Atanu Dey On India's Development

Kanchan Gupta on the Govt’s Attempt at Censorship

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Kapil Sibal’s uncivilized behavior has to have the backing and protection of the Queen Antonia Maino aka Sonia Gandhi. As @vinod_sharma pointed out, “Sibal can’t be head of Gestapo unless there is a Hitler who wants him to do whatever it takes promote & protect him. Why silence about that?” Kanchan Gupta writing in Mid-Day, “A brazen attempt at political censorship” notes that censorship is nothing new: the Congress party and the Nehru-Gandhi family have a history of trying to dictate to the press and muzzle free expression.

. . . Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal’s strange decision to wade into a needless battle with the chattering classes, a battle that will leave him with a bleeding nose. His claimed intention behind summoning representatives of Google, Yahoo! and other service providers and demanding that all content should be pre-screened to weed out that that which is ‘offensive’ is to preserve law and order.

That’s bunkum. Delhi is abuzz with whispers that certain exalted individuals, whom Mr Sibal describes as “popular politicians”, are not pleased with being rudely caricatured and lampooned. Since most of the lampooning is facilitated by Photoshop, a logical extension of Mr Sibal’s move should be to ban the program from Indian shores. This would be of a piece with what many Arab regimes once tried: Restricting the import and sale of printers as they feared these would be used for printing anti-establishment pamphlets. That could be followed with a ban on smart phones. Technology, after all, is a wrecker of the status quo.

Mrs Indira Gandhi tried to tame the Press during the 1975-77 Emergency. Lowly babus who could barely spell their names were appointed official censors and decided what was fit to print. Some 14 years later, Rajiv Gandhi tried to muzzle the media with his Press Bill but had to scrap it in the face of fierce protests.

We now have this brazen attempt to censor content on the Net, and it’s definitely not propelled by the noble desire to preserve communal amity. Of the 358 ‘requests’ for removal of pages and content received by Google from the Government between January and June this year, only eight pertained to ‘hate speech’, three to ‘pornography’ and one to ‘national security’.

Among the rest, 39 pertained to ‘defamation’, 20 to ‘privacy’ and 14 to ‘impersonation’. A whopping 255 ‘requests’ cited ‘criticism of Government’ as reason for removing content or pages. Google was asked to remove 236 items from Orkut and 19 from YouTube for the same reason.

It’s clear that what the Government is aiming for is political censorship of the Net. By doing so, it is treading the path adopted by China and other tin pot dictatorships. Understandably, the chattering classes are up in arms. And, as I said, a bloody nose awaits Mr Sibal.

Nehru introduced the first amendment to the Indian Constitution — which restricts freedom of expression. His spawn continued to walk along that path. India will never be truly free until the Congress party is given a decent burial.

  • Aditya

    Atanu, unfortunately, I do not see BJP up in arms against this. This isn’t a congress problem and would not go away if Congress goes. BJP, I presume, would do the same.

    The most fundamental problem is that a lot of us do not understand that the right to offend is fundamental to the right to freedom of expression. I had a couple of colleagues in office who were supporting sibal on the premise that offensive material should be removed.

  • Loknath

    Some commentor has put this succintly

    Govt. machinery is resourceful enough to police 10 crore online abusers but not 54 lakh group C and D Govt. scavengers.

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

    Not a decent burial but a complete burial.
    Death to all CONgressis

  • http://www.prativad.com Noori Khan

    good said….