
Kiren Rijiju said that the freedom of the country is more important than individual freedom. Starting the valedictory address at Manorama News Freedom Conclave 2018 with a confession – that he did not have a profound view of freedom – he said freedom is more of a holistic concept of living. He warned elements trying to break the pillars of the constitution, adding that the parameters and regulations which defined liberty gave none the powers to abuse the motherland.
Denying allegations of ‘deliberate polarisation attempts,’ he said India mattered a lot in world affairs and if the nation failed, the whole world would fail. On the tendency to pick negatives out of everything and project it, he said a systematic blame-game was on to defame the government. Furthermore, he adds that the country have never enjoyed ‘so much freedom’ as it enjoys under the leadership of Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi.
Freedom for Government
Addressing to the Conclave 2018, Alphons Kannanthanam (Minister of State I/C for Tourism, GoI) said everyone is duty-bound to find their own freedom. Exploring the idea of freedom, Kannanthanam said children and the younger generation are slaves of cyber world. Children are being led like animals in a line. The high-scoring students are not exploring the world. They are quite oblivious of the finesse of world and are absolutely unequipped for the world. He said every child should have the freedom to be what he or she intends to be.
He further added that those criticizing the central government should understand that they are on Indian soil and free to speak about their mind. This country belongs to everyone- both to the minorities and the majorities. It is the collective responsibility of everyone to ensure fair living opportunities are available to all people in the country. Concluding his speech, he emphasized on the fact that the “Freedom as a collective urge, can shape a country in its pay to progress”. The Modi government is trying to ensure the freedom for all its citizens, every time being bound by the tenets of the constitution.
Freely, Fearlessly, Politically
“I’ll be able to serve people better than they’re being served now,” said actor turned politician Kamal Haasan after delivering the keynote address. He said that the people mostly required the “bare minimum”, but the underlying fact was that they do not even have that. He said that monarchy exists not just in politics, but cinema and other avenues too. People come as ordinary men, and once they become stars or leaders, they think they are special. He also said that centrism is not an evasive philosophy but the option to choose the best from all.
Price of Being Independent
Elaborating on the vast powers of the elected bodies to formulate laws, the former judge of Supreme Court, Justice J. Chelameswar said that the judiciary is duty-bound to see that the legislations are not in contravention to the basic tenets of the Constitution. He said he is ‘more free’ now as he is not bound by the rules of judicial conduct. Asked if there was an overpowering and overshadowing executive, he said that has never opposed the collegium system and such allegations cropped up whenever there was a strong government.
Furthermore, he added that, every citizen has certain limitations on his freedom, over his fundamental rights. In today’s context, the basic requirement of democratic government is to abide the rule of laws. The people should be controlled by the regulatory laws and not by the influential men and those laws should be in par with the basic laws of the constitution. He concluded his speech, by saying that he is less convinced on the fact that how the judiciary government works and if freedom is not maintained, it will affect the harmony of the society and bring in chaos.
Free Media at Cross Roads
Muthuvel Karunanidhi Kanimozhi, the DMK leader started of the session with her verse which encompassed the agony of a ‘free spirit’ that aspired to live in a society which induced no fear. She stated that the country was losing its culture of dialogue and discussion and all oppositions were being ruthlessly quelled.
Seeking to create opportunities for better living, Ms. Kanimozhi said the nation needed a fast progress towards healthier, safe, and sound systems where people could be free and fearless. She said people were even being attacked on account of fake news. The armies at work in the ‘dark sides’ of social media were targeting people who advocated free spirit. She also added that, the media houses were also hijacking certain aspects of opinion making. “We are at a place which is increasingly unpredictable”. On a query to why mainstream media is not keen to criticise the powers be she said the new voices of dissent on online media should not fade. “What happened to the print may happen to new media too. This could be a worrisome trend”.
The Fighter’s Freedom
Deepika Singh Rajawat, Lawyer & Human Rights Activist, started off the session highlighting the importance of Fighter’s Freedom. She voiced for the people of Kashmir who are still struggling for their rights. According to her, India is not free, nor its fighter’s. The need of the hour is the question “Are we all free? In an atmosphere where people are lynched, minors are raped, fighters are abused, people are tagged as anti-nationalists, character is assassinated and how one can be free?”
Moreover, she adds to the fact that India is no longer a developing or a developed nation. What makes the people of India celebrate freedom when women of our country fear to go out at night? She says that there is no reason to remain silent over any crime. A crime is a crime, and as the citizen of this country, it is our right to fight against it. Our land is abode for many religions, but still people divide each other on religious basis. She cited the example when an eight year old girl was brutally raped and murdered, people debated over the religious aspects rather than focusing on the crime. She concluded the session, by stressing on the fact that as long as Nationalism runs in her blood, she will fight for the rights of the women.
Free Nation, Unfree Citizen?
Alphons Kannanthanam started the session by citing that the statement ‘Free Nation, Unfree Citizen’ is itself a false one. Freedom to him is the right to acquire necessities such as right to be born, right to live, right to lead a dignified life. He says that India is place where one can express his opinions freely- The freedom of speech. It is the duty of every citizen to protect integrity of the country.
Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami accepts to the fact that ‘Free nation and Unfree citizen’ have become a reality. He appeals to his countrymen to give back the India, which was once free of bloodshed, hatred and jingoism. He says that whole Kashmir is brutalized today, that no citizen is free anymore. This same is reflected in rest of India. If efforts are not made, we might lose the element of freedom in India too.
Moreover, Mr. Tarigami pleads to make India a better nation which promises tolerance, plurality and hope for ‘Survival’. He says that there is certain tenderness growing in the power corridors to undermine the secular beliefs of people. He concludes his speech, pleading to the citizens to make this country a place to live in and ensuring freedom is reached for weaker and underprivileged sections of the society.
Dr. Shashi Tharoor reflected his thoughts on Freedom saying that there are basically three types of Freedom – Freedom to, Freedom of and Freedom from. ‘Freedom to’ refers to the liberty to do many things. ‘Freedom of’ refers to the freedom from many things such as Freedom of press, of political opinions. ‘Freedom from’ refers to the freedom from anti-elements such as hunger, terror, riots etc.
He believes that the idea of a free nation with an unfree citizen is literally a sophisticated argument. He says that every individual irrespective of caste or creed are entitled to exercise the freedom. But, today’s challenge is that even the freedom of expression is seen as an anti-national political opinion, which is becoming a serious threat to our country. In addition, he adds that Freedom is indispensable and by preserving the constitutional rules, the citizen can attain his freedom.
Who’s Freedom? Cops or Commoners?
We, the citizens of India, always resonate to the police force, when we see any breach in the protocol of the constitutional laws. We hope, rather believe that these khaki-uniformed men will protect us and safe guard our rights. But, do they really work for the benefit of the people? Debating on this topic, the three eminent personalities reflected their thoughts on the same.
Actor Siddique pointed out that the ‘Media and Police’ always target the film fraternity. As a commoner, he feels that the hand of the police force is ‘chained’. They will never ever be freed from the ruling party and will always be under their influence. Instead of this, the force should more focus on the rights of the people and work towards it.
Justice B. Kemal Pasha, on the other hand said that the commoners are no more ‘Free’ today. They are always falsely accused by the Police even without proper evidence. In such a situation, people fear to believe on the force.
Loknath Behera, State Police Chief & DGP, moreover highlighted the fact that in our state, political crime is increasing at a rapid speed. Even innocents are targeted and only political parties can put a stop to such heinous crimes. Defending Siddique’s comment, Behera added that policemen are not politically influenced and they work only per the rules and regulations of the government and not under the influence of any political party.
Investing in Freedom
PWD Minister G. Sudhakaran says it is time to change the bureaucracy and red tapeism in Kerala to give freedom to investment. He feels that some in Kerala still consider business as a feudal mechanism, but slowly the mentality is changing.
Entrepreneur M.A. Yusuffali said he promotes Kerala as an investment destination at all forums. On the flip side, he said the state fails to conduct a post-mortem and there is a tendency to oust people who intend to invest in Kerala. The Gulf-based industrialist said the state should seriously study this situation as ‘nativisation’ in the Gulf would have a ripple-effect in Kerala.
Industrialist Kochouseph Chittilappilly said many small businesses have had bad experiences in Kerala. He said everyone had a role in trivialising things in Kerala – the media too had it. He also pointed at the need to improve our position from the 21st state in terms of ease of doing business.
Entrepreneur V.K. Mathews said the prime problem was not poverty but economic disparity. He said economic freedom should be attained with effort. Mathews said a very capable pool of human resource, efficient bureaucracy, and a legitimate society is the advantages that Kerala have. He said the government should better be a referee than a player, adding it was high time private businesses were roped in on all fronts.
Free Thought or Prethought?
Taking part in the session, actress Padmapriya said that the control of information is moving to undemocratic terrains. She articulated in her thoughts that advent of social media is helping the uninitiated to spread their views which leads to too much of cyber bullying in the new age. She also added that the level of intolerance has reached a crescendo where even an innocuous opinion is being given the colour of hatred.
As a take on this, young writer Manu S. Pillai said that bullying is not restricted to the cyberspace alone. There is intellectual as well as cultural bullying too. He said that it is a fact that the people resorting to noise are afraid of new and independent thought and ideas.
Writer M. Mukundan reflected his views on Free Thought and said that the culture of extermination is affecting the neediest sections of society. The need of the hour is to take all information to the lowest levels of society.
Are We Laughing, Seriously?
Mukesh, actor & MLA, began the session by pointing out that making a person smile with a humour is one of the dumbest thing anyone has done so far. Earlier, the drama and films used to portray the fallacies of the society. Nowadays, scriptwriters and film makers make serious attempt to portray humour without hurting the sentiments of the audience.
Father Joseph Puthenpurackal on the other hand, said that nowadays people focus on ‘who’ rather than ‘what’ makes them laugh. He also stressed the fact that, people are slowly losing their freedom to laugh.
Film maker Joy Mathew, the one who takes life easily considers his ‘privacy’ as his freedom. He said that there is no need to control humour. It is like chaining one’s freedom. One must enjoy the present moment and make it memorable.
Concluding the event a special website for the Manorama News Conclave 2018 was launched by Nobel laureate Mr. Muhammad Yunus. Mr. Yunus has been awarded the Nobel Peace prize for founding the Grameen Bank and have also pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance in 2006. In his message, he said that the freedom from fears is the more important than economic freedom. He said anything in the world is possible only if one is able to live without fears.