‘Arrest of DJS activists not good for democracy’

Hyderabad: The attempt to restrict free speech is dangerous for a democracy, an editorial in Deccan Chronicle said.

The edit with the headline ‘Arrests in Telangana draconian’ reads, “The Telangana police arrested and prevented two sets of activist who wished to address the media at different events in Hyderabad on the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute: one was a group of trade unionists; the other a group active in the Muslim community.”

The other group it referred is Darsgah-e-Jihad-o-Shahadat (DJS) whose activists were picked up on Tuesday as they were about to hold a press conference in the Old City.

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Darsgah-e-Jihad-o-Shahadat is an Islamist group founded by Shaikh Mahboob Ali in 1983 in Hyderabad. It claims to have trained people in self-defence techniques at its camps.

Condemning the arrests the editorial stated, “There is nothing reasonable in restricting speech, and nobody gains – not democracy, not society.”

Highlighting the dangers it poses to the country when free speech is hindered, the editorial noted, “Dissent and free speech must be perceived, pragmatically, like the whistle of a pressure cooker. Nobody need pay attention. But forcibly silence it, and it sets off an explosion. No policeman rushing to stop a debate or a public event, or arresting someone with contrarian ideas, has protected anything.”

It added, “On Kashmir or on the Ayodhya verdict, let India allow, even enable, those who disagree with the policy action of the government or the SC verdict to vent their ire. It would harm no one, least of all our democracy, but throttling voices of dissent would put a question mark over our commitment to our foundational values.”

Saying that free speech doesn’t pose any danger but guarantees democracy the editorial pointed out, “The founding fathers of the nation, the creators of our Constitution, did not conceive of a police state, but its exact opposite. Irresponsible exercise of free speech is the best guarantee of democracy, not its worst danger.”

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