The Saltlist

Satire in the Age of Letters and Technology- more than just a pinch of it.

An Open Letter: To the Pillars of Indian Democracy


Here it comes. They tell me it’s the season of Open Letters and they are really quite in. I have never been much of a believer in the process. But this ocassion warrants it. And I confirm. While in the midst of planning a seminar in my hometown Lucknow I discovered that message sending had failed. I was just trying to reach out to a friend who had agreed to help but I couldn’t get through to her number. Sitting in capital New Delhi. I discovered hours later. The service provider cannot help because the number of SMSs have been limited to 5 per person per day by the regulatory authority of the government.
Anybody who I need to reach out to I cannot, if they choose not to respond to my calls, as they might not have my number saved. As I would too, especially on a Sunday as most of my professional friends and colleagues do too. It is clearly an emergency and not an ordinary situation so it calls for an extraordinary measure.
Managal pandey had a reason that was slightly more intense. But I would rank my sufferings no any less. This clearly is a catalyst. Not that I was in slumber but here I am just trying to get a bunch of reasonable people to come at a place at a given time and date so that we may peacefully discuss how growth can be made more inclusive and the role that media can play in it. I’m not threatening anyone. This is not an activity aimed at disrupting normal conduct of life by citizens of India being one myself. I am certainly not planning violence against any Indian citizen or scheming to overthrow the state. On the contrary I still believe in it and therefore would like to engage with it more meaningfully. Why then will my service provider after a gap of twelve (12) hours not so gently inform me that I their dear and valued customer have committed this most despicable act of sending out 5 SMSs. And therefore I cannot send anymore for the day according to the Government regulatory authority.
The concerned person is not named. There are no grounds for appeal. And you do not know who you can reach out to and why it has happened to you.
Last week a group of eminent journalists , filmmakers and activists came together at the press club in Kolkata. Their mobile sim cards had been blocked. No prior intimation given. Upon enquiries they discovered from clueless and pretty much hapless call centre employees that this had been done as per instruction from their seniors. That’s it. Their crime; they were sending forwards which spoke against state oppressions or were simply sharing jokes and forwards.
We in New Delhi were outraged but things didn’t go beyond a- do- you- believe- this! Now we in New Delhi and across the country have been told that SMSs are possible WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction and/or Deception) and can threaten the very fragile fabric of this democratic nation. And they need to be restricted to 5 per day. Social Media is too. But we’ll deal with that later.
There’s an upcoming election to deal with. For a government sprucing itself with digital advocacy and connectivity outreach programmes and an initiative of mobiles to be distributed to the tune of 7000 crores this is clearly a step that is regressive and spills into a nervous democracy becoming even more nervous. At a time when fear and mistrust is becoming rampant what we need are safe spaces and more conversation. Where an environment of trust can be nurtured and talk is neither prevented nor broken down.
The disclaimer: I do not mind when security at Cinema halls, airports, malls which I do visit on occasion and any public spaces that I inhabit wishes to do their job. It is important. On the contrary I feel outraged when they don’t. I also do not encourage conversation which might incite hate or violence or threaten national security. I also do not encourage inane conversations that blame the government for everything which might include the rare occasion when their dog runs off with the neighbour’s to have a hearty roll in the mud and comes back dirty ruining their most expensive carpet.
And I also do not believe that shooting the messenger, throwing the baby out with the bath water, not building roads because the enemies might use them to attack us in certain parts of the country stand any logical scrutiny.
A medium of communication does not incite hate or violence. People do and action needs to be taken against then individually. It just needs a better law and order implementation. A crime is a crime irrespective of community, caste, class or religion. And blaming technology is not by far the smartest thing that we could’ve done.
A collective blanket ban is not the simple easy quick fix that we seek.
From: A concerned citizen of India with no allegiance to any party.

-Subi Chaturvedi

Founder. Chief Mentor & Editor. Saltlist.

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