Realising the true value of Freedom

July 19, 2006
Anybody who keep an eye on the happenings around the world would know by now that the Indian Government, in its drive to curtail and restrict anti-national elements from playing havoc have passed orders to all ISPs in the country to ban 22 sites which post volatile material and spread hatred. This comes in the aftermath of the dreadful bomb attack on a couple of suburban trains in Mumbai - the financial capital of India, which led to 100s of innocent people dying and many more getting injured. My heart goes out to the kith and kin who lost their loved ones.

The ISPs in their national zeal have taken the easy way out (according to a report in today's edition of a leading newspaper) and block whole domains. And, the domain which hosts this site is also included. The end result is, no body inside India can access this or any of the blocked sites directly.

And the fact that I cannot view my own blog brought some discomfort to me initially. But I love my country and if blocking a blog domain will restrict the anti-national elements from using it to communicate with each other and stop the spread of terror, then I am all for it and I am willing to put up with the discomfort. After all, the existence of a blog or a site pales when compared to the threat posed to the lives of innocent people.

But this situation set me thinking. Generally, people are not aware of the value of their freedom and take it for granted. It is only when some adverse situation arises and the powers that be decide to restrict the rights enjoyed by us that we start missing them and then we realise how much that particular freedom meant for us.

For example, people in the US of A enjoy a wide degree of freedom. But how many of them really value their freedom ? I guess not many because they take it for granted. It is only when they are on the verge of losing some of their freedom that they become aware of the significant part it plays in their lives.

Similarly, people in China are born and brought up in a society where the government has placed various restrictions. The Chinese will find it normal to live in their country because they have not enjoyed the freedom in the first place and so, will not be aware of what they are missing.

It is only when you enjoy a right and then that right is suddenly taken away from you that you start to realise how much it contributes to your well being.

On a similar vein, many people who use free software including GNU/Linux take it for granted and do not even think twice about supporting the software they enjoy using. But suppose tomorrow, the rule of law passes a decree that using GPLed free software is against the law and prohibits the sharing of free software including GNU/Linux distributions. This is when people who use GNU/Linux and free software will find out how much they have gained from this movement and then, people will start to realise the true meaning of the word 'Free' in 'Free Software' and associate it with the word 'Freedom'. Until then, a major section of people using free software will be more concerned about the price factor.

Update (July 21st 2006): With the blanket ban on blogging domains making news world wide and casting a shadow on the government, an official directive was sent to all ISPs to lift the blanket ban on the blogging domains. But the ban on the 22 or so sites will remain. So now all in India can access domains. This is surely democracy at work. I doubt this would have been possible in a more restrictive society. On another note, I believe we can learn something from this whole affair. That is one should not take ones freedom for granted. Rather, each one of us have a duty towards the society we live in which earns us the right of freedom.


  • The indian goverment and the ISP implementation of it are totally misguided.

    First of all it will not suppress the targeted speech, which will just move to other websites.

    Second it will affect normal communication for millions of people, which is a cost much too high for an uncertain return.

    Third it is only a cosmetic measure. Nobody believes it will stop any further terrorist attacks, but makes the government look less powerless, since it seems to be doing something.

    Finally it's an attack on free speech, which is a very serious move, and should require a carefull consideration, instead of being the result of a knee jerk reaction.

    I hope indian civil society will be strong enough to refuse these kind of measures.

  • Ravi,
    I couldn't have put it better. Really, only a person who has lost his freedom - even for a miniscule point of time - can truly comprehend its value. The rest take it for granted. I guess that is basic human nature...

  • Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety
    --Benjamin Franklin

    In the world today, nothing can be closer to the truth. Attacks on the liberties of a society begin slowly and creep insiduously if allowed to go unchecked and fear is the tool of choice.

    Blocking an entire web domain or even a particular website might not seem like a big deal but fundementally it is a challenge to the freedom of expression. If our government is allowed to censor ad nauseum without proof of any wrong doing, what prevents them from censoring criticism and curtailing debate in the country.

    All in all, it is a sad day for India. Not because our government behaved in this manner, but that we the people took it lying down.

  • Billy

    yup freedom is all. give me freedom before anything.

  • Dragonfyre13

    Give me freedom, or give me death.

  • Passion

    The root cause of all issues in India is desperation and collusion among people.


    85% of people are working poor in an informal economy to earn $2 a day so that they can feed a meal for their family. Their lives oscillate between fear and frustration. As of today, sex, movies and democracy aka 'voting in elections' is the only respite for them.



    The remaining 15% well to do people are even 'more' desperate. They 'prefer' not to pay taxes. The only 'professional' relation between individuals is collusion .
    India has the potential to become superpower provided the government empowers its people.
    Ensuring a credible basic income guaranteed system for every one whether they work or not will bring in dignity instead of desperation for the working poor.
    And imposing inheritance taxes will stimulate compassion instead of collusion among people living in India.

    In return everyone should pay personal income tax.