Naseeruddin Shah Vouches for Freedom of Speech in Amnesty Video

Amnesty India released a video urging the govt to stop “crackdown on freedom of expression & human rights defenders”

3 min read

“Where there once was law, now there is only darkness.”

Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah’s words echo through the video released by Amnesty International India on Friday, 4 January, urging the Indian government to stop its “crackdown on freedom of expression and human rights defenders”.

Reiterating the importance of constitutional rights that guarantee Indian citizens the freedom of speech and expression, Shah, in the video, says:

“In our country, those who help save the homes, lands and livelihoods of the poorest, those who speak not just of responsibilities but of rights, those who raise their voices against corruption, they are safeguarding that same Constitution. But now, those who demand rights are being locked away.”
Naseeruddin Shah, Actor

Amnesty, an international NGO focused on human rights, tweeted the video saying, “In 2018, India witnessed a massive crackdown on freedom of expression and human rights defenders. Let's stand up for our constitutional values this new year and tell the Indian government that its crackdown must end now.”

“Artists, actors, scholars, poets are all being stifled. Journalists, too, are being silenced.”
Naseeruddin Shah, actor

“In the name of religion, walls of hatred are being erected. Innocents are being killed. The country is awash with a horrific hatred and cruelty,” Shah emphasises.

Questioning if Indians ever dreamt of a country that silences dissent, Shah says, “Those who stand against this injustice are having their offices raided, their licenses cancelled, their bank accounts frozen, their voices silenced. Only so that they are deterred from speaking the truth.”

In October, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted searches at two locations of Amnesty India in connection with a foreign exchange contravention case.

In response, the international NGO had tweeted, “ED raid on Amnesty India shows a disturbing pattern of the government silencing organisations that question power. It is clear that the government wants to instill fear among Civil Society Organisations.”


Aakar Patel, a member of the Amnesty India, said it may seem that the odds are against human rights defenders and civil society in India at this moment, but human rights have always won and shall win this time as well.

"The arc of the moral universe is long, as Dr Martin Luther King said, but it bends towards justice. The widespread crackdown on civil society organisations and human rights defenders by the government of India must end immediately," he said.

Shah stoked controversy last month when he had said that the death of a cow had more significance than that of a police officer.

He was speaking in the wake of a mob violence that broke out in Uttar Pradesh's Bulandshahr on 3 December over alleged cow slaughter in the Mahaw village. The violence led to the death of two men, including police inspector Subodh Kumar Singh.

How People Reacted to Shah’s Video

Reacting to Shah's Friday remarks, human rights activist Annie Raja said, "There is no space for dissent. There is no space for even democracy. We can see the proof in form of violence all around us".

Kavita Krishnan, human rights activist and the Secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association, said Shah is "spot-on" in his observation.

"He expressed his concern and I hope people pay attention to it. The world also needs to know what is happening and wake up to the danger in this part of the world," she said.

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut told ANI, “I don’t think that human rights are being violated in India, there is democracy in our country. I respect Naseeruddin Shah ji, he is a great actor, even today, Naseeruddin ji is saying what he wants to.”

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