Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sen-Sibal Screenings

Hello Mr. Kapil Sibal,
At the outset, let me confess that you were one of the few politicians (along with Mr. P. Chidambaram) whom I respected and sometimes, even looked up to. Until I came upon your exemplary skills as a mathematician. And the masterstroke - your move to 'pre-screen objectionable content on the Internet' so that any incendiary content does not trigger off communal riots.

Allow me, sir, to explain how the Internet works. ___________. That's it. Nobody knows. It's a completely new world, a developing ecosystem that is growing every second. New hands, new feet, adapting and changing as time passes. No one can tell what it will look like a few seconds later. That's what works for people. It's a world where inhibitions are thrown out of the window, where social codes and ethics are what you make of them. It's a world where this has billions of views and there are forums and groups dedicated to cats. No, not cat welfare, just pictures of cats. With clever slogans. So, sir if you wish to enter with a seemingly well-intentioned motive of trying to infuse morality and a sense of order, here you go.

What has ticked off a lot of people (and me) is the reason behind your sudden concern - a hate page dedicated to your party supremo. What gets your goat are not the hundreds of hatred pages on religions, thousands of pages on making bombs and other such explosives but a silly little page that professes its hate for Her. It's rather unbecoming of a St. Stephen's - Harvard alumnus to succumb to such sycophantic behaviour. 


That is where Mr. Sibal, lies the true difference between you and most of the Internet users (read: the average Indian). Politicians are no more the demigods who occasionally graced us with their presence during elections. In today's information-led world, you are just another person who is supposed to be doing his job. If you do it well, we give you a pat on the back. If you don't, well we just hate you. Because if you botch it up, it affects our lives. Having been brought up in an open environment (as compared to your times), we may seem rude, insensitive and downright obnoxious. But our standards of morality are different than yours (remember this line?). The Internet brings out the animal in everybody and no one knows how to stop it. Try it and you'll see the point.

This is what we do, Mr. Sibal.
Till the late 2000s, most of our hatred was confined to friends and relatives, office conversations and the dinner table. Nothing that reached your ears. The Internet provided an escape - an uninhibited space where we could unleash our wrath without any consequences. That, you cannot disagree, is a beautiful thing. See Mr. Sibal, on the Internet one hates everything. Hate is a currency that fuels it, an economy that doesn't collapse because no one takes it too seriously. It is momentary, for we all have go back to work the next day. The only people who have the time to transform this hate from its digital form into a living being are the fanatic elements associated with...wait for it...a political party. You see Mr. Sibal, even if a common man finds something extremely objectionable, rarely does he go out onto the streets and start burning and killing. It is too much to ask from him. Sitting in front of a screen in the warm comfort of his own home, he's too  lazy to do that. We are like hay in a barn. Someone needs to strike a match for the barn to erupt in a huge ball of fire. 

History has proved that most communal riots were set off by anti-social elements with a clear motive in mind. There always has been  objectionable content - whether it is print or in digital form. Who burnt copies of James Laine's book on Shivaji when they couldn't digest its content? Shiv Sena workers. M.F Hussain's paintings? Again, political workers. We've all seen his paintings online. Did we ever march to Jehangir Art Gallery? The '92 riots? Again, politically motivated. Gujarat riots? Politics. What about the '84 riots? Who is responsible for that? In some way or the other, your brethren (by virtue of profession) have been the perpetrators. It doesn't absolve us of our own crimes, but we are not the only ones committing blasphemy.

Are you seriously surprised by the hate? CWG. 2G. Inflation. A complete lack of governance and shoddy, incompetent policies. Your government has left the country in a complete mess and you're just halfway through your term. Then you give yourself salary hikes and adjourn the parliament. With your latest move, you've given us another reason to hate you. Notice that the Congress website was hacked only after you raised this 'pertinent' issue. Another thing, Mr. Sibal. This is more of a personal opinion, and possibly an illusion. Our generation is increasingly growing tired of religion. It has given us nothing, and asks a lot of us. We've realised that it's not a match made in heaven. So we're okay with the blasphemy on the Internet. Don't take it away from us.

As a human resources minister, you should be worried more about the development of the millions of Indians who don't have access to even the basic needs, forget the Internet. So please try and work on that. And while you're at it, please enjoy this.

Image: Google