Big Brother is Watching, India (or Wants to)

Here, you have a democracy – touted as the largest democracy in the world. And proud of it, as it should be.

The Constitution of India gives its citizens certain fundamental rights that are encapsulated in these six categories:

1. Equality

2. Freedom of speech and expression

3. Right against exploitation

4. Freedom of religion

5. Cultural and education rights

6. Right to constitutional remedies for enforcement of fundamental rights of all citizens

Notwithstanding the challenges that lie in implementing these rights across this vast and complex country, these rights granted by the constitution to all its citizens ought to be and are celebrated. The fundamental rights were included in the constitution because they were considered essential for the development of the personality of every individual and to preserve human dignity.

Short history lesson: When the constitution was being drafted, it drew inspiration from England’s Bill of Rights, United States Bill of Rights and France’s Declaration of Rights of Man to create the fundamental human rights that exist in India today.

If there is one unarguable distinction and advantage that India has against the other emerging Asian giant (where comparisons are rife and inevitable) it is certainly this significant underlying aspect.

But last week, India’s minister of Human Resource Development (no less!) decided to seek censorship of the internet. This was not just one step backwards, it was a step back into the dark ages. What was the chump thinking?

Meeting with executives of Google, Facebook and Twitter, he asked that they institute policies and procedures to police the use of their respective services by Indians. He actually asked them to submit their content for screening of “objectionable” content!

They have all declined. But, can you just imagine what that kind of censorship in India could result in?

As a result of his declarations, #KapilSibal became one of the most popular hashtags on Twitter as India’s internet users erupted in outrage. As they should. What was the chump thinking? 

Since that time he has been defending his position, clarifying, explaining and backtracking. But Mr.Sibal, no amount of that is going to help your cause now. Best for you to keep silent for a long, long while and let all it blow over (if you’re lucky).

I never thought India could be grouped along with nations such as Russia, Egypt and China in matters of freedom of speech. As a result of words and actions by politicians in various countries like these (yikes, including India!), Hilary Clinton blasted these outrages in her speech at a recent international conference on digital freedom.

She said:“When ideas are blocked, information deleted, conversations deleted and people constrained in their choices, the internet is diminished for all of us. There isn’t an economic internet, a social internet and a political internet. There’s just the internet”.

There are examples of countries with no internet freedom, and with significant censorship (the worst offenders number thirteen, to be exact). They include Iran, North Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Syria…

But, democratic India?!  What was the chump thinking?

P.S. I do believe that Mr.Sibal would find my use of the word chump “objectionable” and in a freedom-restricted India, this entire post would likely be censored. But, hey, doesn’t he deserve it? 

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Photo Credit

Kapil Sibal: By World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland (Kapil Sibal  Uploaded by shizhao) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Posted on December 12, 2011, in india and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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