|Enough is enough, Mr Kapil Sibal|
Scarred by scams and scandals, of which the UPA-II government seems to be mired in abundance, and pushed on the backfoot by the opposition on virtually every issue of national interest, it seemed as if the government was waiting for an opportunity to release steam. Hence, Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal’s – no greenhorn to the foot-in-mouth syndrome himself – epic blunder of a proposal that social networking sites, Google, Facebook and Twitter in particular, ought to be brought under censorship.
Unsurprisingly, India’s netizens have railed against the proposal. In fact, stating so may rank as the understatement of all time. In one imbecilic statement, Sibal signalled his return as the new butt of jokes that serenade the nation, upstaging titans such as Digvijaya Singh and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, to name a microscopic few, in the process.
Sibal’s rationale for gagging the internet in India is as laughable as the proposal itself. According to him, the “cultural ethos” and the “sensibilities of people” are important. Agreed, but can someone explain to him that the Indian Constitution, in Article 19 (1) (a), enshrines its citizens the freedom of expression? And that our social networking sites are already flagging and removing objectionable content? Most importantly, whose “sensibility” was he was referring to? Reports that Sibal was anguished at a morphed picture of self-styled godman Yoga guru Baba Ramdev carrying Sonia Gandhi in his arms – which became a rage on the net, and will continue to, thanks to hon. Sibal, have hit the internet already. Will he start his megalomaniac censorship drive with these reports?
In comparison, this makes the backlash to the Danish publication that carried a supposedly derogatory cartoon of Prophet Mohammed – which even led to the straining of diplomatic ties – seem like a quarrel between school kids.
Obvious as it is, the sea of unpopularity that the UPA-II has been wallowing in ever since it came to power must have been the prime reason for the minister making the statement. It would not be an exaggeration to state that this government is the most inept and morally backward our nation has ever seen. In fact, had it not been for a hopelessly divided opposition that is bereft of inspirational leaders and continues to run around in circles, UPA-II should have been laid to rest long ago. It would not be misappropriate to liken the UPA-II regime as a government that should not have been. (Still in doubt? Take this test. Question no 1: Name a contemporary politician that you feel proud of. Question no 2: Do you think Manmohan Singh is an able prime minister?) Needless to say, elaborating on the scandals that have erupted in recent times is as pointless as wearing sunglasses at night. The aam-aadmi, cherished by our political parties, may not know what Section 49-O of the Indian Constitution guarantees him, but is certainly well-informed on the intricacies of the loot of the now infamous 2G spectrum scandal. But we digress.
Does this mean that such websites are emotional powder kegs of ammunition waiting for someone to light their fuses? Going by Sibal’s logic some of the worst riots the nation has ever witnessed in recent times, the Godhra train massacre and the killing that followed, the naxal menace and the insurgency in Kashmir, can be attributed to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. By the way, the Babri Masjid demolition took place when Indian households were struggling to make long-distance telephone calls, leave alone broadband internet.
Adding to this quagmire is the principal opposition party, the BJP’s stand on the issue. It welcomes the proposal, but does not approve of Sibal’s move. This can be construed as any ruling party is bound to face discontent, and no ruling party is prepared to face criticism.
Sensibility or not, such a proposal could be passed in India, only if it were a banana republic governed by a tin-pot dictator. Already, the UPA-II and with it India are showing signs of progressing in that direction.
And I challenge, nay invite Sibal to start his censorship drive with this blogpost!