Internet Regulation Debate Back in the Forefront

JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav has called for a temporary ban on social networking sites to stop the spread of retaliatory violence in the country in the wake of the ethnic clashes in Assam. There is not even a remote possibility of the Central Government taking such a step because banning a social networking site like Facebook even for a day would lead to an outcry of astounding nature but what is interesting to note over here is that these unfortunate incidents have reignited the debate surrounding internet regulation.

The same set of people who stonewalled Kapil Sibal’s attempt to do internet patrolling are now calling for substantial steps to be taken in the direction of content-control in the virtual world. I have always been supportive of the idea because there is not even a single country on the face of the Earth which gives its citizens the absolute right of the freedom of speech and expression. No matter how fundamental this right might be but it can always be curtailed to contain tricky situations which might lead to violent clashes and bloodbaths. Last year’s London riots bear testimony as to how technology is used to spread mischief and rioting and the Indian experience this year is no different. The internet serves as the ultimate platform for rumour mongering propagandists and fundamentalist forces. The emotional-exaggerated messages put up by such people have a readymade audience suffering from societal anxiety and hidden heartache. Governments across the globe might shy away from patrolling the internet today fearing a stubborn backlash from internet giants but ten years down the line this would become an utmost certainty.

Agitational Politics leads to Anarchy

My sheer animosity towards agitational politics and street protests is merely because of the fact that I don’t expect a few thousand people at a protest site to remain peaceful under all circumstances.

This stand of mine has stood the test of time and was vindicated yet again when Muslim vandals protesting against the ethnic clashes in Assam and neighbouring Myanmar went berserk and torched vehicles including OB vans of media houses besides clashing with the police. Not only has this incident shamed the entire Muslim community but it has also given xenophobic and jingoistic right wingers (whose sole notion of patriotism is Pakistan-bashing) a blatant opportunity to indulge in mudslinging.

Another thing which I fail to realize is in connection to the strange stereotyping of Muslims. The media has portrayed the ethnic clashes in Assam as a battle between the Bodos and Muslims and the sectarian riots in Myanmar as a conflict between Rakhines and Muslims. Bodos aren’t labeled as Hindus nor are Rakhines called Buddhists then why are Bengalis and Rohingyas portrayed as Muslims. It’s strange but nevertheless the communalization of the situation should be avoided.