“By the way my daughter will not be able to sit for her tenth board examination next year if she doesn’t have an Aadhaar card. And this is ICSE — not a government education board” says TM Krishna, Carnatic music vocalist, who features in ‘Privacy matters’ — a music video, that is doing the rounds on the Internet.
The multilingual song, also featuring author Perumal Murugan, activist Sofia Ashraf and folk singer Sheethal Sathe, begins by “celebrating” the Supreme Court’s August 24 judgement that the Right to Privacy is fundamental and natural and then goes on to address the lurking elephant in the room — how Aadhaar card is infringing into the private space of a citizen.
Talking to indianexpress.com, Krishna said the Aadhaar registration, which started off as a voluntary system, is now curbing one’s very right to exercise the freedom of choice. “There is a separation between an individual’s private and public space that we are naturally entitled to. Aadhaar invades into all that,” he said. The 41-year-old said that it is quite scary to see how Aadhaar is not just a “service”. “It is a mechanism by which the powers can know all about you. Irrespective of which government is in power, our personal details can be manipulated,” he said. Krishna wonders that this in fact makes a person without an Aadhaar card a non-existent human in the eyes of the government and devalues the concept of citizenship. “This, in spite of his Voter ID, passport and ration card,” he said.
Before the the nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court held one’s right to privacy as sacrosanct and fundamental under the Indian constitution, Mukul Rohtagi, then attorney general of India had actually said that the concept of absolute right over one’s body is a myth and various laws have put restrictions on such a right. He said this in May this year, as he defended the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) and the Union of India in the Aadhaar-PAN mandatory link case in SC. He had argued in favour of the Aadhaar card by describing it as an “effective tool to check terror financing and black money.”
“That is as stupid an argument as that the government gave for demonetisation — that it will curb corruption and the flow of fake currency,” said Krishna. “You are saying because there are terrorists here, you can infringe upon every citizen in the country,” he said. In fact, what if tomorrow people say things the government doesn’t approve of and use their personal details against them, he asks.
The celebrated vocalist explains that the most important requirement for artists as himself to thrive is to have the right to a space where you are not being monitored. He said that Aadhar turns this concept completely on its head, thus automatically destroying all creative possibilities of an individual.
Krishna also emphasises on how the discussions pertaining to privacy should go beyond the urban, elite space. “People who live on the fringes are more vulnerable to those exploiting identities,” he said. So, Nityanand Jayaraman, writer and social activist, and Krishna decided to celebrate the verdict and then look at Aadhar through its eyes.