To silence a person you don't have to use a physical object down his throat. If you make a person irrelevant and unheard at a public platform by shouting him down, it's as good as a physical gag for any thinking person. A cursory observation on various media reveals that the moment somebody dares to speak against the tide, that particular person is targeted for isolation and insult or a sack order arrives, even if his opinion is neutral. If you are not with us, you are against us is the general conclusion these days.
Dissemination and free expression of information and views had never found favour with the tyrants, dictators and not even with many moderate democratic leaders. People always expressed themselves at a certain degree of risk. But the public sympathy used to be, mostly, with those daredevils and whistleblowers. Questioning was not only restricted to political domain but religious, societal and ritualistic practices used to be open to questions, though many times, some radical forces harmed or even killed here and there but as per so many written evidences, public , most of the times, used to be eager to listen the alternative views. But over a period of time, things have changed a lot and even public has taken a radical and aggressive posture. The levels of tolerance are dipping fast. Even an ordinary citizen has become highly opinionated, biased or judgemental and reacts violently even to a very innocuous query about race, religion and political affiliation.
The panel discussions on television have turned pathetic and reflect overall behaviour of the system and society. Any view which is different from that of majority or even of the anchor meets a tragic fate. The speaker is silenced or even humiliated. It is comfortably forgotten that the particular person was invited to panel to express freely and to give an alternative perspective. Be invited and get insulted! Surprisingly, this gagging expression happens even to senior editors and journalists.
"You have to be on our side of fence if you wish to heard. We invited you to strengthen our opinion "- this appears to be the open attitude of most TV show anchors. Even the most respected (?) of them are now shifting to right-side of the fulcrum! Be it Aarushi murder case, Tarun Tejpal’s alleged molestation case or the infamous Delhi rape case, the neutral opinions were absolute anathema. There is a system of law in this country and it should be allowed to discharge its duty properly.
To say that judiciary is non-responsive to popular pressure is to deny the existence of basic human behaviour. Police officers and Judges are part of society and get affected by mass opinion. The public cry of "hang them", put behind bars" and "let there be no bail", they all affect the final outcome, sometimes tragic for some unfortunate innocent person as well! In some television panel discussions veteran editors like Vinod Mehta and Anil Dharkar were not only gagged but humiliated as well, even for some neutral but logical observations.
This attitude of silencing the differing opinion has trickled down to the social media as well. Even the most innocuous observation regarding political party or person, religion, conflict or sportsman might evoke so highly unpalatable and rude response from the so-called followers that any discerning person would like to stay away from the any such interactions. Why have people become so intolerant and rude ? Where have we lost the power of logical and dignified argument? People shamelessly refuse to acknowledge the well-established evidences and truth simply because it is not in line with what they think. And they do it, not by any alternatively convincing evidence, but by shouting down the speaker on TV and by abusive and derogatory comments on social media.
A close observation would also reveal some disturbing evidences. Even the highest seats of human freedom like judiciary and academics, too, are being controlled. If someone's thinking is not in tandem with power that be, it would become extremely unlikely for such person to be a top judge or vice-chancellor or, may be, an editor! A friendly judge, malleable educationist and obliging editor - a web of deceit and manipulation is making the most obvious truth suspicious! Holding back of the file by the government, of a former solicitor General, for a post of Supreme Court Judge is something which went deliberately unnoticed by broader media. But incidences like this may have significant influence regarding delivery of judgement, especially related to government or its members. Which government doesn't love "soft" judiciary?
If an opinion is not formed against this unannounced censorship by system as well as individuals, free expression would become an obsolete human characteristic. "Think like us, speak for us or stay put." Beware: The "gag" is getting omnipresent and omnipotent!