So Much to Lose

45

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you have been a witness to the maelstrom of events that accompanied the death of the political leader Bal Thackeray.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you have been a witness to the maelstrom of events that accompanied the death of the political leader Bal Thackeray. For me, the brouhaha was elbowed out by the case of the police arresting two women for critiquing the events on Facebook. The person who wondered about the nature of the enforced mourning and the state of our public life, and her friend who "liked" the comment on Facebook, were booked and arrested under charges that can only be considered preposterous.

I will not repeat these arguments because it is needless to say that I am on the side of the women and think of this as yet another manifestation of the stringent measures which are being evolved as an older broadcast way of thinking meets the decentralised realities of digital technologies.

In the midst of this the idea of internet freedom needs to be revisited. The global Press Freedom Index 2011-12 report compiled by Reporters Without Borders, ranks India at 131, or as a "partly free" country, marking us as a country where the notion of internet freedom is not to be taken for granted, and possibly also one where the concept is not properly understood.

Citing various instances from the central government's plans to censor the social web to the authoritarian crackdown on activists and cultural producers involved in online civic protests, from the traditional media industry's stronghold over intellectual property regimes to the arrest of individuals for voicing their independent critiques online, the report shows that we not only have an infrastructure deficit (with only 10 per cent of the people in the country connected), but also a huge social and political deficit, which is being exposed by our actions and reactions to the Web.

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