Actor Kamal Haasan said on Sunday that a constant vigil is required to safeguard freedom of speech in a democracy. Recalling that the rise of Hitler in Germany and the imposition of emergency in India under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi came through normal democratic process, the 61-year-old said that freedom of speech cannot be taken for granted and people cannot "complacently think that democracy automatically means freedom of speech".

Delivering the keynote address at the annual India Conference of the Harvard University, Haasan said “Those evangelising democracy nowadays want us to believe that it is the only hope for freedom of speech. I, as an artist, believe that freedom of speech is separate from the ruling political state.” He added that he was not criticising India's democracy, but instead was proud of it and wanted the country to set an example for the rest of the world.

Haasan also said that the mix of religion and politics is not healthy. “What [India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal] Nehruji spoke of once of unity in diversity, now we are trying to lose it very fast. In a world of open source, protectionism cannot work like medieval times,” he said.