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All Sanity Has ‘Left’ India…

Dina Mehta and other Indian Bloggers  are reporting the apparent clampdown of the Indian Government on 12 ‘radical’ websites. Notable among these being Blogger – the popular blog provider for India.

Yes, you read the last one right.

Blogger can no longer be accessed through certain Indian ISPs. The Indian Govt. has painstakingly put together a list of sites, running into twenty-two pages, that must be blocked by all Indian ISPs. Blogger’s one of them

I am speechless. There are so many things, I want to say, but don’t know where to start.

Shivam Vij, tried to contact the authorities seeking a clarification about the issue. He was was made to (virtually) run from pillar to post, and ended up with a curt, “What’s your problem? Someone must have blocked some site. So?” Typical.

A few national dailies took it up and reported it. Hindustan Times and Indian Express each had a story to tell, but it was more of a report than a story. The
Times of India (link not up yet), too had it’s own take on the entire affair. Notice the absolutely moderate, even submissive tone of the reports. It is as if they are trying to distance themselves from the entire fiasco.

Ok, I agree, some of the websites in the list might be classified as fanatic to the extreme. There might even be some Bloggers with extreme religious views. But a blanket ban? Why would anybody want to censor this blog? It’s stupid.

A few years ago, Yahoo! Groups was blocked because they found a few subversive groups using the tool to convey messages to each other. The same blanket ban was enforced even then.

Even if we assume that the websites are guilty of propagating theories and sentiments detrimental to the national interest. Wouldn’t it make much more sense if the owners of these websites were called in for questioning under the same clause? A blanket ban only serves to inconvenience everyone, while helping none.

The dilemma is simple: How far can you stretch the right to express your opinions?

Have the conversations gone a bit too far this time?

Technorati Tags: Blogs, Censorship, Religion

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Author: Chris Berry

13 thoughts on “All Sanity Has ‘Left’ India…

  1. Markus:

    No offense meant. But how do you merge the virtual world with the real? Most of us with anonymous blogs would claim that it defeats the purpose of the virtual world, eh? I am sure there must be some way…

    Mikro2nd:
    I agree whole-heartedly. The routing of the server still wouldn’t help, because entire domains were blanketed, so whether the server was inside India or outside didn’t matter, really. As for Zimbabweans, my heart goes out to them. Keep the faith, keep the hope.

    In fact, the Indian Govt. has lifted the Blanket ban on all the Blogs today. Of course, the speed with which the Govt. machinery works, will ensure that the order will come into effect some time tomorrow…

    Thanx and regards
    Shrikant.

  2. that blogging from Zimbabwe is likely to get you arrested (or simply “disappeared”). Whilst the situation in India is deplorable, India has the massive advantage of still being more-or-less a democracy, so it is likely that the situation will, sooner or later, be corrected.

    As some people have pointed out, savvy admins in India will likely have moved stuff to servers outside India pretty quickly, and that’s one way that the ‘net “routes around damage”.

    The only way for Zimbabwean (political news and comment) bloggers to get their news out is to send their encrypted posts to someone who they may or may not know or trust, and have their stuff published anonymously. In fact, the act of encrypting email is enough to raise suspicion.

    Seriously, they (and people in several other places – hello Somalia!) need all the help they can get! http://irrepressible.info/ if you want to help.

  3. Politicians are no idiots. They have managed to climb the public ladder and get power. That power is exactly what you are seeing.

    That’s a good reason for the fuzzy Internet movement to get organized, become political and through that get power.

  4. Ahmed:

    I like the way you have put those things. Makes everything a tad clearer. Agree that there is no level playing field. But the censor has to have a rationale. It is when there is no rationale that people like us speak out, isn’t it?

    Ravi:
    Yes. but slightly different: the Left pertains to the ‘Left’ bent of mind and is not meant to be an insult. Somehow, the blanket ban reminded me of the Big Brother of ‘1984’. No offense meant to any entity political or otherwise

    BlackVV:
    Partially agree with you there. But its not about any particular religion. Neither is it about legislations. The Blanket ban has been neatly explained in the Mutiny Blog (link in Comment #2 of this post). But all the same, I agree that the blanket ban is a pretty poor excuse of a reason.

    Sometimes I think we doubt our politicians too much. What if they are not the idiots we portray them to be?

    Regards,
    Shri.

  5. I thought India was a pretty ‘free’ place, regardless of politics etc. Most have to admit that Hinduism is hardly the most aggressive or extreme religion in the world. Of course, some things are damaging in the extreme, such as child abuse websites (in whatever form). However, blanket bans just reek of legislation brought in by politicians who simply do not understand the technology, or what is happening therein.

  6. I am curious. Is this somehow supposed to insult the political Left (which usually is the one getting censored!)?

  7. Shrikant:

    Like I said, this is a case where authority / power is unchallenged. That authority is provided through political means.

    As for what you said – there is no “level playing field” for freedom of speech. Whatever escapes ‘media scrutiny’ and mass coverage can get away with whatever they wish. Sites and individuals that are made the center of attention by the media and are judged publicly are often censored without any rational explanation given.

  8. I wasn’t talking political:

    I was simply wondering how much of your freedom are you allowed to abuse before the controls of an authority can be set?

    We talk about freedom of speech and right to religion in the same breath. We talk about internet freedom and the digg-effect in the same breath.

    How do you define the extent of the freedom of speech? Does ranting count as inciting? Does leaving spam comments count as pilfering and provoking? Or invasion of privacy, even?

    The people who set up the web site could claim to be posting content for a niche. I might find a community about knitting cheesy and/or corny. Someone else may not. Entire websites are dedicated to gruesome stuff. Aren’t they hurting sentiments? What about the Evangelists?

    How free is free?

  9. This happened in Pakistan in March (Blogspot is banned in Pakistan), and those sites are still banned four months later.

    This isn’t the place to discuss politics, but this is just a natural extension of what happens when power is unchallenged.

  10. It’s easy to look at the Internet as the ultimate exercise in democracy (or anarchy, depending on your attitude) but every now and then we’re reminded that being in a non-democratic society can have a huge effect on how the net looks for you.

    Now if we only had a democratic society…

  11. Typical federal regulation. Make it big but don’t think about it before. Every web savvy admin will have a server up in some other country in a short time.

  12. Crazy stuff. Talk about using a warhead to crack a nut! For some technically savvy users this will not be a problem but for the vast majority it is a shame. I expect it is only the tip of the iceberg.

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