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Paying a price for free expression

I read Khushwant Singh’s piece, “Price of free expression” (Saturday Extra, April 5). All who speak the truth and report the truth in all its manifestations have to pay a heavy price for their outspokenness and dauntlessness. But all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole and ultimate truth that plays the devil. History tells what man has made of man.

The lives and times of Jesus Christ, Galileo, Joan of Arc, Socrates and Samas-ud-Din Mohammed Tabrez speak volumes for man’s brutal and tyrannical nature. The visions and revelations of such persons were termed as heresies and idiosyncrasies and accordingly they were persecuted, prosecuted and punished. Boris Pasternak and Jean Paul Sartre refused to acknowledge the Nobel Prize in protest.

In modern times, Ron Howard, Sir Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen continue to bear the brunt of their thoughts and expression. So is the case with the mass media and films. Our cartoonists and scribes have to face the music for exposing the vices and crimes of those in power.

Most troubles of a person spring from his incapacity to sit silent. So be humane, patient, tolerant and magnanimous, but not reticent. If a donkey brays at you, don’t bray at him as a lie has a speed but truth has endurance. Shun fanaticism, caste hatred, bigotry and vitiated ethos.




The write-up is informative and thought provoking. Undoubtedly, the Danish cartoonist’s effort was objectionable because it hurt the sentiments of the Muslims the world over. Any writer or cartoonist should refrain from works that would hurt communities on account of their religion, caste and culture.

Religion is directly linked with the heart of the man. The writer has rightly held that at the time of Prophet Mohammed the bomb was not in existence. To play with the people’s sensibilities is inhuman and unethical. Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen have already earned the wrath of ‘fatwa’ issued by Iran and Bangladesh for their works which triggered worldwide protests.

RIKHI DASS THAKUR, Palbhu (Hamirpur)


The writer poses a pertinent question: “Are adherents of different religions justified in taking offence at the slightest criticism of their father?” Sometime back, I read a letter in these columns from a prominent Sikh asking non-Sikhs to keep away from Sikh affairs.

Consider the turban issue, for instance. Should the non-Sikhs be debarred from offering their views? Anyway permit me to say that many Sikhs, especially those living abroad, cut their hair and go about without a turban. Wouldn’t this practice weaken the turban case?

They, however, stoutly defend the practice saying that one does not lose the Sikh identity by not wearing the turban. Perhaps, they are right. They also feel that the turban should not be made an issue by the leadership.

Wg-Cdr C.L. SEHGAL (retd), Jalandhar

Car horsepower

This refers to H. Kishie Singh’s “The long and short of it” (Saturday Extra, March 8). He has described certain terms associated with auto cars, like TDI, CRDe and CRDI for diesel engines. He has written that an engine of 1600 CC is of 16 bhp. This is factually wrong. A 1600 CC engine’s hp depends upon many factors and parameters and horsepower depends on the type of fuel used. Will the columnist explain how the horsepower of a car engine is calculated?


Queen who lives by the book

Khushwant Singh’s “Queen who lives by the book” (Saturday Extra, March 8) about Elizabeth II’s love for books and the ordeals suffered by her at the hands of her husband and the private secretary, was fascinating.

Some Indian monarchs had an extraordinary interest in books while others were commissioned to write on their adventures and reign. Humayun, a keen reader, died when he fell down after descending the stairs of the library chamber situated in the old Fort of Delhi.

Emperor Akbar, though not literate, was extremely fond of books. He maintained a fine imperial library in Agra for which he personally selected books and fixed their prices. Experienced people were called into service to read aloud books to him. He would hear them from the beginning to the end and make a sign on the last page to show the book had been read.

At the close of the session, each day, Akbar would reward the reader with presents in gold or silver on the basis of the number of the pages read by him. He ordered books on science and philosophy that he wanted to be read out repeatedly. (Ain-i-Akbari 1:110)

V.K. RANGRA, Delhi



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