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December 12, 2011

The Indian state has not impressed anyone with its efficiency. So when a worthy in the government suddenly comes up with an idea that all on-line posts by people on social websites should be pre-censored, it obviously cannot be done by the state.

It will have to be done by the websites themselves. How they will understand what offends the Indian State is something of a mystery.

Be that as it may, the very idea is reprehensible. Liberal democracies would not like to do it. Article 19 (1) a of the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right, with the proviso that nothing (relating to this right) “shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, insofaras such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred (by the said sub-clause) in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence”.

Gobbledygook, quite civilised, but as amorphous as anything can be.

Someone must be feeling threatened.

The Internet has been a great reality that gave lots of freedom, real or illusory, to the lay public. I could publish a blog and not care about an editor’s will, pleasure or intellectual incapacity which would have prevented me from getting my ideas across. I could publish instantaneously, and in a world that was very nearly without borders. I did not have a big brother looking over my shoulder – or did I?

And it also gives the illusion of anonymity, and secure in this belief, the great unwashed do write abusive matter. Witness the terrible message boards of so many portals. (I think the portals do not mind – the more hits, the more of ad revenue).

But only China, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Cuba and such others that do not want their citizens to have free thought have their national firewalls and demands on websites for pre-censorship.

Oligarchs have always tried to enforce conformity, but we are told we are in a democracy. A plural society.

Tailpiece: It has been argued that all the subversion of the laws of the Weimar Republic that was so tragically to result in the misery and catastrophe of World War II was the simple assumption of emergency powers by Hitler under the Weimar constitution itself, starting with a phony fire in the Reichstag. The most liberal set ups still have to provide for emergency powers. But despite the USA-PATRIOT Act, I admire the way the American public still enjoy their freedoms. Not so lucky for us in India. During our own Emergency of the 70’s, there was such an orchestrated campaign to have a committed bureaucracy, a committed judiciary – reminding one of the Gleichschaltung of the Third Reich. The trend raises its ugly head periodically, even without an “emergency”, like the then proposed “Anti-defamation bill” of the late 80’s. And now this.


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  1. Aaro Oruvan permalink

    The only thing that prevents me from being very worried is that the Indian government’s all-consuming desire for control is exceeded only by its equally all-consuming incompetence. 😉

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