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Anon and anon

We’ve all heard someone say, if only on TV — ghar ki baat ghar mein hi rehni chahiye. The phrase implies the solidarity and stability of community but has, in fact, frequently encompassed all forms of unfairness, hypocrisy, double-standards, domestic violence, and the curtailing of desire because
‘log kya kahenge.’

It’s no wonder then that for many marginalised parts of our society — women, Dalits, the LGBT community — rendered faceless and voiceless, for the so-called stability of this family called India, speaking out has been a vital act.

More recently, many young lower-middle class and working class Indians have felt compelled by the idea of becoming visible, singled out from the faceless masses via the media, as a way of gaining a stake in the new economy.

On the flip side, many would remember the freedoms of anonymity — the covert hum of chat rooms which set free something of a sexual revolution for urban and small-town Indians; assumed/chosen identities which liberated people to find passion, adventure, romance, love and themselves.

This push and pull of anonymity and declaration, public and private, liberty and commitment, is the human way perhaps. Through it we exercise our right and need to have fluid identities, to be a part of and apart from something, to not be fixed forever in one place, but keep changing.

The Internet is not the first place to facilitate this. But it is certainly the most important one in our times. Like every technological revolution it has offered the possibility of access, mobility, expression and so, political and social transformation.
For that very reason, it is today assailed as an idea and a space by the desire of governments and corporates to monitor, censor and restrict it.

The new intermediary rules of the IT Act say any ‘offensive content’ must be removed by ISPs within 36 hours of complaint. What has this really meant? You only need to look at a list of URLs blocked in India, released by Anonymous — a leaderless, undefined group of anonymous people who use hacking without harming as political protest. Many blocked URLs relate to criticism of the government or corporate involvement in corrupt practices, such as the recent 2G scam.

Anonymous also released a list of sites blocked by Reliance Communications, on the basis of John Doe cases (against unidentifiable offenders) to prevent the possible digital piracy of their films, like “3” and “Dangerous Ishqqq.” These weren’t just Vimeo and Pirate Bay, but allegedly others for which they had no court orders.

Such clampdowns are often justified in terms of moral outrage — loss of jobs, anti-national damage to the economy — mostly using somewhat fallacious figures. In a country where it’s easy to whip up a frenzy of hate or love with expostulations, RComm might find it salutary to make a trip to that Mecca of intolerance, Rediff user comments, and see what they’ve set off.

Pages are full of users expressing absolute disgust for these restrictions and exhorting others to boycott Reliance net connections and cinema releases. Some commentators have posted instructions for circumventing the blocks. If anything could turn the casual Internet user into a hacker, it is this censorship.

There’s a lesson there folks never seem to learn. Like many of the Occupy related movements, Anonymous is an idea of freedom, not a prescribed way for it. If you’d like some say in yours, it’s crucial you get informed, involved and a little geeky. Because if you don’t protest this government and corporate censorship of the Internet you’re going to need all the tech savvy and anonymity you can get.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper. 

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