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Print Edition: March 3, 2013

HOW THINGS WORK: Tolerating Intolerance

Three incidents in quick succession - the temporary ban on actor-producer Kamal Haasan's film Vishwaroopam by the Tamil Nadu government, the uproar over social anthropologist Ashish Nandy's remark about corruption among Dalits at the Jaipur Literature Festival, and the refusal to allow author Salman Rushdie to visit the Kolkata Literary Meet - have once again highlighted the growing intolerance in the country. A look at the issues involved:

The threats:
Threats to free expression in India usually come not from the state, but from groups purporting to speak on behalf of particular communities. Thus, Vishwaroopam's ban was sought by 24 Muslim groups in Tamil Nadu, Nandy's arrest demanded by Dalit politicians of Rajasthan, while Rushdie's 'hate affair' with Muslims is a two decade old saga. Filing of cases against those who purportedly "offend the sentiments" of particular communities is also frequent.

The laws:
Article 19 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, but at the same time permits the government to impose "reasonable restrictions" on this right for all kinds of reasons - national security, maintenance of public order, etc. It can be done even "in the interests of the general public". Again, Section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) makes any statement "promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes" a punishable offence. There is also Section 295A of the IPC making "deliberate or malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings" a crime.

The government:
State governments, moved by political considerations, have always been quick to respond positively to groups demanding bans on books, films, art exhibitions, etc.



DAM IT
Three power projects in Arunachal Pradesh, two of them first mooted in the 1980s, have been delayed yet again. They are the 2,000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Power Project (HEP) and the 600 MW Kameng HEP; the third is the 110 MW Pare HEP. They will now be commissioned in 2014 or even later. Rivers in this northeastern state, if harnessed, it is said, can meet the entire country's power needs, but anti-dam agitations have stymied all such efforts.


UPWARDLY MOBILE
At Rs 44,900, HTC Butterfly, launched here in end-January, is the most expensive Android smartphone in India. Earlier, Samsung Galaxy S III, launched in May last year at a price of at Rs 43,180, used to be the costliest, but within months the makers reduced the price to below Rs 40,000. Given the price-sensitive Indian market, how long HTC will hold on to its current distinction remains to be seen. The Butterfly's camera has the highest pixel density of any phone camera.


CLOSE CALL
An asteroid hurtling through outer space, 45 metres wide, will come closer to our planet on February 15 than any such object in recorded history. It will pass the Earth a mere 24,000 km away, which is less than the distance at which some of our satellites are located. It was a crashing asteroid which is said to have wiped out the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago.


- Compiled by Debashish Mukerji and Roopali Joshi

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