That was my first reaction on reading about the news of Home Department of Jammu and Kashmir blocking access to YouTube and Facebook in the state. This order was declared as a result of protests against the anti-Muslim video that was released in YouTube recently.
Though previously announced that only certain URL’s would be blocked, the Govt. had given directions to the internet service providers to block the two websites if any technical issue was faced by them in this. I am not sure whether they did face any ‘technical’ issue, but at present the only technical issue that has seemed to happen is the blocking of the two websites. The funny part is, these websites have been blocked only on mobiles while they are freely available on broadband connections. I sure would love to know who is the Government’s technical in-charge! Either that guy never passed his engineering, or the orders issued to him might have been very vague. I leave CBI to find that out.
This order was issued by the government of J&K under section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 (Yes, 1885!), which states that –
“On the occurrence of any public emergency, or in the interest of the public safety, the Central Government or a State Government or any officer specially authorised in this behalf by the Central Government or a State Government may, if satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of an offence, for reasons to be, recorded in writing, by order, direct that any message’ or class of messages to or from any person or., class of persons, or relating to any particular subject, brought for transmission by or transmitted or received by any tele- graph, shall not be transmitted, or shall be intercepted or detained, or shall be disclosed to the Government making the order or an officer thereof mentioned in the order: Provided that press messages intended to be published in India of correspondents accredited Central Government or a State Government shall not be intercepted or detained, unless their transmission has been Prohibited under this sub- section.”
Now, the last time this act was amended was in 2003. It remains to be seen whether all aspects of this Act remain sensible now, or with the passage of time and exponential growth of the internet, this Act needs to be more up-to-date.
A recent report by Greater Kashmir points out how GPRS has been completely blocked on mobile phones by companies including BSNL, Reliance, Aircel, Airtel and Vodafone. In some cases, along with the social networking websites, e-mail access and web search too has been blocked. I certainly do hope no Social Media Marketing firm has an online campaign planned out in Kashmir anytime in the near future. My condolences to them.
And the comedy doesn’t stop here. When contacted, the IT Minister for the State said that there is no such ban on the websites and he isn’t sure about the presence of “technical” difficulties, if any. And when the Internet Service Providers were contacted they said they had received order from the Government to block these sites. So, either the IT Minister hasn’t been to his office for quite some time, or someone is trying to frame him. Or maybe the Martians did it!
The whole concept of National Security and National Integrity is fine, but there should be some sort of measure to it. They should not become just two random phrases using which anyone can put the freedom of citizens to a halt. Just so that a couple of links that affect the emotional factor of public is to be kept at bay, they block two websites as such!
Any thought about the other 99% or so who are sensible enough to realize that these videos were made by someone who had his top floor empty and would just ignore it and carry on ahead with their lives? What happens to their rights? They are just being bound by invisible shackles, for someone else’s stupidity. I wouldn’t say this action taken is right or wrong, but a sensible Government should be able to take a better decision.
Next thing we know, pictures of pizza would be banned from Instagram to tackle malnourishment in India.
Image Courtesy : igyaan.in