Foreign and Defense Policy, India

Shooting the messenger in India

Over at the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore, Pranesh Prakash has an excellent (partial) summary of the more than 300 web sites blocked by the Indian government as part of its ongoing crackdown on the Internet.

Not surprisingly, the leaked list reveals a clumsy and overbearing response to a spate of rumors–punctuated by isolated attacks–that have led 50,000 citizens from India’s northeastern states to flee major cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Pune for the safety of their home states. But here’s a Keystone Kops moment captured for posterity: India has blocked the post by Pakistani blogger Faraz Ahmed Siddiqui that originally exposed how Islamist groups deliberately mis-captioned photographs from Tibet and Southeast Asia to inflame Muslim passions about violence this summer against Rohingya Muslims in Burma. (As you might expect in India, implementation is patchy. Some people say they can still view the page.)

There are many reasons to oppose India’s attempt to shackle the Internet. It deflects attention from the deeper issue. (Why are people so afraid of mob violence that they’re willing to flee their jobs and universities?) It’s unbecoming of the world’s largest democracy. It sends exactly the wrong message to international investors already concerned about falling growth rates and a government paralyzed by indecision. But most importantly, government attempts at censorship are always crude and counterproductive. The Indian government ought to have given Mr. Siddiqui a medal for his investigative work. Instead it has blocked his post.

One thought on “Shooting the messenger in India

  1. Indeed Mr Siddiqui did a stellar job, although, the photoshopping was of such poor quality that one is unable to comprehend how those images could pass muster. Photoshopping has been a common technique in the Islamic world, put to effective use in the Palestine conflict.

    These particular images had been making rounds in the Indian social media circuit at least since late July. All this was pointed out to many media persons. Sadly, they did not think it was important enough to run stories on it. Eventually it would lead to massive rioting, arson and death across at least a dozen Indian metros and force up to 50,000 people to flee from those cities out of fear and anxiety – albeit temporarily.

    The problem isn’t just a bumbling Government and its fumbling institutions that has even done a pretty botched up job of blocking content, but there is something wrong in the entire opinion industry in India. But then again, US networks ran fake Palestine photographs – so perhaps this is endemic.

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