Sibal does everything other than
what he is expected to do
The UPA government is showing all the signs of a regime in panic. Miserably failing to perform, unable to take criticism and arrogant in its approach (personified by Kapil Sibal) it is now attempting to stifle uncomfortable voices. And who else but Sibal to do the dirty job! His recent announcement seeking to filter the content on the internet and social network sites reveals the paranoia of the ruling clique. And in this pathetic censor move it is using the ‘communal’ card.
Kapil Sibal says that some contents are offending at a personal level. The latest trigger is a cartoon of the prime minister being led on a leash by Sonia Gandhi. He says lampooning the prime minister is not on. He should recall the words of his own party’s great leader Jawaharlal Nehru, who told cartoonist Shankar “Don’t spare me Shankar.” In a healthy democracy, politicians are very much the target of jest and joke. World over such pictorial humour is on and allowed. Most of the time the leaders, if they are democratic enough, join the laughter. It is only in dictatorship that the leader is only hailed and not riled. If they choose to be in public life, they have to be willing to be exposed too.
Now to the communal card. India has witnessed some of the worst communal riots when there was no internet. Nobody gets provoked by what is on the net. People are made by their religious leaders and political interests to react, to retaliate. Even the name of a character in a short story had provoked riots in Karnataka years ago. To blame the net for ‘inciting’ communal passion is giving more credit than due to the medium. The internet is full of sites against all the religions, one slanging the other.
Should the government be taking control? Especially a government that is not able to perform its mandate? A government that speaks in several voices? And what would the mechanism be? Will it set up another committee, headed by Kapil Sibal to monitor the net?
Sibal has apparently forgotten that he was inducted into the cabinet as HRD Minister, with such serious portfolios as Education and Women. He is attending to all issues except that. One is unable to recall when was the last time the department of education was in discussion for any sterling initiative. The total literacy campaign has been fully abandoned, female literacy programme has been forgotten and the plethora of measures announced on empowering women has not moved from the paper. Instead, Kapil Sibal is where telecom controversy is, waiving off Rs 2.76 lakh crore losses as bunkum, leading the pack of congressmen in running down Anna Hazare and his team, hobnobbing with Agnivesh to try and fix the anti-corruption campaigners. And now this. Of course, according to the netizens, Sibal is doing all this to try and displace Digvijay Singh as chamcha No.1, of Sonia Gandhi. May the best win!
One of the main reasons why the social network sites have become popular and political is that the organised media has been tamed over the years and largely stick to the official line. There is not a single newspaper or magazine (except Organiser) which can be today identified as anti-government. Even during Emergency one could name at least a couple of dailies that were rabidly defiant, that voiced the citizens’ dissent. No such privilege now. All the publications are in various shades pro-government.
To quote one latest instance, on December 5, 2011, Kirit Somayya and Uma Bharti — two respected leaders — had released a list of 26 companies owned by Mayawati’s brother, in which a huge amount of illegal cash was stashed. Almost all the dailies and channels completely ignored the story. It is not out of place to mention that the media receives crores of rupees of government largesse by way of advertisements.
In a scenario like this, the free expression is finding room only in blogsphere. There is a healthy exchange of views and counter-views. Any content that is bad in taste and unacceptable face a natural death. It does not need any outside control to do that.
The real reason why the government is worked up is that the various sites in the net are unveiling the murky stories of the members of the Congress first family. Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka and Robert Vadhera have all been written about and their several connections exposed by vigilant Indians here and abroad. The near-anonymity of the sender gives them the courage to expose, without fear of physical harm. (Those who saw the Robert Vadera clip on Youtube would know). This role that should have been played by the mass media in the country has been taken over by the netizens. The government would do well to pull back before the flame burns its meddling hands.