Not only can the UPA government not implement anything that resembles policy, it is so darned incompetent that it cannot even be properly dictatorial. Forget North Korea or China, even Didi has it beat in that respect. Which is why when people call this Emergency 2012, I have to roll my eyes. Because the Emergency was a coordinated, strategic strike at the heart of India’s democracy, rolled out with clinical efficiency by Indira Gandhi, which actually served its purpose (well at least for a while). This government’s attempt to stifle dissent—well it’s like Suresh Raina on a juiced up Johannesberg pitch against Steyn bowling short deliveries.
First of all, the technical process of blocking websites .In 2006, the government of India had tried to block blogs because evidently the SIMI was using them to communicate. It ended up blocking entire blogging services and, in a bizarre twist, some Western conservative blogs. If that was not enough of egg on face, it went and blocked bloodspot.com because I guess some babu thought it must be a violent version of blogspot.com (except bloodspot.com was, at the time of writing, a medical lab’s website). Now if one had expected that the powers-that-be had gotten their game together six years later and would not be seen running at windmills, hopes were dashed when the public face of the government’s tech-arm, Mr. Kapil Sibal, talked about URL numbers in an official statement. And just as we were getting memories of the terribly addictive “What is your mobile number?” ditty of Govinda from our head, we discovered that even though several twitter accounts had been officially blocked, they could freely be accessed by customers of certain ISPs. Or as they say in the corridors of tech companies “Button khulla hai”.
Now any government with even pretensions of being democratic and inclusive would have done the courtesy of making a public statement with lists of all accounts blocked and, perhaps, some rationale for them. Of course, the UPA men and women have proven, consistently, that they care as much for democracy and transparency as Sachin Tendulkar cares for retirement.
Given that, could we have at least hoped that their ultra-secret black list does not then make it out to the press, and the GOI can come across as a dark Death star that silently eats up twitter accounts without even a sound?
Even there, it fell on its face as the list leaked to the press almost instantly. What do we find there? A Twitter user who hardly ever tweets on politics on the blacklist. And that another Twitter account on it. Twice. [Link]
Stuff mouth with garlic. And then drive stake through heart just to be sure.
Or perhaps a typo that reflects the level of effort that went into this tax-Rs-sponsored witch-hunt.
Now moving beyond the technology to the “larger strategic objective”. What were they thinking? That within a list of sites that had genuinely inflammatory content, they would quietly slip in the twitter ids of Hindu right-wing commentators and the government’s political opponents and no one would notice or care?At the very least, did no one think of the possibility that by doing this, they would just make their opponents become even bigger heroes in the eyes of their base? They could have just let the Congress’s own Twitter team, who are by no means shy or insignificant, fight fire with fire and just keep it there.
Which leads me to ask— who are these people making the calls? Even the dimmest of bulbs understand self-interest, purely as a Darwinian impulse.
If there is any sophistication shown by anyone, it has been by the government’s plants in the press. They have sought to play this up as a case of the government actually doing what they were supposed to do, stymieing poisonous rumors being spread over Twitter. What they of course sidestep is that the government has not furnished an iota of proof (maybe because it does not exist) as to why they believe their political opponents and some Right-wing sympathetic journalists have been perpetuating rumors.
What they also fail to explain is why PM spoof accounts have been sought to be blocked? Why? Are we supposed to believe that the crowd at Azad Maidan follow tweets and could conceivably, not reading the bio, subscribe to the wrong Prime Minister’s account and then get inflamed by the fact that the PM is not silent as they had been led to believe? Are we supposed to believe that, if someone truly wants to make rioters run amok through the streets using tweets of the PM as the rallying point, they cannot take a screenshot of his genuine account, change the words through some form of editing and wave it to the crowd or circulate as an MMS?
But be as it may, the government’s press at least has done the shadow dance pretty well. It however is the government that has become the hole in the center of the doughnut.
Lest it be mistaken, I have full faith in this government, as individuals, to be as ingeniously devious and self-serving as possible. But collectively, I am afraid they have become more Jar Jar Binks than the Evil Emperor.
And that to me, is rather disappointing.