It is hard to imagine that almost a whole generation of kids in Kashmir may have grown up without watching a movie in a cinema theatre. That is what religious extremism brings about. The Kashmiri Hurriyat separatist leader, Syed Geelani, even considers it “immoral” to watch movies. No wonder kids in the valley find stone-pelting such a thrilling and rewarding experience. Geelani is not the only one who believes censorship and bans make for a healthy society. The latest one to join the moral brigade is union minister Kapil Sibal. Much has been already said and written about Sibal’s move to censor social networks so I won’t add to it. It was enough for the hashtag #IdiotKapilSibal trend for nearly two days on Twitter. Not surprisingly, Sibal’s stupidity was exposed on the same day that an Islamic cleric residing in Europe said that women should not be close to bananas or cucumbers, in order to avoid any “sexual thoughts.”
Sibal’s anger is understandable, if you were Sonia Gandhi's protector. The mainstream media (MSM) in India have for long resisted any form of regulation but they have successfully managed ‘self-censorship’. The social networks refuse to self-censor themselves. And at the centre of this all is Sonia Gandhi. The MSM won’t publish anything remotely critical about SoniaG or question any of her actions. The secrecy of SG’s illness and surgery or whatever it was can only be protected by a servantile MSM as that in India.
Two previous posts on this blog detail the manner in which our MSM suppresses any mention of Sonia Gandhi: “Why Is Indian Media Scared Of Sonia Gandhi?” and “Rajdeep Sardesai : "No Wild Allegations Against Gandhis, Please...." Far from talking about or questioning Sonia Gandhi, our MSM actually protects her against such acts. To speak about SG is a sin! To question her, to ridicule her, to paint funny ugly pictures of her is blasphemy for Kapil Sibal.
What most of us totally missed in the whole episode was that Sibal was meeting the heads of Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft etc. over the last six weeks or so. Yet there was no mention of these meetings anywhere in the Indian media or the transactions. Most of these internet giants are huge advertisers and would have thought our media would have spoken up for them. None! Even the last meeting by Sibal with these networks was not reported by the Indian media. Yes indeed, they blacked out the news! It took the New York Times to report the meeting and demands of Kapil Sibal.
Once the NYT broke the news the Indian MSM had no option but to relay the story and then all the editors and anchors of our spineless news media start moralising and sermonising about freedom of speech. This is once the Twitterati collectively put Sibal on their lap and spanked him. This is a senior minister we are talking about. One can rest assured that many journalists hang around his office for bits and pieces of sound-bites and yet none reported the meeting with the network heads. One prominent Congress friendly channel even had an exclusive interview with the Indian head of Google during the same period and yet remained silent about Sibal’s grand plan.
NYT reports about the first meeting six weeks ago: “At the meeting, Mr. Sibal showed attendees a Facebook page that maligned the Congress Party’s president, Sonia Gandhi. “This is unacceptable,” he told attendees, the executive said, and he asked them to find a way to monitor what is posted on their sites”. But once this news got out both Kapil Sibal and the Indian media weren’t talking about the SG factor. It was all about SG and objectionable content that create communal tensions. Trust Sibal and the Congress to give it all a communal twist and colour.
I doubt Sibal can ever stop freedom on the internet. He might well take a warning from the kids in Kashmir. If the youth and all the people who vent their anger in various forms on the net are stopped they might be out on the streets and pelting stones too. Far from creating tensions the net allows people to let off steam and keep violence off the streets. As for dirty pictures or obscene content there are enough laws in the country to prosecute offenders.
At the time of writing, Google has already received an IT notice. More might follow. Ironically, and I say this with deep sympathy and not out of sarcasm, Kapil Sibal was hit on his eye in the parliament on the next day the news about his censorship plans broke. His eye was injured accidentally by the sharp edge of a folder flipped by a colleague. So at least for a while Sibal will not see evil comfortably on the net. But the manner in which Indian MSM suppresses any news concerning the deceptive and nefarious plans of the Congress does stand exposed again. Maybe 100% FDI in media should also be considered along with other reforms.