Personal Liberty and Morality

A compulsive gaze at an English newspaper on my mobile looking for some political scoop, there was none to attract my attention, but, what caught my eye was a news about a food delivery app – Zomato. “Epic reply by Zomato to a customer who refused to accept order”, blared the news title. Dismissing it as usual misguiding headline I proceeded with my work. In any case I was not going to read any news, it was just an addictive tap on my mobile.

After a long day as I switched on the TV, combative news anchors aggressively questioned the misadventure by a nondescript man. This Hindu gentleman had refused to accept food order after he came to know a Muslim was delivering it. He posted it on twitter also and Zomato rebuffed it as well.

Moot point is not what happened on twitter and why the man refused order. At the end of day this man claimed he exercised personal liberty and Zomato and others called it breach of morality. Important question is to what extent morality and personal liberty run as parallel lines. Do they really meet at infinite or they do criss-cross every now and then.

In our country where Bharat tere tukde honge Insha allah slogan are played and replayed on TV and people watch it without even shuffling on their sofas, what can be questioned as immoral is a very loosely defined subject. Yet test of morality and question of personal liberty need to be questioned in very objective manner, without considering the past precedents.

Was he entitled by virtue of personal liberty to refuse this order, yes he was, at least I throw my weight behind this. I come from a place where every feast is cooked by a Brahmin, that too one who wears a Janeau. He never allows anyone into his kitchen, no matter who he is, until the one intending to enter kitchen is a Brahmin and wears a Janeau. No exceptions, what so ever. The society doesn’t even seem to notice it, leave alone questioning it.

A small Muslim village has a peaceful co-existence with Hindus of this town. A feast in Muslim houses has many Hindu guests for whom separate kitchen is set, none objects to it as well. No one bothers to wonder if morality has been breached, perhaps that’s the basis of peaceful co-existence. The people in this town have surrendered and exercise personal liberties for the sake of peaceful coexistence.

If morality and personal liberty run as parallel lines then this debate ends sine die. The rights conferred by constitution, to a very large extent endorse the view that I am free to exercise personal liberty. In that case anyone exercising personal liberty cannot be questioned about morality of his act. Even if we disagree on this, one cannot be accused, shamed and insulted because one who questions believes the other way. Everyone is entitled to his personal views, you have divergent views, so be it, let’s move ahead.

If the lines of morality and personal liberty criss cross, which ideally should, my personal liberty becomes subject of morality. Still, can I be questioned for the choice I made out of my personal liberty? I believe yes, I should be questioned, as this is the only tool which holds the social fabric of morality in place, but by whom is still debatable. Society at large and the self-styled harbingers of morality are not entitled to question it, because all of them have breached morality in exercise of personal liberty innumerable times. How consequential or inconsequential that breach of morality and exercise personal liberty was, is inconsequential.

Such issues are best left to themselves, they will settle with time, collective conscience of society will itself find equilibrium. Issues of subjects like personal liberty and morality are not binary. Lot of grey is there. The debates like this one erupt only when subconsciously we know that the issue is not binary yet we try to measure it on scale of black and white.

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