Orwell’s 1984 in Snowden’s Heart

If we don’t dismantle these structures of invasion and occupation, then even our personal dairy might become a ‘national security’ or ‘terror’ threat

Amit Sengupta Delhi 

There is a striking similarity between Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. All three of them are young, had a future full of possibilities, and, most crucially,  had no ideological leanings or intellectual baggage. They did not really have a stated paradigm which they could shift, nor were they subversives working undercover, or taking notes from the underground.

In the current scenario, all of them share an almost similar fate, though the fate of Private First Class Manning remains the most tragic and devastating. Perhaps still in solitary confinement, he can be condemned to 20 years plus in jail, and is being charged with aiding Al-Qaeda and other terror networks by leaking to WikiLeaks more than 700,000 secret and explosive documents exposing the ‘secret’ war machine of the US, and other sinister stories. That young solder, Manning, deployed in Iraq in 2009-2010, was suddenly moved and driven by an inner revelation of humanistic concern, repulsed by the ravages of war, and saw both the futility of war and the multiple deception and duplicity of the American security establishment; his original concern is not even being considered by the ‘democratic’ American establishment.

Meanwhile, India, which pumps itself up as the “largest democracy”, refused to accept Snowden’s plea for shelter. (In another context, even Taslima Nasreen was denied citizenship, even as West Bengal refused to allow her in the state, citing dubious conditions.) Even as Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela have accepted his plea, Snowden is still holed up “in transit” in Moscow. And Assange, threatened with arrest and extradition, is “trapped” within the confines of the Ecuadorean embassy in London, apparently even bereft of the basic right to experience the typical English sunshine.

It is not ironical that Barack Obama’s government, howsoever different from the cold-blooded neo-con regime of George Bush and Dick Cheney, and the like, has continued to toe the same authoritarian line when it comes to the freedom of expression demanded by whistle-blowers. The rationale that all forms of surveillance and Big Brother syndrome are driven by terrorism is as much a farce, as Bush chasing the mythical WMDs in ‘embedded’ Iraq, which led to tens of thousands of civilian death, and a virtual civil war which has ravaged the country. National security and ‘intelligence surveillance’ have become an entrenched holy cow for all totalitarian regimes which not only subvert all forms of constitutional rights of citizens in the name of protecting the ‘imagined homeland’ with draconian homeland security devices, they intrude directly into the private spaces of individuals and groups, violating every condition of ethical conduct which an elected government is meant to follow.

It is therefore not an irony that many in our intelligence agencies in India and some of their top bosses have chosen to run amok, using the ploy of national security or terrorism. Often, one community, or dissenters, have been hounded, detained, tortured and condemned for years, on completely manufactured and artificial intelligence inputs, often driven by diabolical and xenophobic forces who want to polarize and divide the country.

 It is therefore not an irony that many in our intelligence agencies in India and some of their top bosses have chosen to run amok, using the ploy of national security or terrorism

The fact that a top IB officer, now being accused of direct complicity in fake encounters in Gujarat, is still eluding the CBI, or that sections of the establishment (and the Sangh Parivar) have chosen to back him to the hilt, with a lot of help from certain ‘embedded’ journalists and editors, is just about one pointer. There are others, indeed, who are operating ‘strategic think-tanks’ which are often camouflaged ‘fronts’ operating for long-term diabolical forces, including those who really have no faith in Indian democracy or the Constitution.

The Snowden exposé, therefore, is a reminder of the ‘1984’ in our lives and times, where nothing remains sacrosanct, not even the most private of experiences, even as totalitarian forces in shady surveillance determine the contours of our Orwellian democracy. If we don’t learn our lessons now, or move to dismantle these structures of ‘invasion and occupation’ of our social and political lives, then, one day, even the notes in our personal diary might become a ‘national security’ or ‘terror’ threat.    

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: AUGUST 2013