Ananya S Guha
The recent noise that right to privacy is elitist underscores the fact that those who say it do not understand what is meant by privacy.Privacy means the right not to do anything you want, but the right to be respected in your choices, beliefs, in company, in the dress that you wear, in your intimate matters of love and affection, in your work etc. That will apply to anyone. But in bringing in elitism a false world of haves and have not is falsely implicated in this context. Right to privacy is an inherent right, it does not move from individual to individual in matters of class, colour, creed or religion. So the question of elitism does not arise. So since according to some since it is a prerogative of the elite, it should be done away with.What fallacy. How do we define the elite? By bringing in notions of elite and non elite we are hood winking the people and straying from main issues, which lead to the debate on privacy. Slowly but surely there is a calculated move to infringe on people’s rights and privacy, to make their individual choices, to choose their partners, and to be left a little alone to themselves, which is the logic of privacy. So, even if it is elitist, are you going to trample upon rights of so called elites?
The signs are disconcerting.It shows public intervention in private spaces, authoritarianism, state intervention, and stalking private individuals who may not speak or act according to authoritarian behest. In its extreme this is sowing seeds of totalitarianism where the state or individuals in political power may issue diktats, and ruthlessly flagellate individual view points.
Now let us see how this has been happening over the past few years. The cow issue. A mythic issue was suddenly brought to the forefront and then suddenly there were self proclaimed cow vigils. This infringed human rights and atavistic forces unleashed terror on poor people. This was inextricably connected with ‘ cow eating’. Again terror was unleashed against cow consumption. Then followed the corollary, attacking particular religious or minority groups.
After that came the much vaunted Aadhar card and everything linked to it, which made the common man insecure .Aadhar with PAN card, then with passport, indeed as if an archaeology of excavation was taking place. Under these circumstances people moved the Apex Court of the country on the issue of privacy. But this issue is related to many more aspects of human behaviour or sustenance, as mentioned above.
Coming back to the notion that privacy is an elitist construct, nothing could be further from the truth. The notion of elitism is in itself a myth, perpetuated solely by exclusive and ivory tower living. In a country like India such notions work only exclusively, if one wants to know the country and it’s people then it is only commingling which can help survive. By such advocacy we are blind to realities, realities that say there is no elite class, all irrespective of poor and rich have a responsibility towards the poorer masses, whose agriculture, whose labour, whose domestic work, whose masonry, welding, plumbing, artisans we are heavily dependent on. Elitism is floundering, it is flouted by the small majority.They have little time for it, nor care for it.By raising this issue, we are side tracking the main one that of privacy, an inherent right of the individual.Moreover this is a vague argument more to hood wink, than to look at private individual rights.
Then again is the matter of historiography and nationalism. By reworking a new brand of history, certain historical facts like Muslim invasion and culture are glossed upon. The South Indian dynasties, and architecture are also ignored. History is only harking back to ancient times, where supposedly the Indian sage was the philosopher king. So, goes too with Nationalism, a one sided thing where many leaders who played greatest roles in the freedom struggle are sidelined. Lynching has become a metaphor,in that of history and Nationalism.
So this means there will be no privacy of thought, individual opinion, artistic rights, rights of transgenders, the freedom to express in an unfettered manner. No dissidence, no nothing. And the question of privacy for the non elitist, does not exist I suppose, otherwise why would the issue be labelled only with the supposed elites? The others do not matter. So why should they have privacy? Thus, the question was made to be a non issue, by supposedly responsible citizens of the country.
The Supreme Court by it’s recent stricture has put an end to this nonsense. It is a clever ploy by all governments in past as well as present to cleverly divide the masses and classes, going only to them with the begging bowl of votes. It is high time the people of India see through such nefarious designs of disuniting people in terms of money power, caste, class , language,and of course religion. The policy makers are amnesic, they forget wilfully that is the inchoate masses that make up the country, it’s history, it’s privacy as a nation of plural values, many sided dialogues, for which we love it.