In her press conference today, Jayalalithaa used the phrase "law and order" at least twenty times, and insisted that it was maintenance of this mythical entity that was the prime motivation behind banning Vishwaroopam, and not any number of political, personal or business conflicts she may have had with Kamal Hassan. What struck me as odd was that the outcome was only half-successful, and that too in a very convoluted reading.
Allow me to first explain my understanding of "law" and "order". The former is the governing set of rules and principles that dictate what is acceptable behaviour in a number of scenarios applicable to life within a nation's borders. The latter is the enforcement of these rules and principles by designated authorities, also in accordance with applicable rules and principles.
If one were to observe the Vishwaroopam ban ruling and the justification offered by the Chief Minister (and by a High Court bench), one is led to conclude that our governance machinery is altogether too willing to countermand the law in favour of maintaining a vestige of order. By throwing up her hands and saying that the Tamil Nadu Police is understaffed and ill-equipped to protect the citizens against violence, Jayalalithaa has also declared her failure at applying the law to those parties who would cause the violence. This would be the Muslim groups who had announced demonstrations against the films outside the 524 cinema halls scheduled to screen the film, and had abdicated responsibility towards any violent activity that may occur. In other words, they may cause damage to property and injury to innocent bystanders, but it wouldn't be their fault. Of course, the law says that violent acts such as these are unacceptable and punishable, so what law is Jayalalithaa upholding by allowing these threats to not just go unchallenged, but to be supported by the government? And what sort of order would you maintain, when it is these goons who lay down the law and not the elected government? Is it really "law and order" that the TN government are enforcing, or the tacit yet public surrender to extra-legal and mob-fuelled fear and survival at any cost?
And what about Kamal Hassan's right to make the film of his choosing? Jayalalithaa is happy to not curb his freedom of expression; she only wants to stop him from freely expressing himself. The refusal of our "leaders" to acknowledge the role of a national Censor Board and "reasonable restrictions" on freedom of expression as a muzzle would be laughable if it weren't such a prevalent thought among the citizens that free speech should have its limits. And in the end, a democracy will get the government it deserves.