So who said these words, and do you disagree?

How do you feel when somebody else puts in a few crisp, simple sentences something you have always wanted to say?

On being asked,

“At what point of time, does liberty for yourself becomes license to abuse others?”

This person (can you guess who?) said,

“It’s a loaded question ofcourse because I am not talking about liberty for myself but about liberty also for others to abuse me, which they have freely utilized. I am not trying to say that I am the only one who gets to speak, only that I also get to speak. The question of the limits of freedom – unfortunately, these days, people have begun to fall into the trap of believing that it is right to limit freedom, at that point which you were mentioning the point of where other people don’t like what you are saying, I am telling you, if you go down that road, nobody will be able to speak at all, because everybody can object for whatever reason to somebody else and you silence all speech…that’s the consequence of that mindset, it is better to be in a world where people say what they want and if you don’t like it, you say so in return. That’s how the debate of an open society proceeds. Of course I am not saying I am the only one who gets to talk, obviously I am not saying that…”[Link] – Don’t click before attempting a guess!!!

Can’t guess?

Here’s some more from the same source!!

“Freedom. It’s a beautiful sounding word. We say, who would be against freedom? It’s a word that you would automatically be for, one would think. You think of a free society as one in which a thousand flowers bloom, in which a thousand and one voices speak… what a simple and grand idea… But in our time, many essential freedoms are in danger of defeat and not only in totalitarian or authoritarian states, here in India also a combination of religious fanaticism, political opportunism and I have to to say public apathy, is damaging that freedom upon which all other freedoms depend which is the freedom of expression…”


Answer and win the Prestigious Yellow Polka Dotted Cup!!!

Not publishing the correct answers yet – please do mention if you agree or disagree with the speaker.

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57 thoughts on “So who said these words, and do you disagree?

    • haha, no I didn’t cheat! Had been listening to his recorded speech and q. ans. session just before wandering to your blog! I am thrilled by all that he spoke. What I abs. love about him is that he is so balanced and rational in his thoughts/approach. He is speaking for me and a lot many Indians who may or may not be gifted with the power of eloquence.


  1. Since I was rooted to t seat in front of the TV watching his speech last night I won’t guess-:)
    Elegantly conveyed simple philosophy of freedom of expression


  2. Salman Rushdie. I know this because I was watching the India Today conclave live on TV. I agree, he spoke so, so well. I never had a high opinion of his work, but I respect his opinion on freedom of speech. And yes, I agree with him, especially the part that public apathy plays in damaging freedom.


  3. I confess that I did not know (before reading the comments). Being abroad, I did not get the opportunity to watch the speech, but I am not surprised to learn that it is none other than Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie, a man who has, of course, had much cause to bemoan intolerance in the course of his illustrious writing career.

    I understand that Rushdie ended with Rabindranath Tagore’s poem “Where the mind is without fear.”

    Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
    Where knowledge is free
    Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
    By narrow domestic walls
    Where words come out from the depth of truth
    Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
    Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
    Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
    Where the mind is led forward by thee
    Into ever-widening thought and action
    Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

    To me, this poem has always been the very definition of liberty, of freedom, of a free society. And yet, it will not be a Father who will lead this country into that heaven of freedom. It is the country itself that will awake.

    In an email discussion with IHM on the 9th of March, I remarked upon the Indian tendency to not exercise rights, but instead worry continually about the limits of those rights. IHM asked me to say it in a comment, but I did not find a relevant post to say it in. I think I’ve found the post I was looking for, so let me reproduce the remark in full:

    I’ve always felt that Indians do not really utilize their rights properly. The moment one talks of freedom of expression, there are a million worried voices which hasten to remind us that freedom is not absolute, that we should take care not to “misuse” the freedom which Indians are granted by the constitution. Sometimes, I think people tend to forget where the constitution really came from, what the constitution is all about.

    The preamble to the Indian constitution reads:

    “We the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic, and to secure to all its citizens….”

    We the people. Not we the rulers. Not we the ministers. The people.

    Democracy is a social contract. The freedom which is granted to all Indian citizens by the constitution is not a favor from some external agent. It is the freedom which Indians have given to themselves. It is the contract that Indians have agreed to abide by.

    It is not the job of the government to lecture people regarding how they should use their freedoms.

    The government’s job is to PROTECT those freedoms, to make sure that everyone honors that binding contract which all citizens of India are obligated to respect.

    The government, unfortunately, does not do the one job which it was created to do and instead focuses its energies on would-be-noble but entirely unnecessary and ineffective populist endeavors.

    It’s unfortunate indeed.

    And that’s what this humble overseas citizen of India thinks about it all.

    Apologies for the overlong comment, and the lecture.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Is it Salman Rushdie or Taslima Nasreen?…..but yes I do agree with the speaker but if freedom of speech & expression intrudes or hurts other person then being sensitive is the keyword.

    It is actually meant for sane people of sane world. Just quoting an example : couple of months back when govt was after the social n/w sites for screening or censoring their content i was also completely against that but you know i got confused when I saw few cartoon strips which carried morphed pics of some ministers (I think it was Manmohan Singh & Sonia Gandhi) which were really gross……if we do not like them or their ideology that does not mean we can flash semi-node pics of them in FB!!!

    I am not saying we have to silence all voices which are against govt or authority but limit shuld be there and this limit should be decided by individual only!!!


  5. Rushdie of course!

    But to my mind, the greatest debate on this topic took place between Shashi Tharoor and Christopher Hitchens. The whole thing is on youtube:

    I challenge anyone to watch this and not come out being a HUGE fan of the lately deceased Hitchens 😀


      • //One can say with absolute confidence that if one was in favour of censorship… say if we felt decency could be protected, obscenity could be avoided, offence could be avoided… Who is going to get the job?… do you know anyone?, there never has been born a human being who is good enough for that job… No man is good enough to be another man’s master in that way.. there cannot be, there cannot be a censorship that does not degenerate into absurdity and corruption… // Thanks for sharing Bhagwad!!!


      • Shashi Tharoor “All I’m saying is that we need to take into account the fact that some things we say and do will have consequences” (trying to say that we must be careful of “offending” people’s religious sensibilities).

        What I say: The same argument can be used with women who get raped because of “provocative clothing” and tell them to “take into account the fact things they wear will have consequences!”

        Isn’t it amazing to see how all these issues come down to the single most fundamental point? Which is this: NO amount of offense can EVER justify physical violence.

        End. Of. Story.


  6. I didnt know who said it.. but I agree with it. After reading the comments, I wasnt surprised that it was Rushdie who said it. Over my mini-reading episodes through life, it has become apparent to me, the Ones who challenged the prevailing Norms that disenfranchised some section of the society, who people/society are passionately against, are the ones who really cared about the society to not sit comfortably…


  7. Interesting to hear so many comments in favor of Rushdie (who in my opinion is highly overrated). What if we were discussing a personality who had fallen afoul of Hindus? Would we see the same level of support for him/her? I’m unable to remember names now but remember reading about a few. Maybe M.F. Husain?

    As for tolerant atheists, I’ve never come across them. (Maybe they do exist) The ones who I have known suffer from a huge superiority complex, claiming that they are the only ones who are rational. C. Hitchens was one example of a militant atheist. Sensible religious people are aware that their faith is not perfect, and atheists/agnostics must also agree that their arguments are not watertight.


    • Rushdie was over rated not by literary critics but by Mullahs for their political reasons. Thus he became a champion of freedom of expression.
      Superiority of Atheist is a feeling probably developed in Theists because of their inferiority complex. Theists may feel like that because their philosophy is based on just belief and not evidence. The moment the Theist presents credible evidence of existence of God, such inferiority should disappear. The problem with some the Theists is they want believe in a God of their imagination, but also want to be thought as Rational. As long as a Theist is not able to prove existence of God of their imagination they can’t be termed rational. Either this or that….. Not both -:)


      • I haven’t generalized them, just spoke of the few that I have known. If I come across some down-to-earth ones then I’ll remember that for the future.

        @Arun: You want a perfectly rational human being? Well then you’ll have to invent a cyborg like ‘Data’ from Star Trek (who only appeared human, but was not). It’s not for nothing that humans have wanted to worship something bigger than themselves for thousands of years. We feel the need to count on something bigger than us.

        I can assure you as a ‘theist’ (never termed myself that before) that I don’t have any inferiority issues. Rather, my faith is tied up with my spiritual well being.

        @IHM: I was referring to the comments left by others actually.


      • PGW, when u say ‘we human beings’ u should remember that u mean only a section of human beings.
        Vast majority of living things on earth have not felt the need of a higher force -:)


    • What a miserable figure would a free-speech advocate be if she allowed such trivialities as her personal religious convictions to influence her protests against censorship! Such a person would be an opportunist, open to much ridicule, and not an inch more than that.

      In my experience of this forum, most people would be offended by the suggestion that they might not support M.F Hussain just because they happen to be Hindus.

      As for tolerant atheists, I’ve never come across them. (Maybe they do exist)

      Perhaps you need to redefine the word “tolerant”. Criticism is not the same as intolerance.
      Hitchens was intensely critical of religion, just as you are critical of Salman Rushdie, but that does not mean he was intolerant, or that he would have advocated flying planes into buildings in response to some imagined “offense” to atheists. What is so wrong about suggesting that religion has done much harm to the world, and that this harm outweighs the good? It is one man’s own point of view, offered in a legitimate manner via books and other media, a point of view that you are free to reject if you so wish.

      A real militant offers no such largesse. If you do not accept the Taliban’s viewpoint, you are their enemy, and therefore liable to be killed in accordance with their religious beliefs. MF Hussain’s critics did not offer him such largesse. Salman Rushdie’s critics did not offer such largesse. These people do not write books about why they disagree with such and such, and why they think so and so should not be propagated. No sir, they will riot, kill, loot, bomb, vandalize and scream until their viewpoint has been heard. They will spare no quarter if they sense disagreement. They will take no prisoners in their battle to impose their viewpoint on the rest if us by entirely undemocratic, unfair and unacceptable means.

      To compare a critical view with a fundamentalist view is a fallacy that is repeated ad nauseum by people who do not appreciate being disagreed with. Repeating it does not make it true, but it does point to where one’s loyalties lie in the debate on Free Speech.

      who in my opinion is highly overrated

      It has become fashionable to dismiss controversial authors as “overrated”, but when applied to someone like Salman Rushdie, such a claim sounds remarkably hollow to anyone who has followed the literary world with some interest. You are entitled to your opinion, of course, but I contend the man’s achievements speak for himself. While the same cannot be said of Rushdie’s most (in)famous work (The Satanic Verses) “Midnight’s Children” is truly one of the most brilliant books I have ever had the pleasure of reading in my life. You may consider my view insignificant, which it is, but remember that this book won a Booker prize in 1981, followed by two Best of the Bookers in 1993 and 2008, not to mention the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Getting some of the most prestigious awards in the world does not prove that the author is a good one, but it does point in that direction.

      I do not think there is anything wrong in calling him overrated, if one truly believes so, but it seems to me (and I may be mistaken), that you haven’t yet had the chance to actually read many of his best works.

      It’s not for nothing that humans have wanted to worship something bigger than themselves for thousands of years

      It is not for nothing that humans have considered tribes/races/nations other than their own to be inferior for thousands of years.
      It is not for nothing that humans have been misogynistic and homophobic for thousands of years.
      It is not for nothing that there was no such thing as democracy for thousands of years.
      It is not for nothing that people did not believe the Earth was round for thousands of years.
      It is not for nothing that people thought Lightning was the work of God for thousands of years.

      This is a very poor argument. Just because something has been done for thousands of years does not mean it is rational, or that it is a fundamental part of human nature.

      A belief in something “greater than oneself” need not necessarily be manifested in the form of religion. It can be anything, from feminism, to liberty, to a vast variety of ideologies.

      You want a perfectly rational human being

      No one is “perfectly rational” in every aspect.
      On the other hand, some things, such as trying to explain the world around us, demand as much rationality as possible.

      One may harbor ordinary human emotions without holding irrational beliefs. Cognitive and experiential bias is of course, inevitable, but it is very much possible to minimize it.

      and atheists/agnostics must also agree that their arguments are not watertight.

      Yes indeed. I agree that my arguments are not watertight, just as my arguments against Hollow Unicorns in the Antarctic are not watertight (and neither are yours).

      As far as agnostics are concerned, the whole point of calling oneself an agnostic is that one is not CONVINCED either way. You could be call me an agnostic atheist, but that really should be understood when one says “atheist”. Just as one simply says “Hindu”, and not “agnostic Hindu who is about 0.5% uncertain that Brahma/Vishnu/Karma/Afterlife/whatever really exists”.


      • I already made it clear that I was not referring to IHM, but only to what the supposed reaction of the previous commenters might be.

        I only talked about one thing that humans have felt the need of believing in for thousands of years. Extrapolating it to cover other beliefs and actions doesn’t make my argument invalid.

        I’ve no idea what to make of your ‘Hollow Unicorns in the Antarctic’ remark, and I already know that my religious argument is not watertight. I’d be willing to discuss it if it weren’t for the condescending undertones.

        I’m also not referring to the technicalities of calling a person atheist/agnostic/non-believer, whatever. Just about how arrogant they come across as. And if you’ve ever watched US television, many atheist entertainers are unbearably arrogant. The same could be said for the conservative TV/Radio personalities but they lie on the fringes of religious beliefs which sensible people would reject.

        Treating religious people condescendingly won’t make them come over to your side. Like Hitchens with his provocative ‘God is not great’ stance. Ever tried insulting someone in order to convince them? You’ll find the wall raised up higher and higher against you. (I’m referring to real life, not a court of law) There are real, tangible benefits in terms of health and longevity for religious people which have been confirmed by many research studies (I’m talking real research, not some two-bit polls). So let me keep my religion, and you can keep yours.
        (Watch from 0.42 if you like satire. The quality is a little bad but it’s a funny argument)

        I rest my case..


      • I already made it clear that I was not referring to IHM, but only to what the supposed reaction of the previous commenters might be.

        Which is why I talked about the forum, not IHM.

        I only talked about one thing that humans have felt the need of believing in for thousands of years. Extrapolating it to cover other beliefs and actions doesn’t make my argument invalid.

        Yes it does, because logic must be consistent.

        You implied that because humans have believed in religion for thousands of years, it is a part of the human psyche. Since this is not true for hundreds of beliefs and ideologies, I see no special reason to believe that it is in fact true of religion.

        I’ve no idea what to make of your ‘Hollow Unicorns in the Antarctic’ remark, and I already know that my religious argument is not watertight. I’d be willing to discuss it if it weren’t for the condescending undertones.

        I’ll explain what to make of it.

        I take it that you do not believe in Unicorns any more than I believe in a god. You are possibly quite sure that there is no such thing as a Hollow Unicorn in the Antarctic. But can you prove it? Do you have a water-tight argument against such a being? You do not.

        I cannot prove that there is no god, but that doesn’t give me much reason to actively believe in such a being, any more than the lack of water-tight arguments against unicorns give you cause to believe in them.

        I’m also not referring to the technicalities of calling a person atheist/agnostic/non-believer, whatever. Just about how arrogant they come across as. And if you’ve ever watched US television, many atheist entertainers are unbearably arrogant. The same could be said for the conservative TV/Radio personalities but they lie on the fringes of religious beliefs which sensible people would reject.

        Well, you know what, I don’t judge Christians on the basis of fundies like Sarah Palin or Christine O’ Donnel (both politically mainstream, by the way, and both with a large fan base of “sensible” religious folk). Maybe, just maybe, a bunch of stand-up comedians do not make a representative sample of atheists.

        If you’ve watched a lot of television in the US, I’m sure you’ve realized by now that good-natured insult and satire is very common in North American comedy. If you felt offended, pray protest, but do not generalize, yes?

        Treating religious people condescendingly won’t make them come over to your side

        I have no interest in proselytizing, and I’m sure Christopher Hitchens did not either. It really is of no consequence to me whether or not the person next to me is an atheist.

        I’m all for people keeping their religion if it makes them happy, but I’m not okay with snide remarks being made about those who do not believe in a Holy Book, and I will robustly challenge such assertions whenever I have the time and energy to.

        This should not be mistaken for either arrogance or a militant view. It is merely a counter-assertion.


      • PGW, ur claim that there are benefits in health and longevity for religious belief needs proof. I am a Dr and is very much interested in that.
        As per my knowledge there has never been a credible study comparing Atheists and non atheists regarding their Health and longevity. Pls provide links of the research that u mentioned.


    • In my opinion, the “superiority” that atheists feel is the same “superiority” an adult feels when they hear a child going on about the tooth fairy.

      Be honest…do you or do you not feel superior to a child when they tell you with absolute conviction that they believe in Santa Claus, fairies, unicorns etc?


      • Aha, the “atheists are arrogant” argument! ! was reading the thread and wondering when that would happen. It is not arrogant to believe that there is a divine power or power that listens and answers mere human prayers- or ir propitiated by them? It is not arrogant to confuse belief and fact but try to force belief by trying to use fact to support it ? (Isn’t an often used theist argument “<> did it because <> says so”). It is not arrogant to believe that one’s own system of belief is the right one? but it is arrogant to ask for evidence? Or it is arrogant to go a few gods further? (most people are atheists with regard to other faiths…)
        By the way, since the claim that a divine being(s) exists is being made by theists, they are the ones who need to prove it- not the atheists who do not claim any such thing. And “science does not have the answers ” is not proof. Science does not have the answers BECAUSE it is science- it works on hypotheses and evidence and proof. And it changes- as new theories are proposed and tested. Faith s the thing that says it has the answers, then tries to twist facts to suit it.
        Agnostics are fence sitters ( of course I am quoting Richard Dawkins!). But on a scale of 1 to 7 ( more Dawkins) if 1 is “God definitely exists”, then 7 is “most probably does not” since only theists can be sure- an atheist cannot be totally sure, but is most probably certain- and yet keeps that tiny little gleam of other explanation open- that is what makes an atheist an atheist.
        By the way, atheism is as much a religion as not playing cricket is a sport ( right Bhagwad?)

        Sorry to go off into this rant here, IHM.
        I totally agree with Salman Rushdie’s sentiments. And I did not enjoy the Satanic Verses, as much as I did his other books- but that is possibly due to taste, not because he is overrated- he did get a Booker and a Booker of Bookers. Of course it is easier to protest an overrated author by not reading their book- banning it makes the book just a bit more popular.


  8. What we lack today is the freedom to disagree with courtesy, to dissent with rationality, not with violence and aggression. Creativity will be stillborn if things continue like this.


  9. While I agree that the speech is beautiful and articulate, I have my reservations. Say a speech is construed as
    a) being hateful to a particular community
    b) and ridiculing a particular religion
    (and I cite these two points because people are sensitive towards anything being said towards their community and religion, these two being a big part of how an indivisual identifies himself inside a society), we can expect two kinds of reaction
    a) the genteel one where one raises his/her hand and says ‘I don’t like what is being said’. I feel offended and I shall take a legal action against you.
    b) the violent kind, the kind poor, conservative and sentimental people resort to on being egged by rhetorics of people with their agendas who often work behind curtains.

    My question is what sort of steps would you take as a custodian of law and order:
    a) curb freedom of speech and censor what can be used to inflame people
    b) allow freedom of speech, enforce law and order which may lead to police-firing, tear gas shelling, lathi-charge etc. on the receiving end of which will undoubtedly be the poor and the guileless and become the villain.


    • Abhishek did you notice there were no serious and uncontrollable threats of violence this time when Rushdie came – what changed between the Jaipur lit fest and now? The elections are over. (It seems he has visited India on other occasions too, and there was no violence), Rushdie also says, and I agree, that most people want to live peaceful lives, they, no matter which god they worship (or don’t) want to live peacefully, the government needs to control only a small number of trouble makers and when it suits them they do that. (Generally it suits them to use them as means to control their vote banks)

      Letting anybody get away with threats of violence/violence and rioting is what causes riots – not books, movies and paintings. Just like sexual assaults do not happen because women dressed in certain ways at certain times but because the criminal expected to get away with the crime.


      • 🙂 You still haven’t answered my question. There’s a difference between what should be done (ideally) and what is done in the world. We all know who won the assembly elections after Godhra. Who keeps winning? We all know who is going to be absolved in the SIT findings despite the overwhelming body of evidence. I was horrified to hear comments like ‘What happened needed to happen’ when this matter gets discussed in peer groups. I swear I could feel a hot burning stake through my ears when I first heard such comments. ‘What happened needed to happen’. Why? What can possibly justify such comments and that too from college educated guys from well to do families. Isn’t college supposed to make you more open, liberal and compassionate? Are they too sun-kissed from his developmental antics (laudable!) to overlook his complicit presence in the pogroms or are they being brought up in over zealous environments that refers to the other community as ‘they’- ‘they’ are the ones who have burnt our temples and ancestors in the past (the 15th century and the 12th century and god knows which centuries). Who’s to be blamed if in realpolitik the person who’s elected is the one who gives his nods for pogroms? He was a nobody before godhra. We made him a giant and now he’s a goliath. We…We the people of India….


    • Abhishek, let me ask ur question in a different way. Some ppl may think Mini Skirt provoke them to rape the wearer . Non violent ppl will ban the mini skirt from their family or try to ban it from society while the violent ones will rape the innocent wearer. What will u do if u r the law enforcement officer?


  10. Totally agree with him, He is right that politcial and religious leaders have taken the term Freedom to a different level.. and to top is the public apathy..

    What makes me so MAD is that people and majority of them are all TALK and no one likes to walk the talk .. we have found that a lot many times not just in polictics but here in our little blogging work too.. They say one thing on A blog and go to B blog and say a entirly opposite thing.

    everyone has something to say about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING but they never have anything ot say about what happens in there own backyard ..


  11. may be rashdie i read it but forgot the name.
    about freedom he is just talking like a politician he should file a case in SC because he got the money and fame to fight in SC regarding Jaipur experience


  12. Interesting views on atheism and theism who this has nothing to do with freedom which is what the post was about but anyways I thought Ill join in…

    I will give into the view that atheists are radical, insensitive, arrogant and condescending when a few of the following things happen –

    1. A group of atheists threaten a religious writer with beheading.
    2. A group of atheists strap themselves with bombs to blow up non-atheists.
    3. A group of atheists complain that the latest movie out there hurts their sentiments and hence it should be banned.


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