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Kamal at Harvard: Freedom of Speech Can't be Taken for Granted

Kamal stressed the need to maintain constant vigil to safeguard freedom of speech, speaking at the annual India Conference of Harvard Univ in Boston

Published: 08th February 2016 05:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th February 2016 10:17 AM   |  A+A-

Kamal Haasan_AFP

Actor-filmmaker Kamal Haasan (File|AFP)

CHENNAI: Pointing out that it was freedom of speech that sculpted and nurtured democracy and not the other way round, actor Kamal Haasan has stressed the need to maintain constant vigil to safeguard the same.

Speaking at the annual India Conference of Harvard University in Boston on Saturday, the actor said, “I am always usually sternly informed that I cannot deny the fact that only in a democracy can freedom of speech exist. Freedom unlike money is not safe once inside a bank locker. It won’t safely accrue to be withdrawn for use in times of dire need. Constant vigil is necessary to safeguard it.”

   >>Related: Be Wary of Any Coercion: Full Text of Kamal Haasan's Harvard Speech on Freedom

Stating that he was part of that large vigilant community that’s looking to safeguard freedom of speech, Kamal said this was the reason why he willingly became a part of the reform committee in India that was going to recommend changes to the film certification board. “I am not here to bash democracy or praise communism or socialism. I have taken this opportunity to put on record through media and those receptive minds here that we cannot take freedom of speech for granted and complacently think that democracy automatically means freedom of speech,” he observed.

To drive home his point, he recalled, “It is only through the offices of democracy that Adolf Hitler rose to power. In the Indian political history, Emergency was promulgated and voices were silenced.”

However, he made it clear that he was proud of the kind of democracy India had managed to practice in spite of many attempts to abuse it. “India might be a younger democracy as compared to the centuries old democracy practised in the UK and the US. Yet, universal suffrage, that is voting rights for all citizens, came into practice in India 15 years before it came into practice in a democracy called America,” he pointed out.

Earlier in 2013, the actor had received flak for allegedly hurting a community’s religious sentiments by portraying it in a ‘bad light’ in a movie. The screening of the movie faced hurdles in several states and protests against the film had begun even before its release.

The actor had then claimed that he would go bankrupt if the movie was not allowed to run in theatres.

Finally, after Kamal agreed to cut out certain scenes from the movie, it was granted permission to hit screens across the country.

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