Democracy Wall: a free-speech campus initiative
(By- Mannat Chauhan and Maheep Dhanoa)
“Bekhauf azaad hai kehna mujhe” (I want to speak freely and fearlessly) sang Sona Mohapatra as she serenaded the hall with words that truly captured the essence of the free speech initiative, Democracy Wall.
Organized by The Print, the event was held at O..P. Jindal Global University on 4th November 2019. Greeted with a packed hall and cheering young students, the event was a booming success. The speaker line up for the event included political leaders, youth icons, celebrities and journalists who engaged the audience in powerful discussions and gave thought-provoking speeches. As kids began pouring in from the registration they penned down their raw and unfiltered feeling about democracy on a democracy wall. Quotes such as “Criticism ? Sedition, Save Free Speech,” “Secularism needs to thrive”, amply decorated the wall. Rather than focusing solely on free speech, the discussions also leaned towards democracy, gender, religion, current affairs and inclusiveness making it an enriching and wholesome experience. Being the free-speech initiative that it was, the students didn’t hold back their questions and questioned the personalities without a filter.
The opening speaker, Sayema Rehman shed some light on religion and inclusivity at a time where religion is such a contested and sensitive issue in the country. Vithika Yadav, the following speaker is a renowned human rights activist who spoke about her journey and elaborated on how we need to instill in ourselves love and dedication for our country. Next up, Sona Mohapatra voiced her opinions on how people with a platform should make use of it and try to spread positive awareness without the fear of trollers. She ended her segment with the songs ‘Ambarsariya’ and ‘Bekhauff’ which the students sang along to enthusiastically.
After a very engaging and exhilarating session with Sona Mohapatra, Shekar Gupta the Editor in Chief of The Print went on to discuss the nuances and reality of journalism and democracy in India and efficiently answered any challenging questions that were thrown to him by the audience. Gourav Vallabh, national spokesperson of the Congress answered questions about the changing political scenario in contemporary times. He also spoke about upcoming elections in Jharkhand and the trend of media debates these days.
There is no better way to end a free-speech initiative than by having a comedian poke the contentious and sensitive intricacies of everyday affairs blanketed by comedy. Rajneesh Kapoor brilliantly provoked thought through humor at the end of the event and wrapped it up on a high.
This initiative by The Print was the perfect step to open up a space for dialogue among the younger generation and to expose them to the ideas and opinions of eminent personalities from different fields.