My country was never a place where you could take your freedom of expression for granted. The first amendment done to our constitution just an year after adopting it, and was done specifically to put conditions on FoE, giving the state enough power to curb any expression which matched the vague boundaries of public order, decency or morality or even the security of the state.
Then we also have the history of the Emergency - an almost two years of suspension of civil liberties by a megalomaniac Prime Minister. Needless to say, there was no FoE during this time. Things were really bad. I was really small at this time, but I have vague memories of the general tension in the country at the time.
But since the time I have been introduced to the Internet in the late 90s and have been politically aware, I have generally not felt any fear of putting my own thoughts online. I knew that so far as I didn't mess with underworld honchos, or uploaded scoops of dirty politicians (which can get you shot in almost any country in the world), I was relatively safe in publishing my rants. Who would care anyway? I was just as unremarkable as they come, and not a scholar in any way of the political history of our country.
So this was my blog, where I put out all my thoughts. And it was fine, for years. A close friend of mine did, at one time, tell me that my rants against the Indian right wing politicians, made him uncomfortable. But I laughed it off saying that people way more influential than me were writing the same things, and they have, to my knowledge, faced no issues.
But that was then. The country has changed a lot over the years, for the worse. At first, the Congress government "gifted" the Indian Internet scene with the infamous Section 66A in 2008 giving sweeping rights to drag anybody online to prison. It took 7 years for the Supreme Court to strike it down as unconstitutional after numerous well publicised cases against innocent online Indians. Governments have changed but the willingness to bring the same law back has not gone, with enough chatter around to bring it back in a different avatar.
Also, the Indian Internet scene has now become full of low minded abuse, vitriol, and fearless bigotry. And this is not just the fringe that I am talking about. Some of these are people I had known for years, many that I knew were nice, polite and decent people. Now the level of bigotry, the lack of empathy, the lack of decency in this lot surprises me. They speak the same arguments like other thousands on the 'net, parroting indoctrinated lines over and over again. They run down every good thing in a country - the artists, the academics, the scientists, the social workers, journalists, anybody who doesn't agree with their narrative. And not running them down with their own persuasive arguments, which is the right way to advocate your position. But using systemic abuse, violence and even murder.
Personally something has changed for me now. For a variety of reasons including all that I mentioned above, I no longer feel safe writing my socio-political thoughts as I used to in this blog. Am I giving myself too much importance? How can I be as insignificant in the sea of opinions in the Internet, and have this fear? I cannot articulate it yet very well. But there are too many other things important in my life to risk writing in this political climate. So I am taking the cowards way out.