India Should Cherish Democracy, Not Ban Orkut!

I was appalled by a report in the After­noon Dis­patch & Couri­er today: “Cyber cafes ban Orkut”.

A day after Shiv Sainiks van­dalised a cyber-cafe in Kalyan, protest­ing against cer­tain hate-com­mu­ni­ties on the web­site on Sun­day, cyber café own­ers in the city seem to be upset with the police for tak­ing no action against the offend­ers.

Inter­est­ing­ly, the Mum­bai police yes­ter­day issued orders to all the cyber cafes in the city ask­ing them to dis­cour­age peo­ple from using the Orkut web­site.

PSI G. Sawant of Kala­chow­ki Police sta­tion said, “We have asked the cyber cafes in our local­i­ty to ban Orkut and not allow peo­ple to surf that site. We have got orders from our supe­ri­ors to ask cyber cafes in our local­i­ty to ban it. Nec­es­sary action will be tak­en against cafes that are found vio­lat­ing the law.”

How­ev­er, when asked, San­jay Mohite, Deputy Com­mis­sion­er of Police (Enforce­ment), said, “I am not aware of this order. But the local police sta­tions may have asked cyber cafes to stop encour­ag­ing Orkut to be used by net surfers.”

A clas­sic case of (mis)governance in India, where the left hand (or local author­i­ty) doesn’t know what the right hand (or
cen­ter) is up to.  But this is alarm­ing — are local police sta­tions free to for­mu­late their own “laws”?

I checked the Orkut Shiv Sena com­mu­ni­ties, there are about 63 in all with about 6000 users. Out of these 63, only 2 are
anti-Shive Sena com­mu­ni­ties. Only 1 is of note: “I hate Shiv Sena”. The com­mu­ni­ty describes itself as fol­lows:

This Com­mu­ni­ty is for all those peo­ple who are sick and tired of Bal Thack­er­ay and his gang called shiv sena.. who for no good rea­son.. are spread­ing cor­rup­tion in the coun­try…They are respon­si­ble for cre­at­ing mass riots, innu­mer­able sources of destruc­tion which have result­ed in loss of time, mon­ey and inno­cent lives…

For their own self­ish polit­i­cal needs they are exploit­ing the needy peo­ple in the coun­try and in turn mak­ing every­one suf­fer… their fake com­mu­nism and base­less chau­vin­ism is a hin­drance in the progress of the nation of its youth…

So, for all of u peo­ple who hate these polit­i­cal mon­sters, come, join this com­mu­ni­ty and share ur beliefs!!!

The com­mu­ni­ty also attempts to mod­er­ate posts on its mes­sage board by ostra­ciz­ing anti-Maha­rash­tra or anti-Shiv­a­ji
sen­ti­ments. These attempts are not always suc­cess­ful though. What is inter­est­ing, is that this com­mu­ni­ty has just over 270
mem­bers. So because of these 270 mem­bers who may be spread all over the world, a group of Shiv Sainiks attacks a cyber
cafe in Kalyan?

While Orkut as a tool is used for igno­min­ious pur­pos­es, it also has its pos­i­tives. What­ev­er the case, it in no way vio­lates any
Indi­an penal or civ­il law. On the oth­er hand, attempts to ban Orkut are vio­la­tions of the con­sti­tu­tion­al right to free speech.

The arti­cle fur­ther states:

An offi­cial of the cyber crime cell, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty said, “We had recent­ly got Orkut to block alleged­ly defam­a­to­ry con­tent about Dr. Babasa­heb Ambed­kar, Chha­tra­p­ati Shiv­a­ji and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thack­er­ay. The site has been encour­ag­ing anti-Indi­an poli­cies and peo­ple are agi­tat­ed by it. We have asked cyber cafés to refrain from using the site. But soon, it may be com­plete­ly banned in India.”

Are we going to adopt the Great Fire­wall of Chi­na? Remem­ber, walls are built brick by brick. Today it is Orkut. Tomor­row
it will be YouTube. And so on. We must crush any attempts to (unlaw­ful­ly) cen­sor the Inter­net in India, and pre­serve our
pre­car­i­ous democ­ra­cy.

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  • What’s inter­est­ing is that ban­ning orkut will actu­al­ly end up dis­ap­ponting the 500+ Pro-shiv­a­ji com­mu­ni­ties and 60+ pro-shiv-sena com­mu­ni­ties. This baby is not just being thrown, but hurled, with the bath­wa­ter

  • Dude­cool

    Some peo­ple think orkut is every­thing only hate the rea­son why it is banned. Not that is banned. By the way I start­ed interne since 1999 from days of my high school and now I learnt more than what they teach you in school.

  • Excel­lent post! I have linked this arti­cle to mine that you will find here. I invite you to my blog and com­ment.

  • Dude­cool

    Bal Thack­er­ay is not wor­thy to be glo­ri­fied. he is equal to that Osho Rajneesh, Indi­an politi­cians and goofy cor­rupt bas­tards irre­spec­tive of their reli­gion. He is as bloody cheap bas­tard who kills peo­ple to gain psy­cho­log­i­cal and polit­i­cal pow­er. Shiv­a­ji and Thack­er­ay should not be equat­ed. Shiv­a­ji is a His­tor­i­cal per­son (Real and alive). We or myself may not know the real­i­ty if that time when he was there. So Bal Thack­er­ay is the only per­son I hate. Marathas and we are unit­ed by the Indi­an Tra­di­tion — not as we were born as Indi­ans but we are unit­ed by the lan­guages we speak, cus­toms and food we eat. Bal Thack­er­ay has no moral right to just sup­port Marathas. The whole of south India — Maha­ras­tra and Oris­sa and Whole of Hin­di and San­skrit Speak­ing com­mu­ni­ties are unit­ed because of lin­guis­tic uni­ty- Of Devana­gari. We share a com­mon plat­form and thought.Shivaji is respect­ed all over India. I am a Kan­nadi­ga and I say that what­ev­er insults hurled at our Moral icons are respon­si­bil­i­ties of the entire com­mu­ni­ty. Per­sons like Bal Thack­er­ay are only here to divide peo­ple in basis of Lin­guism and Area-wise rul­ing (Sim­i­lar to dons). We were thought about Shiv­a­ji in our School when we were young. He said to com­pared to Bha­gat Singh and Akbar as said in our his­to­ry class­es. As such this Anti Shiv­a­ji com­mu­ni­ty should be banned and not orkut, Bal Thack­er­ay should be giv­en respects with Gar­lands for Chap­pals.

  • Krishashok: he he he…you’re right, and I won­der if those pro-com­mu­ni­ties have thought about this!

    B Ramana: thanks. You’ve expressed my thoughts very elo­quent­ly in your post…

    Dude­cool: No com­mu­ni­ty should be banned from Orkut, even if it den­i­grates our his­tor­i­cal icons. I hail from Maha­rash­tra myself, and revere Shiv­a­ji. But I don’t think ban­ning is right — it vio­lates the fun­da­men­tal right to free­dom of expres­sion, which is vital to any democ­ra­cy. The most pow­er­ful man on earth — the US pres­i­dent — is ridiculed and made fun of every day on US late night TV shows. Books are writ­ten and doc­u­men­taries are made crit­i­ciz­ing and den­i­grat­ing him. These are not banned. That’s what democ­ra­cy is all about.

    Shivaji’s stature is not going to change because a few peo­ple don’t like him. The point is whether those whose sen­ti­ments are hurt by such expres­sions have the right to cause riots and cur­tail oth­ers’ free­dom of speech just because they don’t like it.

  • Good for Noth­ing

    Ban­ning a web­site for deroga­to­ry remarks is not the solu­tion. I am no Maha­rash­tri­an but I con­sid­er myself a free Indi­an. And that I believe is my great­est iden­ti­ty. I also dis­agree with cer­tain ide­olo­gies and cer­tain peo­ple, but by insult­ing them we are not doign any­thing great. Sites such as orkut are help­ing peo­ple con­nect through­out the world. I have met my school friends whom I have last been in touch almost 15 years ago through this site, so would not approve the solu­tion as ban­ning orkut. I would like to look at this in anoth­er way. Lets try and play the game, which amer­i­cans play most. Lets SUE orkut for any com­mu­ni­ty they host that are con­sid­ered offen­sive for a coun­try or for a com­mu­ni­ty. The eas­i­est way to dis­rupt a country’s peace is by infus­ing a sense of hatred among its mass­es. If orkut is infus­ing that hatred then sue them in the inter­est of the coun­try.…. I am sure orkut/google will get bank­rupt if they do not take their ini­tia­tive in clos­ing down such com­mu­ni­ties. So auto­mat­i­cal­ly they will take action against these peo­ple.

  • Good for Noth­ing: Orkut is not infus­ing a sense of hatred among Indi­an mass­es, the hatred is being expressed by Indi­an mass­es using Orkut as a medi­um of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Ban­ning one com­mu­ni­ca­tion medi­um is not going to stop anoth­er one from spring­ing up. Regard­ing suing Orkut, which Indi­an law has it vio­lat­ed?

  • Good for Noth­ing

    I agree with what you are say­ing mahen­dra, then in that case we the peo­ple who are using orkut should be more respon­si­ble and iden­ti­fy these com­mu­ni­ties as bogus and report it to orkut so that they may bring them down. You can­not stop it that is for sure but at least try to pre­vent as many as pos­si­ble. The way peo­ple are smash­ing things around is not a way to han­dle such things.… Even they should know that… But the prob­lem is who will face them and tell them the same with­out fear of get­ting beat­en up ?

  • GfN: The police. Pre­vent­ing peo­ple from smash­ing things around and break­ing the law is their job, that’s why the police exist. If we sub­or­di­nate free­dom of expres­sion to threats of vio­lence, we’ve lost our democ­ra­cy.

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  • Hi! I was surf­ing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! San­dra. R.

  • Thanks, San­dra.