The ghost of censorship is back to haunt the Indian twitter landscape. However, this time it is more about hatred than freedom of speech
Sadiq Naqvi Delhi
Midnight, August 23, and suddenly some ‘tweeples’ (as twitter users call each other) found themselves ‘blocked’. Soon after, #Emergency2012 and #GoIBlocks were trending and the micro blogging website was flooded with angry tweets against the establishment. Comparisons were drawn with the 1975 Emergency imposed by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi. “Is the Indira Emergency back?” tweeted one @Ibnebattuta. Soon the debate meandered to the question of freedom of speech and expression with many calling it an attack on fundamental rights. However, a closer look at some of the banned profiles reveals an altogether different picture of excessive misuse of liberty by Rightwing forces and that too in times of a serious crisis across the country. “#Emergency2012 is quite similar to Team Anna claiming the Lokpal movement as the ‘Second Freedom Struggle. Hyperbole #sigh,” tweeted Krishn Kaushik.
The list of 16 odd blocked profiles also included two journalists Kanchan Gupta and Shiv Aroor, a deputy editor with Headlines Today. Many of the blocked profiles were people who were rabidly communal and were constantly peddling vitriolic propaganda including the RSS, Panchjanya, VHP’s Praveen Togadia and others. Even Kanchan Gupta’s strong Hindutva bent of mind is known all across twitter and beyond like this tweet on August 19 where he writes, “Next time a Muslim rages about 1991 or 2002, look him/her in the eye and say “I have been angry since 1206” stunned silence.” And this tweet on August 17 where he writes, “We pay for our cowardice. It took guns for Muslim fanatics to force Hindus to leave Kashmir. They don’t need guns anymore.” This provocative tweet asking people to perhaps take on the minority community was in reaction to news reports that people from the NorthEast were fleeing some cities. Any sane and responsible voice would have called for calm, instead of instigating one religious group against other. So when tweets of his profile being blocked appeared, it did prompt some reactions. “Wait. Govt blocked Kanchan Gupta’s twitter account too? He must be going crazy with that unused vitriol tonight,” tweeted @ParodyKarega.
Barbarian Indian (@Barbarindian), another one on the blocked list was constantly frothing at the mouth and spewing communal venom. “Badru Ajmal may have inadvertently admitted a scheme of importing over 2 lakh B-boys in the cover of chaos. Check the camps,” he tweeted to more than 5,000 followers on August 22 referring to the Assamese Muslim leader and Chief of United Democratic Front Badruddin Ajmal. The DNA of even other banned profiles reveals their relationship with the RSS and their anti-Congress and communal agendas tacitly veiled under the notions of nationalism, anti-corruption and love for the motherland. Like this another ‘nationalist’ who goes by the handle @Ekakizunj and writes in his intro, “Every Indian should be a lone warrior...True sons of Bharat ensure that the traitors are soon extinct.” His timeline is also full of ultra-Hindutva messages even as there are others which target the Congress government in the most bizarre of ways.
Humour has touched a new low especially on social networks. Interestingly, more so after the commencement of Anna Hazare and Ramdev’s campaign against corruption, black money etc. Facebook and twitter are flooded with morphed pictures of the Gandhi family, the Prime Minister and Union ministers. Taking cue from the Arab Spring and realising the explosive potential of the internet, the Hindutva fundamentalists have launched a concerted all out attack on the Congress on the social networks.
Communal polarisation and anti-corruption have, for decades, been the best bets of the BJP. The corrupt and ineffective government, however, still continues to be a subject of mockery for its own follies. As even in this case its limited knowledge was at full display. The fact that even though on government’s request the internet service providers had blocked the profiles, they were still accessible through third party applications and also when the user took recourse to the secure https instead of the regular http, added to the drama. “#India’s internet censorship is so inept, petty and partisan that it must be a secret weapon designed to make the Chinese die of laughter,” tweeted @Dhume01, The Wall Street Journal columnist.
“Yes Kapil Sibal, raising Rightwing tweeple to martyr level is what we expect from your pea-sized brain #Emergency2012 #GOIBlocks,” tweeted @DilliDurAst. “Rightwingers protesting censorship must remember what their ilk did to Deepa Mehta’s fire, MF Hussain’s art...,” he wrote in another tweet.