THE IDEA: To celebrate free speech and to protest book bans, censorship in the arts and curbs on free expression
WHY FEBRUARY 14TH? For two reasons. In 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering the death of Salman Rushdie for writing the Satanic Verses. In GB Shaw’’s words: “Assassination is the extreme form of censorship.”
February 14th or Valentine’s Day has also become a flashpoint in India, a day when protests against “Western culture” by the Shiv Sena have become an annual feature. In Chandigarh, 51 Sena activists were arrested by the police after V-day protests turned violent in 2011. Our hope is to take back the day, and observe it as a day dedicated to the free flow of ideas, speech and expression.
#flashreads is a simple way of registering your protest against the rising intolerance that has spread across India in the last few decades. At any time on February 14th—we suggest 3 pm, but pick a time of your convenience—go out with a friend or a group of friends and do a quick reading. If you'd like some suggestions/ selected passages, email me or leave a message in the comments and we'll send you some selections from challenged books. Or pick your favourite passage on free speech, or passages from a challenged book or the works of any writer who has faced sedition charges, a book ban or other forms of censorship.
Feel free to create your own protest.
Places where you might do public readings: subway and Metro stations, public parks, coffee shops, open areas in malls. If you’re talking about Flashreads on Twitter, please use the #flashreads hashtag.
If you have a blog, a tumblr or a website, an easy way to join in is to post Tagore’s poem, “Where the mind is without fear” (see below) on your site for a day, or choose any other passage on free speech/ censorship that appeals to you. Or write a post about free expression and what it's meant to you in your own life.
(You could do this on your Facebook / Google+ / other social site profile page too. On Twitter, consider linking to one of the many posts that contain this message. Or Tweet 'Where the mind is without fear' line by line, with the #flashreads hashtag
Where the mind is without fear
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.