OPINION

The Great Indian Blog Ban

July 18, 2006
iFaqeer

After the Mumbai blasts, I sent a "We Feel Your Pain (as Karachiites)" mail and blog post to some lists I am on with Indian activists and friends, and it got picked up by Outlook magazine in India. But there were still people taking the "You are evil, we are the victims" line--on both sides. And then the blog ban in India provides yet more proof that the people, and societies run for the benefit of the people, are ALWAYS the victim, and what is evil is oppressive governments--anywhere and everywhere. What I really wanted to do was write another mail that ran just like the first one and said:

We in Pakistan have seen our share of mindless governmental oppression. And as the news comes in this morning, we pray for our friend, our friends to the East...
But let's start with a round-up of what's been happening on the issue. Please skip down for my own commentary, if you're already familiar with this.

It seems the issue might have gone away now, but as of yesterday, it appeared that India had taken, or briefly took, Pakistan's lead in blocking/banning Blogspot. I heard about this on the mailing list for the "Society Against Internet Censorship in Pakistan", but there's now a separate group monitoring the situation in India:

http://groups.google.com/group/BloggersCollective

That group is also working on a Wiki Resource:

http://censorship.wikia.com/wiki/Bloggers_Against_Censorship

One of the major groups following this and related issues is Global Voices. Their site (I think they like to think of it as a collaborative blog) is at:

http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/

[Their "For the Media" page is at:

http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/top/info-for-news-media/ ]

They also have a Wiki (a collaborative site) at:

http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/wiki/article/Main_Page

Which includes a "Bridge Blog Index":

http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/wiki/article/Bridge_Blog_Index

It was interesting following the issue, during the course of yesterday. Various thoughts went through my head and various things happened:

One of the first things folks realized was that the easiest and fastest way to get around the block was to use the website:

http://www.pkblogs.com

It warmed my heart to see a resource developed to help solve a problem in Pakistan be also useful to our neighbours, as well. As I keep saying, we're all in this together.

There was discussion of what motivated the ban. And what was it meant. Personally, I think this is a matter of, as Niemoller said, "Them" finally "coming for me". What is getting lost in all this is that the Indian Government already does a lot of information stuff, but we in cyberspace are only seeing this because it has obvious impact on our daily lives. Read the HT story at:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1746690,000600010001.htm

and some of the more informed discussions, especially between bloggers, and others, about what is being blocked and there being a list of things to block and so on. The assumption is that gag lists are a part of life; they are an accepted and "normal" part of the way the Internet operates in India. I'd like to see more discussion about that aspect of the story; about what exactly "Situation Normal" is. I am not very well-informed about this and don't have the bandwidth or the resources to go after the story. (Unless someone is willing to step up and fund a sabbatical for me...) I would love some full-time journalists actually digging up and presenting a more complete picture. Or maybe a blogger will.

I, of course, also joined the list devoted to discussing/following the ban in India. At one point during the day, someone started a thread for conspiracy theories on that list. Here's what I contributed:

"Here's one. What made me thing of it is the headline I just saw in my
mailbox that said: "Is Pakistani state sponsoring terrorism in India?"

My theory is this: Pakistani Agents who have infiltrated the Indian establishment are the ones to blame for this ban. Who else would support something so obviously against the interests of the Indian people?

I think the opposite could be said about the ban in Pakistan, too, no?

Personally, and this might be an unexpected point of view for a Pakistani to express, the fact that there's a large democracy next door is, at least for some of us Pakistanis, in some ways a reassurance that people just like us can have one. But it is important to look beyond the labels. The point is how well a government and a nation lives up to the nice, enlightened rhetoric we all like to mouth.

In closing, a request: Could folks please help me/us (there's a discussion on the "Bloggers Collective" list and I am sure others will be interested) find groups in South Asia and the diaspora specifically devoted to Free Speech?

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#1
Apollo
URL
July 18, 2006
09:49 AM

Not so fast Mr Bleeding heart paki. We are able to access Blogspot again :).

#2
balaji
July 18, 2006
12:08 PM

not for me. i have been trying since aft'noon.

no luck.

#3
Apollo
July 18, 2006
12:25 PM

Looks like some ISP's have blocked and some others are allowing access. It is blocked for me also from my Home ISP

#4
Raj
July 18, 2006
01:09 PM

Hey Paki - how are you today ? Thanks for your concern. But - thing is, Indian government can only block access to some of my favorite blogs. A big inconvenience, but atleast they do not plant bombs in our trains. Credit for that goes to you people.

#5
Aaman
URL
July 18, 2006
01:18 PM

Raj, valid juxtaposition of scale of actions, but remember, it is the small liberties that we miss least, and miss most (...Then they came for me)

#6
iFaqeer
URL
July 18, 2006
01:40 PM

Thanks all, for the feedback. Especially the tart ones. I could respond in kind; because, especially in the India-Pakistan government-to-government interaction over the last almost six decades, outrages (from ridiculous visa procedures for visiting one's grandparents to supporting the worst parts of each others' societies) has been a tit-for-tat affair--to the point of stupidity. But why go there? Let me just say that it is nice to have a real conversation.

#7
temporal
URL
July 18, 2006
01:57 PM

iFaqeer:

your heart is in the right place



ignore the mullahs;)

#8
iFaqeer
URL
July 18, 2006
02:05 PM

That's easy for YOU to say! :D

No, wait! None of us can do that nowadays...

#9
temporal
URL
July 18, 2006
02:09 PM

what do you mean it is easy for me?

#10
iFaqeer
URL
July 18, 2006
03:00 PM

I meant it is easy for you to say "ignore the mullahs"; more difficult for me to actually be able to do that :D

#11
Aaman
URL
July 18, 2006
03:30 PM

Why, really? Is it the proximity and their local potentate-like status? Is it easier for outsiders to criticize?

#12
temporal
URL
July 18, 2006
03:56 PM

it is not those mullahs

:)

#13
Sanjay
July 18, 2006
09:25 PM

Like I said, it's the Red-Green Show! The two most rabid and intolerant forces in SouthAsia -- the Leftists and the Islamists.

#14
Minase
URL
July 19, 2006
12:37 PM

Where have our basic manners gone? Wasn't iFaqeer just trying to help? Don't attack the author, attack the article, the idea.

#15
balaji
July 19, 2006
01:03 PM

prakritim yaanti bhootani - like the Gita says.
each according to his/her nature minase.

some extremists hijack planes, some hijack spaces.

that's the tragedy of extremism.

#16
iFaqeer
URL
July 19, 2006
01:49 PM

How true; how true!

#17
Amrita
URL
July 19, 2006
02:27 PM

hey iFaqeermay
i'd like to say the thing that people forgot to say as they were too busy jumping up and down for reasons other than what you wrote: "thank you".

#18
Righta
URL
July 20, 2006
07:55 AM

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

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