Saturday, August 25, 2012
Now, they stole my Voice…
Well, almost. Shameful as I feel, that in a country that boasts of being the largest democracy in the world, with a voluminous constitution complete with a list Fundamental Rights, the most beloved of which is the Right to Freedom of Speech & Expression, in a country who’s National Disease seems to be talking, an elected Government chose to steal my voice.
But this time, the thief was caught. As the sun went down, the theft began. It was caught red-handed, like the proverbial “with its pants down”. The sounds of Chor-chor, scared this thief away, the thief ran, ran for its life, faster than Usain Bolt, by the time the Sun rose again.
This was between 22nd August 2012 night to 23rd August 2012 morning. And for those, who are statistically sharp, yes, this was within a week of 65th Independence Day of India…
While we saved our voice from being stolen, I wondered why did this happen. Why did they try to steal “my precious”?
Events, as they unfolded…
Between July 6, 2012 & July 25, 2012, there was a lot of violence between Bodos & Bagladeshi illegal migrants, in Kokrajhar, Dhubri & Chirang districts of Assam. Governments inaction, both State as well as Central, was annoying, visible and came under heavy criticism. Close to 5 Lakh internally displaced people (IDPs) are said to be living in 278 Relief Camps in Kokrajhar, Dhubri , Chirang & Bongaigaon. In one stroke, IDPs in India, went up from a figure of 5,06,000 to 1 million. India now has 1 Million IDPs, with 2,50,00 or so Kashmiris displaced by Militants, 2,50,000 or so tribals & villagers displaced by Maoist Activities & now, 1,50,000 Bodos displaced by Bangladeshi Illegal Immigrants & 3,50,000 Stateless, Illegal, Bangladeshi migrants about whom Indian Govt has no clarity.
It is a fact that Assam Riots between Indians & Bangadeshis of July 2012, went largely unreported in the Press. But, for the very active & feverish discussion and placing of facts & figures on Twitter & other social media, Indians would never have known what their brothers in Assam, within India’s very own boundaries, were going through. People on social media were straightforward in their Reporting. They said it, like it was happening on ground. They said Bangladeshi, when they had to say Bangladeshi, a word mainstream media avoids referring to to sing along with petty politicians who can only maintain power by adding voters artificially, who’s very well-being in India will be dependent on them for a short term.
August 8, 2012, while BJP Leader Shri. L K Advani highlighted the whole matter, Congress President from Italy, Smt. Sonia Gandhi was seen gesticulating to her MPs to somehow create a ruckus and drown the voice of Truth about Assam. Loyal pets were soon barking all around. A seasoned speaker, Mr. Advani allowed them to tire out, rose again & finished his speech.
By evening, a lone MP from a party, which is in existence since 1927, raised an Army to fight Indian Army so that Nizam could merge Hyderabad State with Pakistan, was banned till 1957, after Hyderabad integrated with India in 1948, stood up to speak. He started with a clear underlying judgment that these were not Bangladeshi Illegal Immigrants, but Muslims from India. He spoke by the Book. First painted a picture of Victimhood, then demanded more money for relief, declared the riots to be “internal power struggle”, demanded dissolution of BTC as well as recognition of these Bangladeshis as legal Indian citizens, went on for a while and then threatened India, the Central Govt, the Members of Parliament, in the name of a Warning, a Warning of the 3rd Wave of Radicalization. Everyone heard. Everyone peed. Peed in their pants. Fear of violence began gripping the nation. MPs took the speech in their stride.
By August 11, 2012, Raza Academy called a large assembly of Muslims in the name of Protest against “treatment to Muslims in Assam & to Rohingyas in Burma”. Some say 10,000-15,000 people assembled, some say almost 50,000 muslims were present. After most of them had assembled, while speeches and stuff went on, they rioted. Police was beaten. Yes, you heard it right. 90% of injured were Policemen. And when Police started detaining rioters, Commissioner of Police, possibly under strict instruction from Chief Minister & Home Minister of Maharashtra, shouted down the concerned DCP and let the rioter go. In the meanwhile, the fear amongst the public was growing. A riot was threatened on 8th August, a riot was delivered on 11th August. Nobody understood or could logically understand the reason for Riots. The fools were burning their own country down for Foreigners, for Bangladeshis & Burmese. But then Khilafat movement gave enough history for expectation of such a situation and thought process. If Police itself was beaten up, where did common public stand. Neither State Govt. nor Central Govt appeared to be taking tough stand to maintain peace. Everyone looked bent on their knees. Afterall, it was Ramzan time.
By August 16, 2012, the anti-social elements, got strength. In the month of Ramzan, threats were getting issued to people of North-east in many parts of India, especially starting with Banglaore. Or let us rephrase that to “Rumors of threats” were passed to people from North-east India in various parts of India, beginning with those living in Bangalore. Trains were pre-booked. I mean, they were booked before the threat or the rumor was issued. Central Govt that controls railway, was all set to take these people back to North-East. As a precaution, Prime Minister & Home Minister spoke to Chief Minister of Karnataka. Then they let the whole world know that a “rumor of threat” had been issued to the people of North-East, living in Bangalore. Naturally, it added fuel to fire. Now, Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai & Mumbai – all had people of North-East flocking to nearest Railway Station to go home. RSS workers reached stations, tried to convince people to stay back. But worried parents & relatives back home in North-East, along with gripping fear in minds of people, especially with events since July 2012, complete inaction from State or Central Govt in Assam as well as Mumbai, were way too strong for anyone to stay back. Close to 25,000 or so people from North-East are said to have left Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai & Mumbai.
Matter was further politicized. Congress led Central Govt started warning about Rumors & Hate Mongering. Suddenly, the famous Pakistan & ISI came into picture, and it was revealed that no Rohingyas were massacred in Burma, the images circulated were of the Earthquake that occurred in 2011, where Buddhist Monks were engaged in Relief work. Govt warned, and rightly so, that hate & rumor mongering should stop. But then it played foul, out of the blue, it included Social Media in its rants. Yes, Government of India got down to rants and like a powerless man on the streets, started warning social media on a daily basis. Many of us remembered the old Indian saying, “Gehun ke saath ghun bhi pis raha hai”. This went on. We saw no real, on-ground effect till then.
On August 22, 2012, evening, a tweet came saying three people’s account had been ordered to be blocked by Govt. of India. One was a known, controversial, aggressive but Nationalist activist, other two, surprisingly were journalists. There was a buzz. Less than 10-15 minutes later another person put another alarming tweet that Government of India has done us in. Cryptic as it sounded, I called the tweeple on the phone. I was told 16 tweeple had been identified by “IB” and the Ministry of Home Affairs will block these accounts soon. As soon as I heard the 16 names, I knew this was not adding up. I knew most of them. I knew what content they tweeted, what language they tweeted, with whom they usually locked horns. I asked the tweeple to publish the names.
As per agreement, all the 16 names were tweeted. The tweeple was either too scared, not knowing what Govt will do with people who’s accounts are being blocked, the tweets with the names were gone in less than few minutes. The account disappeared.
Half an hour later, Twitter was abuzz with the news of Blocking & those 16 accounts being inaccessible from certain ISPs. There was immediate outrage. The Govt was daring to take away our right to speak, our right to ridicule, our right to discuss what we think is right for the nation we love & wish to serve. On one side was verification exercise to know how far the Govt of India had managed to execute their order to Block these tweeple, on the other was the outrage, the anger that didn’t know where to flow, where to explode.
Some tweeple went silently Black. Some of us screamed, Go Black! One after the other, the DPs on the accounts went Black. Along came the calls for #Emergency2012 & #GoIBlocks. By 2.30am, #Emergency2012 was trending at no.2.
Since other ISPs had not yet blocked those accounts, the situation was that of seeing an injured friend, expected to die due to the blow the Govt has given, hours are passing yet death is nowhere. Solidarity was growing. The hurt was increasing. People screamed at the inability of the Govt of India to even execute its own Block Order, properly & effectively. 8yrs of failure to do something good for the Nation was now showing in failure to do even the bad for the Nation.
In the morning, the screaming on the Social Media was unbearable. There was no silence after the death. There was mayhem of an accident. While a huge no. of DPs had gone Black, #Emergency 2012 & #GoIBlocks were top trends. World knew what was going on. International media also knew what was happening.
By 10am or so, the accounts blocked by few ISPs were visible even on those ISPs. Govt issued denial. They denied ever having even thought of curtailing free speech on Social Media. But tweeple are a resourceful bunch. The 4 letters sent by Ministry of Communication & IT, signed by Subodh Saxena, Director DS-II, were available with most of us. Govt was telling white lies. Govt was ashamed, shamelessly.
On 24th August 2012, Narendra Modi, the most successful & illustrious Chief Minister in India, and, choice of majority of Tweeple for next PM of India, joined the Public campaign. With the lines “…sabko sanmati de bhagwan”, the DP of @narendramodi went Black. More people went Black seeing the best Administrator of India, joining people’s protest.
The chapter is not closed, there’s more expected.
Reflections - But Why?
Tweeple are reflective people. It may be in different degrees for each, but they do reflect.
It was clear from the word go, that Govt. was only cooperating with some people in the media. Out of 16 tweeple, I would say, almost 12-13 have countered & exposed newsmedia, its editors, journalists & owners for the failure to perform their duty properly. Media has been accused of bias, under-reporting, slow-reporting, never-reporting and what not. Radia tapes exposure has revealed too much for journalists to live peacefully or to be trusted by a common man. They are agents of the very people they were supposed to track, screen, expose and make accountable on behalf of the people of the country.
While I know of 5-6 people who engage mediapersons daily on current issues, at least one person maintains a Blog that chronicles the shameful deeds of mediapersons. None of these people is a hate monger. Since they only speak facts and that is the very basis of their counter arguments with the mediapersons, the chance of rumor-mongering is nil.
Then, chance of them figuring in IBs list of security threats is also nil. These people could only be a threat to Newsmedia that has stopped serving the interest of the very people who’s Fundamental Right of Speech & Expression has been extended to protect their very existence.
A day later, of course, the thinking was even more profound. A new online media was launched on 15th August 2012. Since mainstream media was failing the common man miserably, Niti Central was welcomed by all. It was becoming apparent that jealous and insecure mediapersons, along with insecure Congressmen colluded and using the general atmosphere of internal insecurity, propaganda, rumor & hate mongering, decided to use fictitious and rather vague descriptions like “incendiary” content, to block these tweeple.
Another aspect that came to notice is that Social Media was now busy discussing Emergency2012, rather than Rs.1.8 Lakh Cr Coal Scam, Rs. 2.5 Lakh cr Public Distribution Scam, Rs.70 Thousand cr CWG Scam, Rs. 1.76 Lakh cr 2G Scam, Rs. 2 Lakh Cr S-Band Scam, K-G Basin Scam, Rs. 29 Thousand cr ADAG Power Scam, Adarsh Scam, Sugar Scam, Rice Scam, Land Scams of Pawan Kumar Bansal & Jayanti Natrajan in Chandigarh & Tamilnadu, Food-grain rotting Scam worth 50,000tonnes or so Annually, $1.3bn Blackmoney in Swiss Banks, Bangladeshi Illegal Immigrants in Assam & rest of India, increasing militancy, the weakening link with Jammu & Kashmir, under-performing intelligence, ill-prepared Indian Armed Forces, unfinished National Highways, poor irrigation & agricultural performance, opulent & vulgar expenses by former President, ever rising inflation, ever-falling value of Indian Rupee, worsening geo-political situation, the weakening relations with International Community, the possible interference of foreign powers in India’s internal affairs, repeated, continuous & blatant contempt of Supreme Court orders, the attack on India’s federal structure, the effort to maim the legislature & judiciary, the list of failures goes on.
More than Rs.20 Lakh cr is alleged to have been robbed by this Govt through the scams listed above, between 2004-2012. And even this is an indicative list of scams that have surfaced, a lot more remains underneath their thick skin.
The most profound idea – They were stealing our Voice
After a lot of thinking, it struck that this Govt has left nothing untouched. They have stolen everything, robbed everything, from Land, to Coal, to Oil, to Power, to Airwaves, to Food, to Games, to Houses…this Govt is now addicted to stealing. It is unsatisfied with whatever it has already stolen, it wants to go on stealing, it wants to steal what none can think of, it tried to steal the Voice of the Common Man.