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 Orkut.com 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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  • Pingback: Police should catch rioters, not ban Orkut « An Unquiet Mind()

  • 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.

  • Pingback: Orkut anti-Shiv Sena community flourishes after recent Sena violence « An Unquiet Mind()

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

  • Thanks, Sandra.