July 18, 2006

What this is about

The government of my country does what governments find so easy: ban, block, censor (choose your favourite word). Among other Web domains, blogspot.com is currently invisible in India. Though of course, given that this is the Web, "invisible" is only in a manner of speaking: there are innumerable ways around this block. Trust a government to be oblivious to that.

There's a groundswell of anger as people gear up to fight this. It's been in the news and it will be again.

And it strikes me that this fight is not about finding the ways around ("proxies"), nor about simply getting blogspot unblocked. This should be aimed at nothing less than ensuring the government will never again do something like this. There should be no site or group of sites that they will ever again be able to block; in fact, there should be no book they will ban, no infringement on freedoms at all ever again. That's what this is about.

Part of that involves putting together workarounds for bans like these and making them public.

Part involves finding out how this decision was taken -- maybe by whom too -- so we can work out how to stop it ever being taken again. The silver lining there is that we now have a tool -- the Right to Information Act -- to do just that.

And part involves putting in place the laws and mechanisms that will prevent such a thing from happening in the future.

Long battle. Bring it on. I'm actually glad this bizarre block happened. For it opens our eyes to the way the government works and forces us to find ways to make it accountable to us. Sometimes you need something bizarre to happen, it's the kick in the behind that makes us fight for things we otherwise take for granted.

Freedoms being some of those things.

(Paraphrased from email sent to the group working on this).


ancient clown said...

I understand completely where you are coming from...This poem was inspired by reports of this to me.
I invite you to explore 'Ancient's History'.
"I don't think I now...I just know I'm thinking."
your humble servant,
Ancient Clown

milieu said...

IMHO I dont want that no government should have this power to block.

I only want that no government should be able to resist a fair degree of public pressure to revoke any action like this.

Thankfully, this stupid action of govt will really cost us nothing if it is revoked.

~*sim*~ said...

please add me to your list!

sim pho nat ic at g mail dot com (no spaces, appropriate punctuation)

thanks, and keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

why doesn't dilip respond?
because he is a moral coward? no. because the best way to treat slander is to ignore it. it takes guts to go out and say what he believes in even if it is going to attract trolls like you (san) and barbarindian. all the more creditable because he does so under his own name.

that said, san, why do you say that the ban is expressly targeted at the hindus? have you seen princess kimberly? i am damned if i know why the state has singled that out. but the girl running it is a christian. and it bangs on about how jesus adds structure to her life.

Anonymous said...

Sanjay, Barbarindian

It would be erroneous to draw conclusion from one instance, and convert a 'right to information/expression issue' into commie/leftist, UPA vs. NDA etc. rant.

This is not the first time GOI has done this kind of clumsy thing. Last time was in Sept 2003, when the GOI (that was NDA govt then,incidentally) had asked the ISPs to block a particular yahoogroup - Kynhum (because, it used to voice opinions about mining in ecologically sensitive areas, of corruption of the Meghalaya government)... then also, the ISPs had ended up blocking the entire yahoogoups site - the ban lasted 2 weeks.

If one looks at the timeline of acts/laws/orders that allow the government to do this, it cuts across the the left-right governments, and the ideological biases that you mention.

The Informtation Technology Act was passed in 2000. The Cert-in was formed in Feb 2003 as a part of the IT Act. The GSR529(E) order was passed in July 2003, that gives Cert-in the power to "take on the spot decision on whether the website is to be blocked or not" !!!

That's the power Cert-in used in Sept 2003 and is using now.

What is of concern is that
(1) the mandarins who are supposed to be implementing the rules in their wisdom (much to question about the "wisdom";0), have no clue about the nature of internet, and
(2) many netizens have no idea about these simple facts, and therefore tend to reduce/hijack the debate to their prefered ideological rantings.

Anonymous said...

dear san,
how nice. neither of us believes in god. how similarly we think.

and now, why anonymity? zimble. i want to spare you the temptation of lobbing personal attacks at me.

your comments on gujarat are fascinating. you are certainly taking the path less trodden. not a premeditated assault but a simple riot, eh. i think i should understand the position you are arguing from before making up my mind about you.

and so, pls let me know why you think the riots are not premeditated. the nhrc concluded that they were. were they wrong? were they deliberately lying? why would it do so? is it -- shock, horror -- lefties as well? if so, would it be as leftist as dilip, even more leftist, or less leftist. that would be nice to know as well. :-)

also, what makes you so certain about the death toll? the official is 950 (hindu and muslim). there have been lots of reports saying that a lot of complainants were driven away by the cops, that a lot of deaths were never noted. this was accompanied by another accusation that the cops themselves were deeply complicit in the riots. would you say these were all lies? and why would you be so willing to believe what the state says in this context?

given your answer, i also feel compelled to canvass your views on narendra modi. let me know about that as well.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Sreekumar, I guess we will have to differ on the power of the government.

Sim, may I suggest you go here?

Anonymous 1118, I'm as baffled by you by the Princess Kimberly thing. Where did that come from?

Madhukar, the Meghalaya group ban was utter idiocy. I think I remember reading that it had a membership of 12 or 20 or something, which made the ban look even more foolish.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Dilip, these idiots don't seem to have realised that banning something just draws attention to it. Moreover, the ISPs are idiots for thinking they can just block all of blogspot and nobody will notice. At my workplace we have sent a strong complaint to our ISP (blogs aren't totally useless for work, you know...) At home, strangely enough, I never had a problem accessing blogspot (my provider is Sify).

san, barbarindian, and various anonymous creatures -- why the heck do you bother reading Dilip, when (a) you hate his guts and (b) you never have anything to say beyond an unsubstantiated and, in this case, irrelevant "Dilip hates Hindus" whine? Why don't you stay home at your rightwing blogs?

barbarindian said...

Ok, everybody is an idiot but the Government is intelligent for ordering the ban when it basically does not work. Oh I forgot, the Government is this mysterious entity which has no connection with a certain political party whatsoever.

By the way, here is some news for you.

Blog ban nothing to do with terror prevention

Anonymous said...

the points that reality check raises are all superbly valid. it is eminently worthy of investigation to check india's fuckwit govt blocked any of these blogs -- even the hindu ones. from what i have seen, should not have been. at a first glance, it is nothing but the usual loony fringe sabre-rattling (the "russian archbishop slanders krishna" school of demagoguery)

basically. how did the morons identify the blogs to be canned? and b, why shut them down? if you think terrorists are using them. it surely makes more sense to monitor them.

those are the questions to be raised. when guys like you and san go rampaging, attributing all sorts of hindoo hatred to dilip, mocking him, it is these questions that you end up obscuring. in fact, come to think of it, maybe we should all accuse you of working for the congress -- and trying to divert attention from the main issue.

basically, this is a serious time. if you have anything valid to add to the debate, welcome. otherwise, forgive us for ignoring you increasingly.


anon 1118 (i like that title)

Bicyclemark said...

Well spoken words with an important point. The simplicity of populustic paranoid governing always results in the banning of things instead of truely investigating what the real problems are.

Anonymous said...

yaar this is a democracy, and live in other countries if you want to know the difference?

Just make a loud noise, thank you very much, and all will be fine. wear your tevas and drink your juice.

"The last and final moment is yours, that agony is your triumph".


barbarindian said...


Thanks for ignoring me.

Anonymous said...

dear san,
point taken. cannot ask you to muzzle your opinions. unforgivable to even think like that. but we can certainly ask you to substantiate what you say.

and so, i direct you again to my comment. you say that the gujarat riots were not premeditated. that the gujarat police did not withdraw, leaving the streets free for the rioters. it flies in the face of everything i have heard and read about the riots. and so, having exercised your right to free speech, pls substantiate.

also. to help me understand where you are coming from, do let me know what you think of narendra mode. specifically, his conduct in the context of the riots.

my apologies for sounding harsh. i suspect we agree on quite a lot. the congress (and this government) is crap as far as its adherence to democracy continues. it cannot go about banning sites just because they say something unflattering about sonia gandhi.

i am waiting to see what the rti campaigns reveal. it should be an insight into how this toadying government thinks and acts.

this is why i feel bearish about india. at one end, a crazy party like the bjp. at the other, a bunch of toadies like the congress. how does one choose?


anon 1118

Anonymous said...

Dilip: I am sorry if I sound agitated. I have had to do this over several such blog sites, greatbong, dinamehta, exposingtheleft... & now yours.

the govt has *NOT* banned general blogs. Like any reasonable govt that wants to curtails right of hate-inciting sites to reach the masses, the GOI sought to ban n sites. The ISPs goofed up in implementing that. They are now fixing this, and what seemed like a blanket ban, will be gone.

I wonder how so many of you guys can get such simple facts wrong. You guys are spreading what is factually wrong. Thts sad.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Soubhagya, you're right. Don't be agitated, I see your point.

I would like to see the ISPs pay some penalty for their incompetence in implementing this order.

I would also like to see, as I mention in my subsequent post, the Government give us some explanation for why it seeks to ban even those 18 sites.

I don't expect to get to a point where the government bans nothing -- utopias are never actually reached -- but I damned well want to try hard to get there.

Anonymous said...

>>this is why i feel bearish about india. at one end, a crazy party like the bjp. at the other, a bunch of toadies like the congress. how does one choose? >>

For gods sake pick one of these two. As bad as it may seem, therein lies the hope for Indian democracy.

Anonymous said...

dear rc,
you are right. but see it like this. i live in delhi. in the last elections, smarting from the gujarat riots, i was pretty clear that i would not be voting for the bjp. and then, i discover that my congress ummedwar is none other than 1984 accused sajjan kumar. how do i decide whom to vote for?

i finally voted, damn unwillingly, for the cong. because to vote for anyone else would be to waste my vote. next time around, i am seriously tempted to exercise the 49 O option. if only to register my protest saying that none of the guys are good enough.

there is another huge problem with voting for the cong. the morons inevitably interpret the vote as a statement of confidence in the gandhi family. and the thought that my vote might be interpreted by the idiots as a public vote for rahul gandhi or someone is distressing. it emphatically is not.

anon 1118

Anonymous said...

Dilip: The govt is doing its job in curtailing the rights of hate inciting sites.
As we have seen in the past, acts of terror are followed by immensely sensitive stages, where volatile minds can get instigated to instigate that 1 incident that spirals into a riot.
The readers of these blogs arent going to be the rioteers..hell no, they are -typically- well-read enough to not do that, but what most could potentially end up doing is funding these "interested parties" that then go arrange a mob on the street.

We have had enough bloodshed on these lines already. Like any sensible govt, GOI has done its job in banning these sites.

I have asked this elsewhere, but would you be willing to stick your neck on the line for these sites? vouch for them that they will not lead to anything that we as a nation wont regret?????

Anonymous said...

read the last line as:

vouch for them that they will not lead to anything that we as a nation WILL regret?????

Dilip D'Souza said...

Soubhagya, a couple of things:

The readers of these blogs arent going to be the rioteers..hell no, they are -typically- well-read enough to not do that.

How do you know?

would you be willing to stick your neck on the line for these sites?

Of course. That's what I'm hoping the proposed legal action will do: make the case that the Government has no business asking for a block on these sites.

vouch for them that they will not lead to anything that we as a nation wont regret?????

Nope. That I can't do.

Anonymous said...

well? if readers can be rioteers then thats all the more reason why it should be banned...rright??

and if you cant stick your neck on the line && vouch for them, then let the govt do its job. OR prove you know better, by proving that such websites, CANNOT do any harm.

Dilip D'Souza said...


if readers can be rioteers then thats all the more reason why it should be banned.

Nope. That reading something might have some consequences is not an argument for banning that something.

if you cant stick your neck on the line

For someone who tells me about the consequences of reading, you're doing a good job NOT reading. I used the phrase "Of course" above. Do check.

Anonymous said...

1. You said: "Nope. That reading something might have some consequences is not an argument for banning that something."

Really? then what may be a good reason?????

2. You said: "For someone who tells me about the consequences of reading, you're doing a good job NOT reading. I used the phrase "Of course" above. Do check. "

Sorry, I used comp sci language. the 2 "&"s mean the 2 conditions must be satisfied.

Which is to say, if you are willing to stick your neck on the line, but NOT vouch for them -- your neck is useless. the ppl are safer with the ban.

--the world does not end with the ban..if the owners of the sites can prove that they are harmless in a court of law, then i am sure the ban will be gone in no time.

Anonymous said...

[quote] Gulshan Rai, director of the Ministry of Communication's
Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, said that the ban was not a response to the attack and that sites were targeted because ``the
blogs are pitting Muslim against non-Muslim,'' Reuters reported.


Dilip's role in this pitting of non Muslims versus Muslims should be duly noted. Since dcubed too was banned, he must have been pitting muslims against non-muslims.

Only why did it come about 7 or 8 years too late?

Anonymous said...

1. Dilips site was not banned.
2. for what was, better late than never?

Anonymous said...

san? where are you, san? has anybody seen san? he was last heard declaiming on this page that the gujarat riots were not premeditated. that the cops did their utmost to stem the violence, and so on.
i am still waiting for him to educate me about the real reasons why gujarat combusted after godhra.
anon 1118

Anonymous said...

Anon 1118 : "Gujrat combusted after Godhra"

After Godhra?
Why not talk about Godhra itself? Or is that only a tiny Hindu footnote in your "secular" mind?

2. Soubhgya : No one has to prove that they are "not harmful". No one has to vouch for these websites. The onus is on the GOI to prove that these sites presenta clear danger to India.

Read a good book on how democracy works.