Atanu Dey On India's Development

India’s Much Vaunted Freedom

| 20 Comments

I think the reports of India’s independence from colonial rule are severely exaggerated. Indians have been under foreign rule for several centuries and have become accustomed to being treated like irresponsible slaves, demanding to be controlled. Sure they do “democratically” determine who will rule them, but in the end, they are still slaves entrusted with the task of electing their masters. And the masters decide what the slaves will hear, read, and write. Let me explain why I hold the slaves with special contempt — because they acquiesce so willingly to their slavery.

Consider this news item: “New IT rules may make cyber cafés out of bounds for users“.

NEW DELHI: If the new rules framed by the Department of Information Technology for using cyber cafés are implemented in letter and spirit, they could well force people without their own computers to stay away from accessing the Internet, besides compelling the owners of these small businesses to store minute details about their customers’ surfing habits in the face of penal action.

Notified last month, the IT (Guidelines for Cyber Café) Rules, 2011, require cyber café customers to furnish proper identification proof, a copy of which must be stored for a year.

. . .

Additionally, cyber café owners must photograph their customers and maintain a detailed time-log of each of their visits. A soft and hard copy of these usage logs, which will include the customer’s photograph and ID proof, must be submitted to a government-designated “person or agency” every month.

. . .

Incredibly, the new rules, framed under the Information Technology Act, 2008, even specify the kind of furniture a cyber café must have. Cubicles with partitions higher than four-and-a-half feet will be illegal, and cafés are obligated to place terminals in such a way that computer screens face “outward” (towards common open space of the café) and can be easily monitored.

The new guidelines say that computers in cyber cafés should be equipped with “commercially available safety or filtering software so as to avoid, as far as possible, access to the websites relating to pornography including child pornography or obscene information.”

Further, cyber café owners need to put a display board, clearly visible to users, prohibiting them from viewing pornographic sites as well as copying or downloading information that is prohibited under the law.

About 10 percent of Indians have access to the internet, only a minority of whom I guess have internet access at home. If you are poor, the government will be standing behind you, looking over your shoulder to make sure that you only see and hear what the government approves of.

Deutsche Welle reports:

The Minister for Communications and IT, Sachin Pilot, has said the restrictions concern only content that might be considered “objectionable.” This includes material that “hurts the sentiments of certain individuals or communities, challenges the sovereignty of the nation or causes a threat to internal security.”

However, activists warn that while most of the restrictions in the rules are based on India’s criminal law and deal with blasphemous, obscene and defamatory material, some limitations are so loosely worded that they could easily be misused against netizens who are used to speaking their mind freely, whether about politics or other sometimes sensitive matters.

They feel that the rules are unreasonable as they undermine the free speech that is supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution.

Hey mister activist, I have news for you. Two out of three Indians cannot read. They could not read the Constitution even if they wanted. But even among the minority who can read, a vanishingly small percentage have read it. For all practical purposes, the Constitution of India could be an elaborate hoax.

Freedom of speech is a joke in India. Most Indians do not know that the rulers of India do not permit citizens to disseminate news on radio.

NEW DELHI, India — Even in Asia’s supposed bastion of free speech, India, news radio is illegal.

Newspapers are allowed, and so are television stations. But those media reach mainly the rich. For the bulk of India’s more than 1 billion people, radio is all they have.

Restricting radio, then, is a powerful way to keep information from the masses. [Globalpost.]

I have been ranting about this for a while. Here’s a bit from a post from May 2007:

Even after British left, the structures they had created for controlling the economy in general, and the educational system more specifically, remained intact. The new political leaders saw it was beneficial for them not to deviate from the old colonial goal of imposing an extractive and exploitative government on the people. By continuing to control the education system, they were able to impose a degree of control over the population that would be unthinkable in a free society.

Universal primary education was especially neglected because it would have given rise to universal literacy. Universal literacy is not a good thing if the status quo is to be maintained in a regime which allows freedom of the press. It is safe to allow a free press if two out of three people cannot read. Freedom of the press is not meaningful — and is not a threat to the power structure — in a society of illiterates. We should note in passing that whether literate or not, people can hear and speak. So while the press was allowed freedom in a largely illiterate society, radio was absolutely government controlled, consistent with the aim of an exploitative and extractive system. [Source: The Indian Education System - Part 3.]

Sometimes I feel sorry for the slaves but in the end I am forced to feel contempt. I wrote this in March 2010.

I used to wonder how small marauding bands of barbarians ruled India for centuries, or how a few thousand people from a tiny island in the Atlantic ruled for nearly a hundred years a population of hundreds of millions.

Now I wonder no more. I think there is something in the Indian psyche that make Indians very easy to rule. The foreign rulers have been (to a large extent) replaced by domestic ones. There aren’t all that many rulers relative to the population.

All told, if you consider the members of the various state and central legislative bodies, the bureaucrats in the various ministries, the police and judiciary — all told it cannot amount to more than a few hundred thousand people. But like their foreign counterparts before 1947, these rule over hundreds of millions.

The poor sods — nearly 1,200,000,000, or one thousand two hundred million — cowering spineless sods dutifully obey the diktats of the rulers.

If this had been a population with any spine, any dignity, or honor, they would have dragged the criminals ruling over them on to the streets and strung them up from the lamp posts.

All the poor sods have to do is to drag half a dozen of the most corrupt politicians and judges and lynch them. The other few hundred thousands would get into line. They will know that it is they who are the servants and the people are the rulers.

  • http://contemplationist.wordpress.com Contemplationist

    I consider myself very well informed and I was shocked that I did not know about the radio news prohibition. That explains a lot.

  • vikram

    atanu ji

    thanks for enlightening us. quite a mind-opener, and thought provoking post.

    in this post you are basically raising what ramdev has been raising for many years now.

    i am not saying that you are copying or he copying people like you – but i mean that both of you are able to see the issue and are doing things to make people aware your way

    just that ramdev’s way of dealing with the issue is different from yours, and yours is different from his

    • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

      Vikram–

      just that ramdev’s way of dealing with the issue is different from yours, and yours is different from his

      I am sorry but I am not fully aware of what Baba Ramdev’s way of dealing with India’s lack of freedom is. Do feel free to give some pointers. Thanks.

  • A

    I love Mr. Activist’s touching concern for blasphemous material.

  • http://themmindset.wordpress.com/ The Mindset

    The cafe thing is meaningless nobody will care.
    i have seen it myself. In a country where you can get a driving license by paying 1200 rupees in cash without even touching the wheel, these things don’t even value.
    As for radio news we have FM radio, listen to Bollywood(The Wh*rehouse) songs
    here is a joke on Indian Constitution

    A student went to a Library and asked the librarian:Sir where can I find a copy of Indian Constitution
    The librarian: In the “JOKES” section

  • Loknath

    Atanu,

    Do they still have Binaca Geet Mala and Amin Sayani and Vivid Bharati on Radio.

    I hear people still write post cards to request third class songs of some obscure singer from obscure era, only to be entertained some 5 months later by the All India Radio. The courtesy announcements of the names of people who wrote post cards ran sometimes 5 times more than the song duration, nevertheless juntaa got thrilled to hear their names of their 3 dozen extended family members being read out…

    Just a manifestation of how easy is to control and rule indians

    • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

      Loknath,

      Have not heard much Indian radio of late — so totally clueless whether the same song and dance routines are the mainstay of radio programming.

  • SV

    I think your posts should be published in OpEd on popular newspapers in India, not just in English, in regional languages as well. At least people who read that will understand how they are being enslaved. Making more people aware is the only way out of this

  • VANJ

    Atanu – Can you elaborate on “Most Indians do not know that the rulers of India do not permit citizens to disseminate news on radio”?

    As per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_radio#India things seem to have changed since the 1995 Supreme Court ruling.

    Thanks

    • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

      VANJ–

      News and current affairs programming on radio is banned by the Govt of India. The community radio stations are only licensed to broadcast (if you can call it that) educational content.

  • vikram

    atanu ji
    am just now busy because of work overload
    will get back soon on this

  • VANJ

    Just like one of the other comments, I too must confess that I am surprised at myself that I didn’t know about this radio ban in India.

    Hopefully new initiaves like http://www.dabbaradio.org/Site/Dabba_Radio_Mission.html this one will flourish.

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  • bourne

    Not only is media not as free as it should be, but our minister for information (Ambika Soni) recently claimed that Indian media is the “freest in the world” and in a conference organized by the sycophantic Press Council of India. I added a note to her Wikipedia profile contrasting her statement with well known press freedom indices on which India ranks very low. Someone deleted that paragraph (even though I posted references for all my statements and there was no abusive language or false claims). I have undone the delete but I think it will be deleted again.

    Ambika Soni’s profile:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambika_Soni

    See the second paragraph in the Controversy section for my note on her comment on press freedom. If you don’t see a second para, it will have been deleted again (so it is copied here):

    “At the International Colloquium on Freedom of Expression and Human Rights organized by the Press Council of India on April 28th, 2011, she claimed that “Our media is probably the freest in the world,”.[6] This when the Press Freedom Index 2010 (by the Reporters Without Borders group) ranked India at 122[7] and, the Freedom of the Press 2010 Global Rankings (by Freedom House) ranked India at 72.[8] And, there are serious concerns on regulators putting a tight leash on Internet Free Speech.[9]”

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-has-world-s-freest-media-Soni/Article1-690812.aspx

  • vikram

    let me confess that it was spur of the moment comment… actually there is similarity and differences in urs and ramdevs approach

    anyways
    as far as i understand this is ramdevs way of dealing with india’s lack of freedom (obviously this my limited incomplete view, and i am not working for ramdev – and yes i am ramdev fan too)

    i think ramdev realizes well that most of the people of india are sort of sleeping and stuck up in daily loops and loops created by asuras (selfish people – corrupt/selfish politicians, bureaucrats, and corporates), they could have been lots better, but they have gone low, way low, they are living limited lives, are very much selfish now, and donno dont realize the results of their actions and inaction… that by trying to run away from the problem they can not really run away from them, since they are everywhere, and by ignoring the problems the problems will not go away by themselves so its super imperative to make people come out of this loop and ignorance. i think he realizes well that people have to be brought to better level, and only when they are rid of these common problems and loops, that they will be think any bit higher, for society, etc, and that they will be able to listen to the voice within (atma ki awaz).

    i think he also well realizes and knows numerous forms of the problem, and hence is working to deal with the problem at various fronts, at different levels
    of course he is not perfect and not infinitely wise, but he is working continuously on the problem, and correcting the course, and has various plans that are not know in public

    hence he has been doing the following (incomplete list of what i know)

    health and mind campaign
    - he has been working to bring people out of the physical problems – health problems
    - teaching/preaching/inspiring people to be more active – by setting example, and teaching yog, and inspiring them and showing example that doing yog+pranayam+vyayam daily will make them active, help them earn more, will lead to better lives
    - telling importance of peaceful (not restless) mind, and helps people achieve it by pranayam meditation
    - helping and getting people out of addictions, addiction of alcohol, smoking, tobacco, etc
    - he has been preaching/teaching/reminding importance of being grouped/together/unity, which is also one problem in india because of varieties
    - during all these he talks about spirituality, and being spiritual and does not talk about religions,
    - in all this he uses simple language and simple short statements, punchy statements to make an impact and to connect with people and to help people remember the important points. for example ‘sab agar sach ka samarthan aur galat ka virodh karey to sab kaam ek din mein hojaye’, ‘agar aap sach ka samarthan nahi karte, to aap sach ke virodh mein hein’, ‘jo desh bhakta nahi, vah desh drohi hai’,
    - has spoken heavily against gm food, until its properly tested, and also on the issue that it may corrupt our indigenous varieties of crops (for this also purchased a previously made movie by mahesh bhatt ‘poison on platter’ and had shown on aastha after getting it translated in hindi)
    - has popularized yog tremendously, there was a time when people had never heard the work pranayam, and obviously did not know literal meaning of pranayam, he has made is so common that everyone now knows that proper breathing, deep breathing is important for health, and that alternate nostril breathing is very good for brain and eyes.
    - just this year he got a international yog conference organized which was attended by doctors, experts and scholars and practitioners from india and abroad, including uk, italy, america, australia. it was also attended by bks iyengar. as an example this conference had doctors working on effect of yog on cancer, from worlds renowned cancer research institute in us md anderson

    campaign to provide alternate and in some aspects better medicinal system – yog + ayurveda
    - to provide an alternative and more reliable medical system has worked and established and popularized ayurveda way more than what central or state governments have done (over 1500 centers where free ayurvedic consultation, and classical medication is used to cure health problems of people)
    - almost daily speaks about simple home remedies to resolve common and typical health problems
    - has established patanjali yog peeth (yog university) to teach yog and ayurveda in detail… which is probably the biggest yog university in the world
    - one of his main point in this is that he is not opposed to allopathy or other systems, but when most of the common problems can be cured with yog and ayurveda then why 97% of health budget is to promote allopathy and 3% for all other systems
    - using the donations of the people has setup supposedly worlds biggest food park, to avoid fruits and vegetables that go wasted because of lack of processing facilities

    public awareness campaign
    - in this all this, or along all this he has been running jan jaagran abhiyan, and connecting with people of the same type, and working to unite good people – raising various numerous issues. for example dr. rajiv dixit after years of struggle raising such issues, joined with him, and raised various issues from his platforms, along with him. dr. rajiv dixit passed away, but there are 100 hrs of his recording which are replayed, and easily available on cds where numerous issues have been raised.
    - has raised various issues with common man like… PM should be accountable to the people, and hence should be elected by the people and not party, at present the pm is accountable to his party more than the people of india
    - has been speaking the issue of black money, money in swiss accounts, rampant corruption and adulteration now for years, and that how mncs also try to kill local/regional works and industry to have maximum profits
    - thru his tv programs got the issue of manu smriti against women and dalit , etc exposed in detail by expert on this subject – proving that not just manusmriti but other books too get corrupted over time by people of vested interests, and that the people who use manu smriti to divide people are the real culprit because they speak only half truth
    - has spoken time and again about the importance of politics and political education. i remember once that one person from his platform spoke some harsh/negative words about politics in general that its useless and something such, and he corrected him that politics is essential for state, and that its the corrupt politicians who are the problem and not politics perse
    - has made some vital facts common knowledge – like there are roughly more than 10000 lakh crore of minerals in india and they are slowly and continuously being looted because of collusion of the corrupt

    self-pride campaign
    - working to develop self-pride, since its the lack of self-pride, and lack of knowledge what we are, and what our good past has been, is that people solely believe that westerners are the only ones better than us, and that we have been poor otherwise in every aspect
    - for self-pride and (repeated >) to provide an alternative and more reliable medical system has worked and established and popularized ayurveda way more than what central or state governments have done (over 1500 centers where free ayurvedic consultation, and classical medication is used to cure health problems of people)
    - made tv programs on veda, upanishad, sanskriti/sanskaar, darshan shastra, etc
    - has been travelling for past more than 6 months throughout india, connecting with and connecting with indians who are nationalistic, connecting various others social and spiritual leaders, and spreading awareness among the masses

    save village and villagers, and herbs/fauna campaign
    - also working to save villages, and to have self-dependent villages – he has been speaking for years now for importance and need of proper water management in the nation, and has been working with some people in this field where approaches are being identified to teach/help simple yet better water management to villagers
    - has been speaking of conspiracy of the concept that only pesticides and crop promoting chemical by huge mncs are the way to have better crops, and has shown and working on alternatives of organic farming, which is even giving better resultes (for example once they had a huge yog camp just for villagers, and there for more than 3 hours there was lecture on this issue of use of pesticides in farms and alternative yet better methods, with all the details spelled out)
    - also promoting research and work on indian herbs, and organic farming – his trust celebrates a particular day as jadi booti diwas and invites people working on such issues, and award them… also published a compilation/encyclopedia sort on indian herbs with meticulously collected pictures of plants, with all possible known harmless uses of the plants, and also the related mantra in the ayurveda shastra giving proof the great and tremendous amount of work that was done by rishis of india… also working now to prepare world herbal encyclopedia which will have detailed mention of over 5500 herbs of which over 3500 are indian herbs
    - is working to develop one model fully self dependent village in every district – the work is about to start and is in progress. donations coming from indians and nris. these villages will be examples of proper water management, organic farming, villagers without any addictions, etc

    all this work he is doing at the grass roots level – for years he has been conducting camps in major and minor cities, and for past more than six months has been himself visiting still minor towns and visiting villages too

    i think he knows that common man is under pressure and stuck because of internal and external demons – and unless he gets rid of some of his internal demons he will not be able to fight or stand against the external demons… so he is working on multiple fronts to help common man fight with internal demons. i think he believes that the real fight has to start from within
    but he also probably realizes that there are various other fronts to this problem, and hence also working on various other things (some mentioned in the above list)

    i think he is selfless super hardworking person with a broad and high view of things too
    sure he looks rustic, sounds speaking populist statements, and does not speak english, and has not studied in english system – but he has a clean and calm mind – because otherwise he would have reacted to various attempts to incite him.
    i believe he keeps correcting and working on his approach.

    its because of these reasons that he has simply grown enormously since 1994 when he established the trust, and has got numerous donations from the common man – even when he does not give any mantra, mala, naam or anything such that is done by other babas/gurus. infact he time and again speaks that one should be careful about who one chooses to be guru (in one camp he even got a famous magician to show tricks to make a point that those who show getting things out of thin air or those who talk about the effect of shani etc are pakhandi/faudsters).

    i think he is smart that way ahead in time he realized it well that if he will speak agianst the powerful corrupt ones, right at the start he will be easily removed from their way – so he first worked on giving to people health and talked only about spirituality without talking about politics, now that he has trust relationship with people and proved that he does not have intentions of power or money, and now that he has gained lots of support and connected with lots of people of similar type that he is speaking about the problematic issues, still not taking any names and just raising the problems

    i have written way too long, and this is quite unorganized and incomplete list of what he does and speak and has raised

    all this i have written is from memory and way incomplete and unorganized
    what ramdev has been doing and raising is way lots more

    i would request that you read the leaflets and booklets he has published over time – they give some more picture how he has written/raised the problem
    he is the link of the documents i have collected and shared for all
    http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/3039328

  • vikram

    the scribd collection link in my previous post is incorrect

    this is the correct link – to booklets/pages published by ramdev over time

    http://www.scribd.com/collections/3039328/Swami-Ramdev-s-Writings

  • bourne

    I added this to Ambika Soni’s profile on Wikipedia:

    “At the International Colloquium on Freedom of Expression and Human Rights organized by the Press Council of India on April 28th, 2011, she claimed that “Our media is probably the freest in the world,”.[6] This when the Press Freedom Index 2010 (by the Reporters Without Borders group) ranked India at 122[7] and, the Freedom of the Press 2010 Global Rankings (by Freedom House) ranked India at 72.[8] And, there are serious concerns on regulators putting a tight leash on Internet Free Speech.[9]”

    Someone from NIC deleted this, I undid their deletes, this happened a couple of times. Now I get a message (from the minister’s office) saying that my comment is malicious and that they will take it up legally. My comments were factual and made with references and did not include any opinion of my own.

  • bourne

    Correction to my previous comment: the threat of legal action refers to a gmail id, so I can’t be sure that it is from the minister’s office (that is the claim).

  • RC
  • saurabh

    TheMindSet you are wrong

    I am using a cafe right now and they asked me for id card. It is not sab chalta hai everywhere. Rules should be followed and that is why they are important.

  • vikram

    Effect of ramdev’s efforts… finally indian government ratifies UN Convention Against Corruption.

    http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-05-13/india/29539746_1_convention-fight-corruption-assets

    This is just one item in the list of issues raised and being pushed thru his Satyagraha