Vidyut, Aug 25,2012
I have lampooned our government often over censorship and it is a Congress Government [each word is one among dozens of links on this blog criticizing our government on regimenting free speech]. This is because it is the UPA government in power. The BJP aint smelling sweet on this though I made the mistake of ignoring them.
Today, the BJP supporters online are vocal in criticizing government censorship and being condescending with anyone not supporting the shining ideal – “absolute” freedom of speech, with Twitter flooded with criticism of the Congress for using censorship for political purposes. While this cannot be disputed – our government is indeed trying to regiment dissent into compliance in various ways – both online and offline, the high moral ground currently taken by the BJP, in my view is little more than a farce when the only time it is heard is when accounts affiliated with their interests are blocked. This, in my view is not a fight for right to freedom of speech and it is pressure to reverse blocks to protect their own interests.
The washing hands off any responsibility for the condition of our freedoms of speech in my view is rubbish. BJP has played a role in censoring Speech, which it conveniently ignores now, when it wishes free speech for its own.
The first major instance of internet censorship in India was when the website Dawn.com was blocked in 1999 during the Kargil War. Rediff had posted a workaround. The IT Act didn’t exist then, but here is how it was done anyway.
VSNL Acting Chairman and Managing Director Amitabh Kumar toldRediff ”Yes. We have blocked the site. But it is under instruction from higher authorities.” When asked about the legality of the order, Kumar said “We have done it under the authority given to us by the Indian Telegraph Act.”
The next year itself, the IT Act passed. I was living in Manali when the IT Act of 2000 was passed and a mighty puzzled dehati when all of a sudden all the cyber cafes started warning of watching pornographic or “obscene” content on their premises. It was the starting point of the government moralizing use of the internet. The 67th point in the Information Technology Act described offenses:
67. Publishing of information which is obscene in electronic form.
Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees.
Their hounding of Tehelka for their Operation Westend expose is probably on par with the Wikileaks hounding by US – for exposing grave wrongs in defense forces too. Accusations of “ISI hand”, “fabricated videos”, etc – that BJP supporters jeer at today coming from Congress politicians have been a part of that persecution. Today their supporters are furious about blocks on Twitter profiles that still leave them with the ability to get their word out and have no impact on their journalism.
Read more here http://aamjanata.com/scented-handwash-bjp-supporters-struggle-for-freedom-of-speech
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