The fourth day of the Kerala Literature Festival continued with a session featuring Sagarika Ghose in conversation with UAE-based journalist Anjana Sankar about her book “Why I Am A Liberal”.
Sagarika Ghose began the session by speaking about why she is a liberal – “Because I believe in individual freedom and liberty, that the government exists to serve the individual and not vice versa, because I believe in equality of all religions, caste, and women. You should have the freedom to eat what you want, write what you want and worship whom you want.”
She feels irrespective of who would lead India, we would have seen the rise of hatred in India. What prompted her to write the book was the rising attack on liberalism and to find who the Indian liberal is. She continued on to state that one thing a liberal cannot tolerate is the recourse to violence. She elaborated on the simple statement that “my freedom exists because yours exists”.
She believes that liberals are under attack because of the selective nature that some “liberals” display and that liberals need to apologize for the mistakes committed in the past. She also noted that the Congress party has been as illiberal as the BJP in many ways.
On the topic of women under attack online, Ghose stated that women are the common enemy on social media. India remains in a deeply patriarchic culture. In this kind of patriarchy, people seek to confine women within the metaphorical “Lakshman Rekha”. She also insisted that discriminating against menstruating women is illegal when the conversation shifted to the topic of Sabarimala. She believes the issue comes down to the persecution of female sexuality, which is perceived as threatening to society.
Sagarika Ghose went on to dispel that liberals are just part of the English-speaking elite community in India, rather than India’s history has seen the rise of many liberals like Buddha, Mirabai, Gauri Lankesh and so forth. She feels that liberalism is embedded in the heart and soul of the Indian subcontinent.
Democratically elected leaders are turning out to be the greatest adversaries of democracy in today’s political climate. When one is called antinational for disagreeing with the government of India, it goes against the democratic structure of our country. She went on to say that she was very impressed with the state of Kerala because of the people power prevailing here. She feels this is because Kerala is not a one-party state which creates competition and space for civil society.
Blog by Neetha Kurup