Just clearing a few misconceptions…

Posted: December 3, 2012 in blogging, Facebook
Tags: , , , ,

There are a couple of students who keep egging me on to comment about 1.) Bal Thackeray and 2) the arrest of the two girls in Palghar and the subsequent furore it created.

Let’s take the late Bal Thackeray. I kept mum during his funeral only because I don’t believe in denigrating the dead – however, divisive his policies, his role in the Mumbai riots or his State funeral. The thing is, you may have hated his politics and his raving and ranting but the truth there were around two million out on the streets that day. I am sure they were not all there, just to make sure he was really gone. I did not always agree with Bal Thackeray’s brand of politics but a large number of Maharashtrians did – whether out of respect or fear – so why raise a hornet’s nest on the day of his death and subsequently his funeral?

The point is a lot of kids I saw calling Thackeray names on social networking sites, would not have had the guts to do that if they ever came face to face with him or even someone from the Sena. Secondly, many of the kids ranting were media students who are supposed to be objective in their writings. I did not see too much of objectivity, so it was not too different from the hooliganism of the lumpen elements that make up the rank and file of some political parties, including the Shiv Sena.

Strangely, some of the kids who were letting off steam were those who gleefully call the Pakistani cricketers or the Pakistani populace in general, every available profanity in the dictionary, and even question their parentage. So it was okay if they said it, but not okay when Thackeray did so or when he ranted against any community?

I am also quite cool when it comes to using swear words in public, but even I was embarrassed by the language used. I am afraid you can’t go around calling anyone a ‘bastard’ or a ‘fucker’ on a public platform. And Facebook or Twitter is as public a platform as television if not in reach per household, at least in terms of their growing popularity.  That is the language I heard and that is why I refused to get into a debate or argument on the subject.

This is one of the reasons the government is bringing in stricter IT laws. I sincerely hope they do that soon. If freedom of speech gives us the right to speak our mind without fear, it also tells us that there are restrictions on the language we can use in public. And as we saw during the Arab Spring uprising, it takes one comment on Facebook to galvanise a hundred thousand people, for a just cause. The last thing one wanted to see on the day of Thackeray’s funeral was riots breaking out because of some idiot with a keyboard and an itchy finger who wanted to be the first one in cyberspace to vent his spleen.

Then, there’s the issue of the two girls from Palghar who were hauled to the police station. It was frankly, disgraceful. The girls did not say anything that could be considered dangerous to public peace. Some overzealous cops goaded by politicians decided to act and ended up with egg on their faces. We know who controls the cops, so for them to be coerced by a mob led by some politicians is understandable.  What surprised me was that it happened under the control of a cop who I thought was quite liberal in his views and quite clued in to IT and cyber laws.

I’ve met this top cop on a few occasions and found him quite adept at public relations and knowledge of the Internet. Some of my students from the SIMC 2011 PG batch might remember him as the cop who I had invited to take a lecture on crime reporting. The lecture was supposed to be for 90 minutes but stretched to three hours because the kids had too many questions and he was such an entertaining speaker. I don’t know if I had to drag him away or he did so himself, but I do know that it was one of the most informative three hours I spent listening to someone on the subject of crime reporting.

But coming to 66A itself, that it is flawed is pretty obvious. Too many things in there can be twisted around by politicians in power and misused. For example what constitutes “grossly offensive or has menacing character” or “any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience”? Does a comment like the one left by the two girls come in that category? Frankly, I’ve seen worse and saw even worse on the days following Thackeray’s death, and those fellows had a free run in cyberspace.

Our experts need to sit and discuss these issues threadbare. Secondly there is the political angle. The UPA government, at the Centre and Maharashtra condemned loudly (methinks too loudly), the action against the two girls. I would like to see their reaction if someone was to post something against the Gandhi family. Why were they objecting to all the cartoons morphing the prime minister and Sonia? After all, none of these were offensive. Let’s wait and see what Sibal does when that happens.

  1. Gurvinder Singh says:

    Dear Mohan,

    Well said.
    God bless you


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