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Gauri Lankesh murder an assault on free speech

LiveMint logoLiveMint 06-09-2017 Livemint

It is not yet clear who killed Gauri Lankesh. The journalist was shot outside her Bengaluru home on Tuesday. A war of allegations has already broken out on social media. Her murder should be condemned in no uncertain terms.

Free speech in India has been under threat from three sources—governments that either censor or ban artistic work, social groups that have appointed themselves as protectors of what they define to be group interest and thugs whose arc of violence goes all the way to killing those they disagree with. This is not the time to resurrect the tired old debates about which regime is most responsible for attacks on freedom of expression. All political parties have tried to suppress it over the past seven decades. Parliament needs to strengthen legal protections for free speech, and dismantle restrictions such as those on hurting religious feelings that are embedded in Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code.

The founding principle of a liberal republic is that individual freedom is more important than group identity. That belief is weak in both government as well as Indian society.

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