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1

This story about disproportionate growth of assets of Gujarat leaders appeared in the Times of India and affiliated publications and was withdrawn without explanation. It compares declared assets and liabilities from affidavits filed in 2012 and 2017 as well as income and the numbers don't add up. The story clearly implies a suspicious growth in assets of both BJP and Congress politicians (2 BJP, 1 Congress, 1 Congress recently turned BJP) - Balwant Singh Rajput, Amit Shah, Smriti Irani and Ahmed Patel.

Highlights:

Full story:

In the meanwhile, this story vanished from DNA.

The following story vanished from Outlook Hindi

आंकड़ों के मुताबिक गुजरात से राज्यसभा चुनाव लड़ने वाले लगभग सभी प्रमुख उम्मीदवारों की संपत्ति में काफी बढ़ोत्तरी हुई है। भाजपा के राष्ट्रीय अध्यक्ष अमित शाह की संपत्ति में भी खासा इजाफा हुआ है। जहां 2012 में उनकी चल संपत्ति 1.90 करोड़ रुपए की थी जो अब यह बढ़कर 19 करोड़ हो गई है। अपने शपथ-पत्र में शाह ने अपनी संपत्ति का विवरण दिया है। इस विवरण के अनुसार उन्हें 10.38 करोड़ रुपए की चल संपत्ति पैतिृक तौर पर भी मिली है। आंकड़ो के मुताबिक पिछले 5 साल में शाह और उनकी पत्नी की चल और अचल संपत्ति में कुल 300 फीसदी का इजाफा हुआ है। 2012 में उनकी कुल संपत्ति 8.54 करोड़ रुपए थी, वह बढ़कर 2017 में 34.31 करोड़ रुपए हो गई है।

प्रमुख उम्मीदवार भी हुए मालामाल

#मालामाल सांसद उम्मीदवारों की फेहरिस्त में केंद्रीय मंत्री स्मृति इरानी का भी नाम अहम है। इरानी और उनके पति जुबिन इरानी की संपत्ति में भी 80 फीसदी की बढ़ोतरी हुई है। इरानी दंपती की 2014 में 4.91 करोड़ रुपए अचल संपत्ति बढ़कर अब 8.88 करोड़ रुपए हो गई है। बता दैं कि केंद्रीय मंत्री के पति की संपत्ति में तो वृद्धि हुई है, लेकिन खुद उनकी निजी संपत्ति में कोई इजाफा नहीं हुआ है।

#मान जा रहा है कि कांग्रेस छोड़कर भाजपा प्रवेश किए बलवंत सिंह राजपूत यदि राज्यसभा पहुंचते हैं तो वह गुजरात के सबसे धनवान राज्यसभा सदस्यों की सूची में शुमार होंगे। राजपूत के पास चल और अचल संपत्ति मिलाकर 2012 में 263 करोड़ रुपए की संपत्ति थी, जो 2017 में 316 करोड़ रुपए तक पहुंच गई।

#कांग्रेस के कद्दावर नेता अहमद पटेल की संपत्ति में भी काफी बढ़ोत्तरी हुई है। हलफनामे के मुताबिक 2011 से 2017 तक में उनकी संपत्ति में 123 प्रतिशतकी बढ़ोतरी हुई है। गुजरात से राज्यसभा सदस्य पटेल की सालाना आय 15,10,147 रुपए है। वहीं उनकी पत्नी की वार्षिक आमदनी भी 20,15,900 रुपए है।

3

This one on the disproportionate increase in wealth of crorepatis in Union Cabinet lived briefly and died silently on the Times of India website. The beginning of a trend of vanishing reports on questionable increases in wealth that would later be seen more dramatically in Reports of suspicious growth in assets of Gujarat politicians removed from news sites

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has faulted the format for declaration of assets adopted by the government saying it did not provide a correct indicator of the ministers' wealth and defeated the exercise towards transparency.

Several ministers in the cabinet have shown a dramatic increase in assets in just the last 5 months which ADR has attributed to lack of a standardized format for ministers' asset declaration. It said that in many cases ministers have either not given the value of their moveable and immoveable assets or not given the present market value which has led to discrepancies. For instance ministers including Jitendra Singh, V K Singh, Ananth Kumar, and Sripad Naik have not given value for moveable assets to the PMO while Harsh Vardhan, Venkaiah Naidu and Sushma Swaraj have not given value for their immoveable assets.

ADR claimed that railway minister Sadananda Gowda's wealth increased by over Rs 10.46 crore from Rs 9.99 crore in May to Rs 20.35 crore in October and assets worth Rs 10 crore had been acquired in the interim. However in response to reports Gowda tweeted that the properties were bought earlier with a loan worth Rs 8 crore from Federal Bank and Rs 2 crore had been paid in advance. He is followed by heavy industry MoS Radhakrishnan P who has shown an increase of Rs 2.98 crore (from assets worth Rs 4.09 crore to Rs 7.07 crore) and finance minister Arun Jaitley whose wealth has increased by 1% from Rs 113.02 crore to Rs 114.03 crore.

Union ministers Rajnath Singh, M Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj and Anant Kumar at BJP headquarters in New Delhi
Union ministers Rajnath Singh, M Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj and Anant Kumar at BJP headquarters in New Delhi (PTI Photo)

Minister for social justice and empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot whose personal wealth increased by 323% in the last two years has seen the sharpest rise in a cabinet dominated by crorepatis. He is followed by power and coal minister Piyush Goyal whose assets have increased by 212% since 2010. According to ADR analysis the overwhelming majority of ministers (91%) that is 41 of the 45 ministers are crorepatis with average assets worth Rs 14.32 crore.

Among the ministers—who did not contest the Lok Sabha polls—whose personal wealth has risen sharply are social justice and empowerment minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot whose assets increase by 323% in two years. According to the declaration he made to the Rajya Sabha in 2012 Gehlot's assets were Rs 86.12 lakh which have shot up to Rs 3.64 crore in October 2014. Coal and power minister Piyush Goyal came in second with his assets increasing by 212% from Rs 30.34 crore in 2010 (according to the affidavit submitted to the Rajya Sabha) to Rs 64.31 crore. MoS for Petroleum Dharmendra Pradhan's assets grew by 61% since 2012 from Rs 1.54 crore to Rs 2.48 crore. Communications and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad's wealth rose by 27% in two years while urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu's assets grew by 28% in four years.

5

There is no such thing as absolute free speech. There is always a line that must not be crossed. And it varies for people. The more bigotted the society, the more disparity in the "allowed" speech. The more polarized the society, the more the need to censor speech in the interests of public safety, because the idea of free speech is for all. Powerful voices going on a rampage against certain sections of society is not free speech, because the less powerful voices get drowned out and their right to free speech is violated.

Your Liberty To Swing Your Fist Ends Just Where My Nose Begins

This arm is my arm (and my wife’s), it is not yours. Up here I have a right to strike out with it as I please. I go over there with these gentlemen and swing my arm and exercise the natural right which you have granted; I hit one man on the nose, another under the ear, and as I go down the stairs on my head, I cry out:

“Is not this a free country?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Have not I a right to swing my arm?”

“Yes, but your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.”

Here civil government comes in to prevent bloodshed, adjust rights, and settle disputes.

John B. Finch

If a polarized society has some people overpowering the voice of others, creating about them a public opinion that can open them to grave harm, then it is not free speech. In my view, the duty of the moderator in order to uphold free speech then becomes creating norms that prevent harm to the less powerful, so that the fundamental freedoms of ALL are upheld.

The concept of free speech is life affirming. It is about freedom from persecution and punishment in expressing an opinion. It is a democratic ideal, that every citizen is able to have their say, and thus influence their country and world to their taste. This is not intended to be a free for all where speech of one is allowed to conquer the other through prevention of "violation" of the right of the louder. Speech of all is intended to be inviolate. Attacks on another are not free speech.

Also, free speech is about your opinions. Your right to say what you want. However, freedom of information is an important part of free speech. Spreading disinformation is anti-freespeech, because disinformation influences free speech for an agenda. A good example here is the objection to spreading rumors. Why should people be arrested at all for spreading rumors about threats to people from the northeast, if their freedom of speech lets them say whatever they want?

If a person shouts "fire" in a crowded pandal, and three die in the ensuing stampede, is that freedom of speech? If this person is arrested or gagged by security guards to prevent harm to others, did they violate his freedom of speech? Was it wrong? In my view, it is not. Similarly, if supporters of a Hindu group continually spread rumors of Pakistan flag being hoisted in Mumbai or Hyderabad, in a country with a long history of communal riots, this is not freedom of speech.

How easy it is to claim freedom of speech for purposes of communal incitement, something which is explicitly illegal in India. How easy it is to play the victim and overturn feeble attempts at enforcing order. How easy it is to fool citizens who have deliberately been kept in the dark on any dialogue on free speech, that any censorship is a violation of free speech.

So why is spam not free speech? Why is it persecuted? Why are spammers blocked, arrested? Why do we not allow sites promoting pedophilia or rape or sites that will steal your passwords? Aren't phishing sites a demonstration of creativity by some brilliant coder? Why have a censor board at all? Why not show graphic rapes in detail on films? Wouldn't they sell better in a nation intent on exploiting sexual and power thrills from its women?

It isn't about whether it is factual or a rumor either. Why don't news channels show blood streams and dismembered bodies after a terror attack? The "minority community" reporting is intended to prevent communal conflict too, though it ends up making things worse, because political polarization of India is so complete that people see it as a protection of culprits. The need to blame rages and there is no particular preference for safety - particularly for politically interested spectators.

Why do we accept some boundaries and suddenly wake up to others? Why do social media websites have report abuse buttons? Why do they block people violating Terms of Service if whoever is bothered by spammers and abusers can block them anyway?

Why do we not object to admins of social platforms taking steps they deem necessary for the service to be available to all, but deny governments the same right in the face of dead bodies and disinformation that has been tracked to websites or profiles? Why is it so unreasonable to expect those wrongfully blocked to clarify and get unblocked when it comes to government?

There is *always* a line. A line that is drawn with a view to freedoms and tweaked in cases of emergency however needed. When you have people from the northeast from half a dozen cities fleeing, effective or not, the government has the right to take measures it thinks are appropriate - though admittedly the government is not very bright with this. To condemn the censorship as an attack of Freedom of Speech is a fundamental misunderstanding of what Free Speech is.

Freedom of speech in India is iffy at best. If law enforcement worked as advertized, out first amendment and laws on free speech would have been shredded long ago, because the problems would be clear. We began with Freedom of Speech supported freely in the constitution. The First Amendment was a quick assertion of the right to shut people up. Since then it has been downhill. It is currently not legal for you to be blasphemous, offend people, and such abstract things. The government has given itself the power to interpret things at will and ban whatever it wants [read]. And no, this isn't exclusive to the Congress.

The government prefers the freedom to use its discretion to deny content over making a principled, uniform and clear stand on what specifically is a right and what will not be allowed taking the "right" out of almost every word you can utter. There is nothing illegal about almost any censorship in India, because the laws have been framed so that they can be used to nail anyone. It is by design, and this needs to be brought down to even begin protesting censorship in any legal manner. There has to be explicit defining of what will not be allowed and this has to be as little as possible and the rest has to be freedom of speech - clear line. THIS is what the fight for freedom of speech is about.

Making exceptions to already flimsy laws when they are applied for the reasons like safety of citizens weakens India by making precedents to break laws for "right reasons", by weakening the struggle for free speech itself by diffusing the practical problems dysfunctional laws create, regardless of which opportunists are in power, regardless of your opinion on how well or badly it is done. If you are a true advocate of Free Speech, then strengthen it by getting faulty laws scrapped or fixed. Even if absolute Free Speech is not possible, it certainly is possible to be explicit on what is free speech and what is a violation of laws and to uphold that meticulously so that people acting in illegal ways running riot and harming the interests of the country are not gagged in an inaccurate and haphazard manner. If everyone knows where the line lies and when it is crossed, there is no ambiguity on why exactly the censorship is due and when it is wrong.

In other words, if Facebook and Twitter had Terms of Service like our Constitution and Laws on Freedom of Speech, you'd find somewhere else to do your speaking. Alas, we can't unsubscribe from countries, but we CAN do one better - we can fix what doesn't work in a democracy.

The need for the hour is not to paralyze the government but to show some spine and get laws defined better. And, like improving women's rights are marked by resistance of those who prefer them silent, right to free speech will too be marked by offenses taken, attacks made and more as those with the power to censor the nation's narrative fight to retain that control. It isn't about making exceptions for instances of censorship, but overturning this cart comprehensively.

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.

4

Dear Sir,

I wish to write to you on an issue of vital interest to our country, the freedom of speech on the internet. We have a sizable population on the internet, and it is slated to grow phenomenally within the next decade. I don't presume to speak about things you know better than I do, our constitution, our laws. Instead, I would like to draw your attention to the value of freedom of speech, something that has captured imaginations over the ages, always. Free Speech is something that has made heroes out of ordinary men for simply standing for it, because it holds value to populations.

Today, our country is in a precarious condition. There are concerns on every possible front from economy to human rights. We have let our country deteriorate to the point where there is frustration in the population. This frustration emerges as angry speech. There is a movement in the government to strangle the emerging flood of criticism.

I wish to make a case that freedom of speech is vital to the health of a society and to strangle it is worse than the evils of allowing it voice. Worse for the people, worse for the government, worse for the country as a whole. Blocked, anger can only accumulate out of sight and explode in unpredictable ways.

Where there are people, there are differences. A fundamental of co-existence is the ability to negotiate these differences and move from polarization to a shared objective, however minor. Be it a couple in a marriage, political parties in the parliament, or people with different fundamental views on things on the internet. These negotiations are a case of learning, and like all learning, don't emerge perfect. The internet is not a special case in this regard, though it is being specially targeted.

The internet is particularly well suited to accommodate differences. The ability to choose what we see is of enormous significance. To object to the very existence of any content not palatable, when it can easily be avoided is intolerance.

This, when it happens among random netizens is the equivalent of children fighting over something. They figure it out with time, they settle down. There are people offended, sure. But they learn to handle that, just like we learn in real life. We are all the more mature for it. In the process of interacting about some subject, we are also learning the principles of interaction on the internet itself.  But once there is the expectation that offensive content will not be allowed, then offensive content starts seeming like an injustice. Till then, it is simply something ugly to be avoided. Allowing the use of the law as a weapon against another citizen may serve a political class rooted in taking advantage of differences rather than bridging them or other criminals who prefer misuse of power over accountability, but it is always citizens being hurt.

In a democracy, unaccountable power with a few people is far more worrisome than people offending each other. Yet, there are relentless efforts in that direction. Every few months, our Minister Kapil Sibal comes up with a new rabbit out of the same hat. Sometimes over terrorism, other times over religious offense, but any statistics of use that we do have indicate political censorship, which has to date never been openly given as the reason. Increasingly, the methods are being designed to operate under radars.

Today, we are seeing increasing and unpredictable censorship. Be it cartoonists being arrested, cartoon websites being banned, cartoons to be removed from text books, or the infamous IT Rules, which give anyone the power to censor content on the internet, bypassing not only any court of law, but any authority whatsoever. This has to be the singular application of law in our country where it is impossible to collect any reliable statistics on its use, because it touches no government body of any kind in its application. There is no way of saying if this law is useful, how it is useful, how much it is used, or how it is used unless the law actually gets defied. In other words, people will have to flaunt the law of the land if they even want to escape being wrongly targeted.

That is, if they actually fight being victimized at all. A simple research project by CIS-India showed that not only were wrongful takedown requests complied with, in six out of seven cases, they were over complied with. The common man has been left high and dry by a legal process designed to create that. It defies every explanation of democracy.

Another example exists on this blog itself. I had written a post about scams in sailing. A whole range of small but profuse evasions of dues to the country over a long period of time. It was based on documents obtained through RTIs. I received a notice pointing out minor inaccuracies and blatant false claims. I corrected any inaccuracies immediately, but the very next day I received a second notice, this time as the owner of the blog to take down the content through the IT Rules. Now, as the author of the blog, I am not an intermediary. The notice wanted me to take down the post on charges of defamation. It was printed on a letter head with the names of seven advocates on it. I am a mother with a special needs child, no income, and on the verge of divorce. I have no money to hire a lawyer and fight for my ACCURATE content in courts. I have no way to know how a judge would view this, or any authority laying standards on what is allowed and what is not.

My missing post will not be recorded anywhere as a use of the law. There is nowhere to record. The procedure is intended completely among citizens. It needs no claims or even intent for justice. Vague terminology like "offensive" or "harmful" or "defamatory" is enough. Your guess is as good as mine what anyone will find offensive or harmful, and how much speech will be wiped off from the public domain silently. It isn't defamation, if I can prove it right, but unless proven right, what is it? This naturally suits a political class intent on censorship without dirtying their hands. However, this is not in the interests of fundamental rights of the people. A person should not require to afford lawyers in order to protect their words. It is the opposite of free speech.

To the cohesive growth of any society, dialogue is important. Offense, negotiation, accommodation, compromise are all important. Without these, there are no bonds formed. There may be a superficial silence, but it is one of lack of any communication rather than harmony. When there is conflict, it is likely to become a question of one upsmanship rather than a solution seeking process. This requires greater and greater applications of power. In essence, democracy becomes slave to power. To a diverse country like India, this arbitrary handover of control over the citizen's voice is a recipe for disaster. In the short term, it may allow power holders to score cheap points through politics of "saving honor". In the long run, the country will be dishonored.

As the foundations of democracy itself are being bulldozed by one pillar intended to uphold it, it falls upon the other pillars to stand firm for the survival of all. It is my humble request to you to join us in our fight in restoring the right to have a voice to the common man. To do everything in your power to see that the IT Rules are overturned, and while that happens, to at least add an expectation that before finding something problematic, a minimal effort was made to avoid it at the very least.

Thanking you for your attention,

Vidyut