Freedom of expression non-negotiable, uncompromising: Dhankhar

Guwahati, Sep 22 (PTI) Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar on Thursday said freedom of expression is a "non-negotiable and uncompromising" asset of India, and any deviation from it will be a "compromise on the sovereignty and wholesomeness" of the country.

Inaugurating a folk festival 'Lokmanthan 2022' here, he also said the category of "pseudo intellectuals" are on the rise in India and they need to be curtailed.

"Freedom of expression is the nectar of democracy. The freedom of expression in India is non-negotiable and we cannot compromise on it. If we depart from this, we will compromise with the sovereignty and wholesomeness of the country," Dhankhar said.

The legislature has an important role to play in democracy, he said, but expressed regret that nowadays issues are being discussed on the streets instead of on the floor of the Assembly.

"Another concerning trend that needs to be curtailed is the problem of pseudo intellectuals. Can public space be allowed to be dominated by this category of people with the help of media-created eclipses?" Dhankhar said.

He claimed that pseudo intellectuals pose a challenge to the country and are on the rise despite the world being "amazed and stunned" by the good things and growth happening in India.

The Vice President also said that the role of intellectuals is very critical and they must engage in proactive dialogue, debate and discussion.

"They must reflect the challenges India is facing. They should play on the front foot with a straight bat. I cannot imagine how intellectuals remain silent seeing violation of human rights.

"If our intelligentsia decides to opt for silence in the current times, then this very important section of society is bound to be silenced forever. They must freely practice dialogue and deliberation so that societal morality and propriety are preserved," he added.

Dhankhar said that dialogue, debate and discussion are the soul of governance, and the entire ecosystem upliftment can be effected by drawing lessons from India's rich past.

"The thriving space for discussion and dialogue that once existed in the public realm must be regained and protected from the many dangers it faces. In a race for one-upmanship and under the constant glare of the public eye, debates -- televised or on social media -- are turning into cacophonous fighting arenas," he added.

Dhankhar also stated that "intolerance of the other point of view is antithetical" to wholesome envisions of free exchange of ideas and thoughts and this trend needs containment so that societal harmony is enriched.

"Media should take the initiative here. They should introspect, pass on the mike and let unique, original and marginalised voices come to the mainstream.

"It is time to step out of our echo chambers caused by both social structures and social media algorithms, and let our minds breathe. We must revive the art of listening, we must rediscover the art of dialogue," he added.

Talking about the National Education Policy, the Vice President termed it "unfortunate" that some states have decided not to adopt the decisions advocated in the document.

"Education is non-partisan and it should not be politicised... The industry produces, but the product is an outcome of education," he said at the 'Lokmanthan 2022'.

The event is organised by a cultural organisation, 'Prajna Pravah', in association with the Intellectual Forum of North East and the Assam Tourism Department.

Later, the Vice President interacted with eminent personalities at Raj Bhawan. Thereafter, he along with his wife visited the Kamakhya temple in Guwahati and offered prayers.