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1

We have come a long way, and it is time for me to enter a new learning and growing phase, and who better to guide my way than you, who have walked along? Below is a short survey for regular readers. I would appreciate it if you took a moment and shared your feedback so that you find more of what you like on the blog in the future.

Thank you!

The sheer number of posts on this blog about the alleged rape of a Tehelka journalist by Tarun Tejpal have raised eyebrows. For me, the posts have actually been several different kinds of posts, though around the same incident. My own stand has changed considerably during the process as well. I began blogging because it was an outrageous expose about Tehelka - an organization that has a strong reputation for human rights and investigative journalism. I believed that the victim was very smart and doing the right thing in demanding a sexual harassment committee (something I still believe, though I now think it is a relief that got derailed). From that point to now, is a long fall and a disturbing one for someone who usually consistently gives women the benefit of doubt. Currently, I am blogging perspectives on the Tehelka Rape scandal that media is ignoring, because I believe a unilateral and unquestioning media helps no one. And if media fails, bloggers MUST NOT, or we become vulnerable to exploitation by whoever can set the agenda.

Has media failed in covering the Tarun Tejpal rape scandal?

I think yes. I think media has become so used to the culture of press releases published lazily combined with a knee jerk tendency to create campaigns for women's rights when the victim is from the middle class, that they have gone completely derailed from anything remotely like a neutral perspective. The evidence is there all over the media, so I won't go into detail here except pointing out that this is a case, where something as mundane as a story having two sides got unilaterally passed as an outrageous claim as well as an attempt to intimidate the victim, by some of the more zealous reporting. There are other questions I have raised, glaring anomalies I have pointed out.

Regardless of whether Tarun Tejpal is innocent or guilty, when journalists and media houses start reporting interviews as "being defensive in spite of being exposed" and "continues to protect" and such, while the person being interviewed is desperately repeating the exact opposite, I think it is fair to say things have derailed from journalism to a media lynch mob beyond recognition. Even if Tejpal is guilty, the idea of reporting is to convey what happened, not your opinion on it. "Shoma Chaudhary said blah blah" would suffice and people could decide for themsleves (and likely not reach the promoted conclusion). That is for media to reflect. It is hardly the first time it has happened - the "tamasha" method of human rights reporting - and pointing out is no use. My best bet was to blog things being missed.

What will one piddly little blog like yours achieve?

I think it is the voice and idea that matters. This piddly little blog was able to come through for Keenan and Reuben's friends and families when the regular media just reported their murders and moved on. This piddly little blog came through for many causes over the years, small and big, ranging from free speech to dowry murders, and I have found that if what the voice says resonates, it magnifies on its own. Becomes small again when the resonance passes. So I am not worried about the size of the blog.

Why are you defending Tarun Tejpal or Shoma Chaudhary or Tehelka?

I am not. I don't do defending unless it is kids, who lack the voice to speak for themselves. To the best of my knowledge, Tejpal, Shoma and Tehelka are adults and perfectly capable of speaking for themselves. Nor do I have access to the thought processes of any of them. Might as well state at this point that I am not in contact with either Shoma or Tejpal and I have, in fact never corresponded with them to the best of my knowledge. My issue is with unfairness, as with most things challenged on this blog. If me challenging what I see as unfair helps them or anyone, I have no problem with it. Would I write a word to make their life easier? Perhaps, if I ran out of things of my own and they still looked like they were facing organized odds. Chances are low. I don't do favors easily and I guard the integrity of this blog with all the dedication of a rottweiler on protection duty. The only agenda here is mine. And I'm willing to own it and defend it.

Isn't this a conflict of interest? Aren't you a journalist with Tehelka?

No, I am not. I have contributed blogs to them on a per blog basis. I have not sent any in the recent months, for reasons of my own. I was never told what to write, and I would never obey, if I were to be told. And that was me submitting to their blog. Let alone my own.

I stopped sending in blogs for reasons of my own which have absolutely nothing to do with this case. If I wanted to send blogs to them again, this case would not prevent it.

Why do you hate the victim?

I don't. In fact I can relate with her anger. In her place, I would too go after my rapist and bring him down by weaponizing every skill and ability I have and I'd dance on their metaphorical grave. I'm no Gandhian like that. I actually have a list of public personalities to write gleeful obituaries for when they die - and they haven't done me any harm directly. What would I do to someone who did? I would shred them any way I could. I don't have any hesitation saying that.

I have no idea of her agenda, but in her place, vengeance would work for me better than a third party granting me justice eventually, with my target having the pull to keep the process in a limbo infinitely. I have shamelessly advocated thrashing confirmed rapists. I wouldn't blink an eye at something as well deserved as exposing. I would bring him down if I could and walk away dusting my hands as the castle blew up in the background. Yeah, the court case of a powerful and connected man can go on, but my job done, I'd have moved on well before that point, leaving the rapist to manage a further circus to stay free. If I was a journalist with widespread contacts in media, reputation for women's rights activism, in the know on how media reacts to violations of women's rights for people like us? Oh, the result would look very similar to what we're seeing. Possibly worse - at least in my fantasies. And I wouldn't even bother to remain anonymous.

So no, I don't hate the victim. I actually admire her cunning in planning this so meticulously and then pulling it off. And when I say cunning, it is with complete respect. I would LIKE to be cunning like that if my own interest were wronged.

Then what is your problem? Why are you questioning the victim's account?

It is complex. I believe what is going on is not fair. It is not retaliation against Tejpal alone - I'd be willing to accept the victim's claim of rape if Tejpal alone were the target. This is currently harming the interests and reputations of people beyond Tarun Tejpal who have not done the victim harm and are a wrong she has done on them with her actions. I won't support that for the same reason I won't support anything I see as unfair.

I have also been following this story with interest and I believe the victim is not being entirely honest with the public as well as she was not entirely honest in her own words in seeking justice from Tehelka. Dishonesty bugs me. Particularly when it is all conveniently stacked in the same direction. Then it starts looking deliberate.

A third reason is my longterm grudge against a compromised media. The victim being on a rampage for vengeance makes sense. The victim using her personal contacts in media makes sense. When our entire media starts canvassing one view in the name of reporting, this is a problem. It violates my Free Speech, which includes the right to information. An opinion is only as "free" as the input available in forming it and if media goes on a comprehensive slant on a case, then it amounts to sacrificing the intellect of the nation for your agenda. This is my biggest grudge to be frank.

And there is a second biggest grudge. I see this case as a terrifying instance of how feminist activism can be weaponized to the point of completely denying the space for any other view. Whether coincidence or tactical brilliance, when a monolith of journalists go on the rampage against sme entities, no one, but no one gets in their way - which is the only explanation of not just the lack of any contradicting voices, but the absence of the usual dimwits who make a point of being asinine in the aftermath of an incidence of violence against women. This is, of course very damaging for free speech, where a holy cow subject can simply deny space to any dissent, but worse are the possibilities for women.

If media succeeds in destroying a man completely - which is where they seem headed at the moment - on the mere word of a victim, before the courts can even get at the case, imagine the implications of hiring a woman in your office? Imagine the implications of apologizing to a woman for sexual misconduct? Imagine the sheer nightmare of protecting a star or controversial figure from accusations? Also, what is the responsibility of a place of work to the man? Is it fair to ask men to not discriminate against women and to hire them if you cannot guarantee that their side will at least be heard if there are any allegations of improper behavior?

What the victim did on its own can be understood as her response to her trauma. What the media is doing in support by abdicating all independence in favor of following the line dictated in the emails is unforgiveable. I believe it will be very harmful if a contradictory voice cannot exist at all, so I am committing to voice it as long as media seems to be on a mental vacation.

Do you think it is fair to question the victim's account? Why?

Short answer: Yes I do, or I wouldn't question it.

Long answer: The emails are clearly being released with all the efficiency of press releases, regardless of the victim also releasing pleas about her privacy. Essentially, the victim has chosen to fight her case in media courts instead of filing an FIR. In my view, if media is the court, then the media must question robustly as well. Not only is it fair, fairness demands it.

But what about Feminism?

What about it? I have no idea. Feminism to me never meant blindly supporting anyone over another over gender identity. The idea is justice, not a media riot where whoever wins the influence war writes reality. I was never a slave to feminism, just like a thousand other concepts. My feminism is perfectly untroubled with me claiming my power to wade through all sorts of conclusions and try to find an answer for why a women supporting media is suddenly lynching Tejpal through attacks on character and credibility of women close to him.

Why do you say the victim's side of the story doesn't add up?

I will write a separate post on that. Too long to add here. Will add link here when ready. Update: Here is why the victim's side doesn't add up for me.

======================

If you have more questions, feel free to add in comments, but I'm mostly done explaining myself. I'm doing this because it is needed and right.

5

Yesterday when I wrote the article saying that Arun Jaitley sending the notice to the blogger Prashant Panday was a good thing, I came across a couple of immediate condemnations regarding how Barkha Dutt got criticized for the same. It is hardly a new thing for the distinctions between free speech and slander to be erased in an attempt to defend favorites and I find myself in a lonely battle making all kinds of distinctions that perhaps we as a country are not ready for.

This post is not about the law. I'm neither a lawyer nor a judge. This post is about my interest in seeing freedoms upheld as well as accountability. And I think Arun Jaitley sending a notice to Prashant Panday cannot simply be bundled with Barkha Dutt sending notice to Chetan Kunte and one "good" or "bad" be applied to both. I don't think the law pulls such stunts either, considering that we continue to try cases individually.

There is a school of thought that appears to think that if accountability for his words can be expected from Prashant Panday, then why not from Chetan Kunte. Well, I suppose if the issue is of suing for defamation. anyone can send a notice to anyone. In fact, I don't even believe anything bad needs to have been said. If you want to send a notice, your sanity might be under question if you send it without reason, but no one is going to dispute your "right" to send it. So let us get that out of the way. Legally, I suppose both the cases are "equal" and whoever was here to only be reassured of that can quit reading at this point.

That said, I am not sure having an opinion on a person's actions rather than claiming facts is defamation. Which is essentially what Chetan Kunte had done in his article titled "Shoddy Journalism". To quote the beautiful wikileaks who preserved the statement he was forced to publish on the blog, if not the original post, he was specifically taking back the following:

* a lack of ethics, responsibility and professionalism by Ms. Dutt and NDTV Limited;
* that Ms. Dutt and NDTV's reporting at the scene of the Mumbai attacks during November 2008, resulted in jeopardizing the safety and lives of civilians and / or security personnel caught up in and / or involved in defending against the attacks in Mumbai in November 2008;
* that Ms. Dutt was responsible for the death of Indian Servicemen during the Kargil Conflict.

This, being extremely specific quotes in lawereese, I assume came from the notice that told him exactly how he could get rid of the monster threat riding his back  by publishing what he was told.

Now here is the interesting thing. I have no idea how Barkha Dutt and NDTV are certain the terrorists and Pakistan Army did NOT get information that allowed them to target Indian forces from either "Ms Dutt" or "NDTV Limited". It would hardly be the first time criminals used news coverage for information. Even if care was taken, Kunte is unlikely to have known that (nor has any media management to prevent information leaks in initial period been claimed, even in hindsight), so what Kunte published, he still published believing it to be true.

This cannot be called defamation. It is commentary and criticism of security risk. He saw TV and thought he was getting information that was sensitive and wrote that and criticized what he saw as a lack of judgment. I will concede that it is highly unlikely that Barkha Dutt or NDTV *wanted* to jeopardize anyone. But one cannot say what the terrorists used for information or how they interpreted it to declare so confidently that the reporting did not result in intel either.

With this logic, NDTV should not run talk shows that have people claiming that someone is guilty of something at all. This would probably include not criticizing the government, not calling Modi responsible for deaths in Gujarat and God only knows what else. So clearly there is a standard being applied specifically to the hapless blogger that they do not follow themselves. Even standard disclaimers of opinions not belonging to the channel would not make sense, since clearly the channel saw fit to broadcast them to millions of viewers - a call the speaker did not make. And channels officially cross lines too. For sensation (translates to money). For example:

In a far more serious accusation, Afzal Guru's lawyer famously wrote to NDTV:

"Your repeated news bulletins over two days reduced the issue of the hanging of Afzal and his Mercy Petition pending with the President to a very simplistic solution "Show repeatedly the video tape (an unlawful piece of evidence) of the alleged confession of Afzal recorded in police custody as breaking news, convince the viewers that it has brought out the ultimate truth, ask them to send SMS messages to NDTV conveying their opinions about the "—Phansi" (hanging) of Afzal, and then pour out the "—collective opinion" gathered in this manner to pave the way for the prompt hanging of Afzal."What a simple, quick solution of an issue involving the life and death of a citizen!"

This could actually have lost a man his life by mobilizing a lynch mob of opinion that made hanging him a security and political survival requirement rather than the merit of his petition. The tape that was broadcast was set aside by the court. Afzal Guru is on record saying that he was made to say those things by the police under threat to his family. It cannot be called a requirement of reporting, since the news was the petition and not evidence that the court had rejected. Nor could years old footage be called "news". And it was a completely deliberate set of actions aimed at influencing the result. Can't be called "collecting public opinion" if the information fed to them before they state their opinion has been struck down by the court.

Note: This is an example of how defamation with very serious consequences can look like. To have a problem with Afzal Guru, go to an older article and argue there.

To stretch the issue still further, Chetan Kunte was a nobody with a reach of maybe a few hundred people. Off the top of my head, I can think of several people whose words reach millions who have not pulled punches criticizing Barkha Dutt including some far more serious allegations related with what became troll fodder as "Barkhagate". I do not wish to reproduce them here, because the point here is not listing out criticism of Barkha Dutt, only saying that it exists and in my view, Chetan Kunte was an easy target to string up as an example.

The price he paid? His entire blog is gone. Fear. To get into legal confrontation with a top media personality and channel was likely way beyond his reach.

But going beyond all that, to some views on censorship and equality...

In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.

~ Anatole France

The law may be equal for all, but the very nature of it can be discriminatory and being written by powerful people, is usually more sensitive to their problems and insensitive to the problems of those who were not involved in the writing of the laws. For example, if you had a law against owning more than two cars, you wouldn't have too many poor people violating it.

I think it works on an intellectual level too. In a country where education does not even passingly touch important intellectual skills like logical reasoning or distinguishing between fact and opinion, there are very few with the skills to be compliant with the fine line between criticism and defamation. I would channel Katju here for a minute and claim that less than one percent of people actually have the ability to analyze and articulate themselves with the precision that can express themselves without doing wrong to another with refined nuance.

And the 99% who cannot include highly educated people and politicians too. Which is how rape after rape has people seemingly blaming women for it, when reading their words carefully makes an empathetic person realize that they are raising concerns about the inherent exploitation in the evolving stereotype of modern beauty that has women at risk because of catering to the male gaze in a highly normalized sexual objectification. They have no expression for it beyond describing the clothes, which is too broad and mangles the subject beyond sanity, but they are people who have seen it from close and they understand the danger, which has top policemen, teachers, politicians and parents ignoring all precedents of ridicule to voice it anyway.

It is no different with blogs. Boggers, tweeters... they feel. They write. They may not always have the refinement that is desirable, but in my view, inaccurate expression beats silence by a wide margin. It is primitive, undifferentiated, block like thinking that says all people who don't support X are supporters of Y. It is plain illogical to believe that everyone who agrees with us is noble and there is some evil entity going around paying people to disagree with us. Whatever. It is most certainly insulting to be called a slut for having a political view. At the same time, to make it more than it is - unrefined, clumsy expression - to me is discrimination, because there are few with the life experiences that would have brought them refinement in a world of institutionalized stupidity. To me, targeting the wrongs of their expressions while ignoring the concerns they are voicing is a bit like not hiring a low caste person for his looks or accent.

To expect the same refinement from anyone with an internet connection that frankly journaists don't always achieve in spite of it being a professional requirement, is plain discrimination, though the law will support suing anyone by strict standards. A line comes to mind from some romance nove i read:

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

On the other hand, it is also true that public figures, figures who introduce ideas that disturb, because they are new or cause us to question ourselves, people who take responsibility for collectives and cannot accommodate every interest.... such people also suffer extraordinary hostility expressed as criticism, accusation or slander. And surely they cannot be expected to be superhuman enough to always live thinking about the larger picture and never give in to the simple need to hit back in irritation or defense.

It is not a monolith. I think it is a world of conversations. The more we have, the better it is for us all. The less we attempt to overpower, the more diversity can thrive.

But then, that is my opinion.

It is also my opinion that everyone has the right to act with the freedoms available to them, and if such a freedom means that justice to the wrong experienced to the self needs a notice, so be it.

 

If you were reading with the expectation of "one right answer", sorry, but I don't have one.

Arun Jaitley's advocate, Pratibha Singh has sent a legal notice to blogger Prashant Panday and Arun Jaitley has posted it on his personal website as well. The blogger had made certain accusations about Jaitley's finances.

I think this is a good thing. Not the practice of sending notices to bloggers to shut them up, but the act of a politician challenging accusations of corruption himself without letting them fester and blow up into rumor mills. Of course, exposing corruption runs the risk of angering people, and a legal notice serves nicely as a weapon to try and get a corruption expose taken offline. We saw it on my blog when I got a notice over an expose I had made. So it is not as if I don't understand what happens to the blogger who cannot afford to fight legal battles.

Firstly, I believe that blogging is conversations. It is an important voice for people, but there is no logic in assuming a blogger is always correct or in dismissing the harm done to a person who is on the receiving end of bad publicity. Asserting a blogger's right to say whatever he wants regardless of the consequences to another is not a responsible call, in my opinion. Particularly when the article is published in a newspaper. As the notice states, it was published on the Times of India website as well as getting picked by a newspaper in Tripura. The Times of India piece seems to be taken down, but the Tripura one is still available online. There is no telling where else it has spread, since newspaper content does spread like wildfire.

While I am against the arbitrary imposition of a 48 hour deadline for taking down content that can be imposed by anyone at large, I am not against demanding accountability from content itself. There is no such thing as the right to slander. And inventing it will be dangerous to a country that thrives on polarization, not to mention the overall quality of information where stakes are high. This is a stand I have taken fairly consistently regardless of which political party is accused or doing the accusing.

A whistleblower ought to have documents that back up his accusations, without which it becomes malicious gossip. And the hate between political parties as well as parties basing their entire existence on anticorruption is such that a person with proofs against a politician getting a legal notice cannot be silenced as easily. Worse, the internet smelling injustice has a way of decimating attempts to silence it. The content targetted for removal would get a wider audience instead. Unlike the common man of India, the common netizen of India isn't that easily silenced.

Even in the case where the issue is not as high TRP as a politician, a whistleblower who has proofs can simply present them as proof that he is not defaming. It is not defamation if you can prove it true. My reply to the notice had presented the sources for my claims and the matter ended there. I did take down the original post for fear of legal harrassment, but I believe that if I had the time (which I don't, for personal circumstances), I could also have defended it in court, which is something that is highly unlikely to pan out if your expose is genuine. No one wants to prove themselves corrupt to avoid a blogpost.

Now look at the rest of the scene. Politicians are ganging up to avoid RTI into political parties. Our sources of accurate information are severely restricted. In such a situation, a legal notice such as this actually helps clarify the issue, in my opinion. There are claims the person is making on record. If those can be proved wrong, the whole matter becomes much simpler - in the case of a corrupt politician. If the notice makes explanations that make the sources of the accusation of corruption wrong in some manner, then it is a clarification got at relatively less effort. In any case, the accused person responding to the accusation on record has to be a plus if the objective is against corruption rather than a PR war.

Also, I think given the deteriorating standards of journalism, demanding accountability from content that can make or break the reputation of a politician in the run up to elections is hardly unreasonable. I hope that this sets off a flurry of notices against mass media by politicians who would like to set the record straight. This is also what I thought about the allegations of US citizenship of our new RBI governor Raghuram Rajan. These things must be on record and clear as a matter of transparency. It should not be a matter of either silencing a blogger/journalist or defending a politician.

In my view such actions will be very welcome in today's vile political scenario which thrives on disinformation and mud singing. They will help the common man separate manipulation from facts and empower democracy.

In my view, politicians themselves addressing accusations of corruption with any visibility will go a long way toward getting some answers while we figure out how to get the RTI working.

5

I have lampooned our government often over censorship and it is a Congress Government [each word is one among dozens of links on this blog criticizing our government on regimenting free speech]. This is because it is the UPA government in power. The BJP aint smelling sweet on this though I made the mistake of ignoring them.

Today, the BJP supporters online are vocal in criticizing government censorship and being condescending with anyone not supporting the shining ideal - "absolute" freedom of speech, with Twitter flooded with criticism of the Congress for using censorship for political purposes. While this cannot be disputed - our government is indeed trying to regiment dissent into compliance in various ways - both online and offline, the high moral ground currently taken by the BJP, in my view is little more than a farce when the only time it is heard is when accounts affiliated with their interests are blocked. This, in my view is not a fight for right to freedom of speech and it is pressure to reverse blocks to protect their own interests.

The washing hands off any responsibility for the condition of our freedoms of speech in my view is rubbish. BJP has played a role in censoring Speech, which it conveniently ignores now, when it wishes free speech for its own.

The first major instance of internet censorship in India was when the website Dawn.com was blocked in 1999 during the Kargil War. Rediff had posted a workaround. The IT Act didn't exist then, but here is how it was done anyway.

VSNL Acting Chairman and Managing Director Amitabh Kumar toldRediff "Yes. We have blocked the site. But it is under instruction from higher authorities." When asked about the legality of the order, Kumar said "We have done it under the authority given to us by the Indian Telegraph Act."

The next year itself, the IT Act passed. I was living in Manali when the IT Act of 2000 was passed and a mighty puzzled dehati when all of a sudden all the cyber cafes started warning of watching pornographic or "obscene" content on their premises. It was the starting point of the government moralizing use of the internet. The 67th point in the Information Technology Act described offenses:

67. Publishing of information which is obscene in electronic form.

Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees.

Their hounding of Tehelka for their Operation Westend expose is probably on par with the Wikileaks hounding by US - for exposing grave wrongs in defense forces too. Accusations of "ISI hand", "fabricated videos", etc - that BJP supporters jeer at today coming from Congress politicians have been a part of that persecution. Today their supporters are furious about blocks on Twitter profiles that still leave them with the ability to get their word out and have no impact on their journalism.

There was a fair bit of extra-legal, unaccountable censorship legalized by this at the discretion of various officials and without court orders. A letter by Seema Kazi in the Hindu in 11 November 2000 titled "Covert Censorship"  describes censorship of her emails without any court order or specific reason provided beyond "Muslims have links with Pakistan and because of reasons of security". She had stopped getting emails from MESN.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister and Pramod Mahajan was the Minister for Information Technology - BJP - in case you are interested.

Flash forward to recent years. The IT Act got Amended in 2006 and 2008. The IT Rules passed with as little concern for free speech as the original act and amendments - BJP was sitting in the opposition. During the time the IT Rules passed, the BJP was actually stalling everything under the sky, Internet users were fighting tooth and nail to prevent them. If the second independence of India has to be fundamental freedoms, organizations and campaigns like CIS-India, SFLC, Save your voice, Internet Democracy and independent journalists and activists and lawyers.... are your REAL freedom fighters none of whom find even passing mention as BJP supporters suddenly become torch bearers of your online voice.

BJP has been part of the problem. This current holier-than-thou is obscene and an insult to those fighting for freedoms for ALL. Look at the categories for Free Speech and Censorship on this blog itself and I was a very, very minor player writing about Free Speech among many other things. There are dozens who dedicated themselves to researching, speaking up, leading campaigns and continue now too. Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi and friends went on fast in protest of the IT Rules, which was actually jeered at as "drama" by many BJP supporters.

The IT rules passed without challenge - BJP major part of opposition and yes, Congress major part of government. There is no lily white on this.

MP Rajeeve has valiantly continued to speak for our rights. He tabled an anullment motion for IT Rules. When the motion was due for debate in the Rajya Sabha, I was a fresh recipient of a takedown notice for an article describing illegal activities in sailing for "defamation". Taking a huge risk, I publicized the notice on top of the post and used the full 36 hours available to me to actually publicize the content at risk to draw attention to the problem with the IT Rules. Financially broke and up against powerful people, it was no minor thing to risk provoking further legal cases against me or possible attempts to censor my blog altogether. I lost count of people who told me to stop drawing attention and take down the post and not be stupid - even though I was wrongly targeted, but I did it anyway.

The post went viral. Lots of people including BJP supporters publicized it as an outrage. And it was. Few, other than MP Rajeeve were interested. Arun Jaitley pointed out problem with words used to define content that could be blocked. Made comparisons with the Emergency. Members of other parties like NK Singh ( JDU), Tirchy Siva, D Raja(CPI) and others  explained the problems with the rules and how its untenable to censor the internet. That is it. The motion was defeated.

However the serious points raised made Kapil Sibal agree to wider consultation. This consultation was held at fairly short notice on 2nd August 2012. It was supposed to include MPs and stakeholders. Civil society was not invited in spite of attempts to get an invitation. However Prashanth from SFLC still managed to attend. Out of 25 MPs invited, only 2 attended - neither of them from the BJP. They were independent MP Rajeeve Chandrashekhar from Bangalore and MP Derek O'Brien from Trinamool Congress. However, with stakeholders including representatives of Yahoo, ISPs and more, the objections raised were far more robust and a new and wider consultation was promised by Kapil Sibal.

This is where Free Speech in india currently stands. The government has given itself widespread rights to censor. BJP, whose supporters are absolving their own leaders and lampooning the Congress have been a part of getting us here. To claim big innocence and support for "absolute" free speech - apparently overruling laws of the land and what not when own affiliates come under the axe is the height of hypocrisy. That too for problem areas, when the blocks were applied with the interest of safety of citizens.

Interestingly BJP's anti-censorship stand extends only to the government. Their official organized efforts to consolidate control of online media have also resulted in the largest online rash of pure thugs I have encountered; who engage in abuse of political figures from other parties, gang up with on critics of BJP, often with extremely coarse language and in general leverage nuisance value and mental harassment to the point of people having to resort to blocks and being careful of what they say. These accounts work in groups when they attack and are usually anonymous profiles while real profiles disseminate propaganda and cast moral slurs on dissent without getting into actual trolling. This is social censorship - persecution into silence. Attacks on dissenting opinions include absolutely anyone who criticizes the BJP in any way from regular citizens to jounalists. Many of those profiles are currently wearing black DPs in protest of censored Twitter accounts that were at best briefly not accessible directly as web pages while continuing to function otherwise.

Many of these same people arguing for "absolute" free speech point to the US Laws. Actually most overnight free speech activists know the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution better than the one in India. The right to offend is being defended by the usual defenders of the right to be offended and persecute for it. Examples were given of the Mohammed cartoons and the pastor who burned the Qran. Same people were part of the outrage against a young man who put up a photo of himself with a foot on a Shivling. "Absolute" is clearly open to interpretation. That man has dozens of cases filed against him all over the country for it.

Great analyst moralizers are talking of Narendra Modi's moral superiority on Free Speech [black profile image on Twitter in protest too], of all things, where journalists were beaten up and put into hospital by police when they covered inconvenient things.

The answer to that is not actually zero as the question implies, but "unknown" could be zero, could be more. Good subject for RTI. Also, there is the small matter that Modi isn't elected into a position to officially censor yet. With this logic Mamata Banerjee is also pro-freespeech. Besides, if people can be attacked by the state in real life and troll teams online who needs legal actions?

ANHAD is a socio cultural organization started in 2003 as a response to Gujarat Riots in 2002. It is registered as a trust campaigns for democratic rights. When they complained against the BJP IT Cell for persecution with filthy abuses (no surprise, since attacking any reference to the government role in Gujarat Riots is a prime troll target), this June, their office was raided by the Cyber Crime Cell and three activists were jailed overnight [MUST READ] with claims that cyber crimes had been committed from their IP address a full year before on the 18th June 2011. The Cyber Crime Cell refused to detail their crime to the activists, but spoke to media saying that it was related with the Sanjiv Bhatt case. ANHAD was threatened with confiscation of three computers, when last year they owned only one.

BJP clearly didn't get the memo where free speech isn't about allowing what you want to see alone, but also upholding the right to speech in the face of disagreement.

What happened in the past is past. If BJP supporters NOW realize the value of Freedom of Speech, it would be far better if they spoke to their leaders - who get votes from them and forced them to join the fight for freedom of speech, defeat the IT Rules, force amendments in the IT act, and the First Amendment of the Constitution itself. If a piddly little MNS can force actions on their government when the reasons are right, the BJP excuses of not having majority are rubbish and a brazen attempt to not only not do the right thing, but actually ask for votes if you want it done.