Culture of Banning In India – Hot topic For UPSC Mains

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Introduction -Culture of Banning In India – Hot topic For UPSC Mains

India has recently seen an increase in the number of bans on things varying from beef ban to porn ban, from ban on movies to ban on books. The ‘culture of ban’ is an inevitable part of all forms of government, be it dictatorships or electoral democracies. But what is banned, and why it is being banned are important questions which need to be discussed and debated.

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In recent times, banning has become a solution to end all the problems or issues faced by people of a certain group, instead of putting things to debate, bans are imposed. Ideas labelled as erotic, or threatening ethnicity, or even public purpose get banned easily. Any comment or imagined insult to a caste group leads to violence or ostracism.

Banning culture of India is not a recent phenomenon eg. Salman Rushdie’s Satanic verses was banned in the year 1988 due to protest by Islamic fundamentalists. Recently, there has a tendency to ban more and more. But banning has not resulted in the resolution of controversies; rather it has led to closing of minds. Also, banning leads to deviance from debate as an effective way to resolve conflicts.

This ‘culture of banning’ is odd for a society like India which boasts of diversities in language, religion, and politics. The culture of banning goes against ‘tolerance’ which has been seen as synonymous with the Indian society at several points in history.

Pros and cons of banning

Culture of Banning In India – Hot topic For UPSC Mains

The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of expression, but it doesn’t confer it as an absolute right. Article 19(2) of the Constitution enables the legislature to impose certain restrictions on freedom of speech and expression due to the following reasons:

  • security of the State,
  • friendly relations with foreign States,
  • public order,
  • decency and morality,
  • contempt of court,
  • defamation,
  • incitement to an offence, and
  • Sovereignty and integrity of India.

Bans are mostly imposed under the above mentioned provisions. Banning in itself is not wrong, but banning in haste without proper debate and discussion is wrong.

Recently in India, banning has been taken either in haste, or under populist pressure, without adequate debate of the matter. Many argue that most bans are India is due to vague reasons (example ban of 857 porn sites by the government). Also, banning can have a multi-dimensional impact, which is not adequately studied. (Example the beef ban in Maharashtra has affected the Dalits and Muslims economically, but these are not taken into consideration).

Further, bans are imposed by citing Article 19(2) but the justification is not valid always. Rather, the article is used in a loose sense to justify the ban. Example ban of the documentary ‘India’s daughter’.

Problems with banning

Culture of Banning In India – Hot topic For UPSC Mains

  • It affects the right to freedom of speech and expression
  • Banning threaten democracy, as it is becoming an instrument to impose majoritarian views on minority
  • Goes against the Indian culture which is famous for its values of tolerance, diversity
  • Banning doesn’t lead to grass root eradication of the problem, it just puts a temporary end to the issue
  • Imposition of a ban to appease a particular group, without proper debate leads to strengthening of the group, and may lead to an increase in law and order problems like violence
  • With no proper debate, the multi- dimensional impact of banning is ignored. Example, beef ban has hit the Dalits and Muslims economically
  • Banning of a particular entity may lead to development of black market for that entity, pushing people to indulge in illegal activities. Hence, imposition of a ban must be planned, and alternative arrangements must be made. Example, ban on cab aggregators like Ola and Uber in Delhi- taxis continued to run, but cases of bribe being paid to police officials increased manifold
  • Some argue that beef ban is an encroachment on the right of the citizens to decide what to eat and what not to. Denying [this] easily available nutritious food for the Dalits is another form of ‘untouchability’. While the slaughter of cows was already banned, the amendment in Maharashtra extended the ban to bulls and bullocks.

But banning in its entirety cannot be said to be wrong. Banning is a useful instrument which has to be used in a diverse country, but its use should be rare. Also, all the stakeholders involved should be consulted, root cause of the problem should be identified, alternatives should be discussed, and in absence of no alternative a ban should be imposed.

Some bans like the ban on child pornography, is justified, but many cannot be justified. Bans are sometimes necessary, but the reason for imposition of ban and the way in which they are imposed are more important.

Recent incidents of banning in India

Culture of Banning In India – Hot topic For UPSC Mains

  • Ban on ola, uber cabs in Delhi
  • Beef ban in Maharashtra (March)- Maharashtra government banned the slaughter of bulls as well as bullocks earlier this year as it reintroduced the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill after 19 years. Anyone found in possession of beef can be sent to jail for five years or fined Rs 10,000
  • Ban on cuss words in Bollywood by CBFC
  • Ban on film Dirty Politics in Bihar by Patna High Court citing reasons of objectionable scenes in the movie. Later the court had to lift the ban as CBFC had already approved the movie
  • Ban on release of documentary India’s daughter in India- Government of India initially argued that the documentary showed India in poor light and then claimed that the filmmaker had not obtained the required permissions. Nonetheless, BBC went on to air the documentary. The ban has just added to the curiosity and the documentary has gone viral on the Internet
  • Ban on parties in Karnataka with foreign invitees unless its under police supervision
  • Wendy Doniger’s book, The Hindus: An Alternative History, was withdrawn from the shelves by her publisher Penguin House after a Delhi High Court order
  • NGOs: Greenpeace Ministry of Home Affairs froze Green Peace funds and suspended its licence to receive foreign funds citing discrepancies in their accounts. They also deplaned one of its activists, Priya Pillai, in a bid to stop her from travelling abroad
  • Maggi- Based on the finding of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), state governments across the country have banned Maggi instant noodles, a Nestle India product, after finding that lead and MSG were beyond the permissible limit. But Bombay High court has put a stay on the ban and samples have been sent to lab for testing
  • Ban of 857 porn sites by the government (has been revoked now)
  • Ban of the book by ex-Pakistan Foreign Secretary
  • Ban of Ghulam Ali concert in Mumbai
  • Movie ‘Unfreedom’ was banned in India for its “content” of a “different kind”- it had scenes depicting same sex love.

Beef ban in Maharashtra

Culture of Banning In India – Hot topic For UPSC Mains

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The President passed “Maharashtra Animal Preservation Bill”, 1995 which prohibits slaughtering of bullocks and bulls in the state of Maharashtra. The Beef ban bill states that anyone found with beef or selling may be imprisoned up to 5 years and penalized for Rs 10000. Let us see how judicious the act is.

Arguments in Favor of the Ban

  • It will end the riots related to cow and bull slaughter. It will be seen as a legal offense and not religious. The lines will be drawn clear.
  • Prohibition of Cow slaughter is a part of DPSP
  • Animal rights would be empowered by such acts.
  • It will encourage people to turn to vegetarianism or vegan. It will further encourage state to ban killing of other animals. 5.2. Arguments against the Ban
  • A large number of people associated with the Beef industry will be unemployed. These people might involve in illegal trade.
  • Beef is a cheaper source of protein compared to other forms and banning it will deprive the poor section of it.
  • The ban is only on the beef from the Indian buffaloes that burden the farmers breeding them. It had been an alternate source of income for them.
  • There will be losses in the Export business as a large part of beef export will be impacted by the ban.
  • Various industries such as Pharma will be affected as many of their products involve ingredients like fats from buffaloes.
  • State does not have a right to impose a certain food culture in any form on people.
  • It will hamper the cattle economy. There will be no one who will nurture buffalo, cows or bulls, which are neither useful for meat nor agricultural purposes.
  • Nothing is done about imported beef. There are many restaurants that use Angus beef from USA and Australia.

The ban has been imposed, without taking care of the alternative employment of people involved in the beef industry. Also, the groups most affected by the ban are Dalits and Muslims, which has given the entire issue a casteist and religious color.

Conclusion

Culture of Banning In India – Hot topic For UPSC Mains

The ban culture silences dissent, marginality, creativity, and eccentricity. In fact ban becomes a majoritarian weapon of rectifying history. It often makes little difference whether one is banning history, beef or a battle against development. The openness of democracy is challenged by the closures of majoritarianism and the weapons of state; the majority, the officially correct are many. Voice disappears through censorship, erasure, allegations of sedition, and prohibitions of food.Culture of Banning In India – Hot topic For UPSC Mains

In fact the ban culture threatens democracy and diversity in India. The new battle is between correctness and majoritarianism on one side and democracy and the openness of creativity on the other.

The President of India had recently said: “Pluralism and tolerance have held together for ages this civilization of many languages, races, religions, with diverse anthropological features.” Hence, we need to respect the pluralism and tolerance that is present in India. We should work together to nurture this pluralism, and use this diversity as a strength.