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Nationwide protests

The killing of Gauri Lankesh brought about a wave of anger around the country as journalists and other citizens alike spontaneously declared protests and condelences events in over 75 locations in the country



Dozens of organizations, political parties and citizen groups have condemned the killing

Protest at Press Club, Delhi

Journalists protest at the Press Club, New Delhi. One person holds up a sign that says "Ideas are bulletproof". Many such protests have happened nationwide.

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DYFI protest at Vashi
DYFI protest at Powai against the murder of Gauri Lankesh

DYFI protested in several locations

The Democratic Youth Federation of India, who have already been protesting 4 years of lack of justice for the murder of Narendra Dabholkar took to the streets in several locations in Mumbai and Maharashtra as a whole.

Ravish Kumar at Press Club

Ravish Kumar spoke powerfully about the role of supporters of the government in justifying the murder of Gauri Lankesh and vile tweets by those followed by the Prime Minister.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tMi3F2Vj0M

Where to from here?

This is a question that must remain in our minds. Can we afford to protest a few days and be complacent? Is this not what murderers count on?

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Can we afford this?

Dear Friends,

We are living in times where groups which win the battle of media often succeed in serving their purposes/propaganda. Our founders had expected that media shall stand as a fourth pillar of Democracy to make it vibrant. Media shall provide power to the people and make them believe in Democratic principles. Reality however did not encompass the expected. This fourth pillar of Democracy, instead of standing up with people as a fourth underpin, as a fourth guard is apparently dominating even the other three pillars. Instead of strengthening the people, it is often making them weaker, helpless and undermining the essence of Democracy. Media, therefore cannot be ignored now. It is an inescapable fact of life. Ravish Kumar of NDTV India says, "Sanchar madhyam bimar ho gaya hai, aur wah janta ko bhi bimar kar raha hai".

Architect of Indian constitution, Dr. Ambedkar's below thoughts are relevant and apt here. He says, "Journalism in India was once a profession. It has now become a trade. It has no more moral function than the manufacture of soap. It does not regard itself as the responsible adviser of the public. To give the news uncoloured by any motive, to present a certain view of public policy which it believes to be for the good of the community, to correct and chastise without fear all those, no matter how high, who have chosen a wrong or a barren path, is not regarded by journalism in India its first or foremost duty. To accept a hero and worship him has become its principal duty. Under it, news gives place to sensation, reasoned opinion to unreasoning passion, appeal to the minds of responsible people to appeal to the emotions of the irresponsible. Never has the interest of country been sacrificed so senselessly for the propagation of hero-worship. Never has hero-worship become so blind that as we see it in India today. There are, I am glad to say, honourable exceptions. But they are too few and their voice is never heard".

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We, a group of young Indians in Mumbai began our journey with the Initiative of 'New India Debate society' in 2014 with the below idea in mind:

New India debate society has been making an attempt to interpret and comprehend Ambedkar in a holistic manner trying to locate the missing thread of 'his nationalism'. This we do and shall continue to do so in a strict academic discipline and hence the initiative has been considered only as an academic pursuit with no ulterior motives of any social or political action.

Though, we were always of a mind that we will welcome any action springing out as a result of this exercise which would give India a push towards its ultimate destiny – a destiny common for all the elements of the national life.

In line with the said thoughts, we lately came up with the idea of IFIL - INDIAN FIRST INDIAN LAST.

ABOUT IFIL:

IFIL - (which may also be read as I-Feel) is an initiative which envisages to generate and provoke a kind of Public conscience among Indians which rises above the closets of Caste, Creed, Religion, Language, Region, even Nationalism and creates a mindset to fight against any form of Injustice.

Meaning of I-FEEL(IFIL) is that 'I am Sensitive'. I feel the joy and pain of each Indian and I pledge to stand-up for the people in need with full sincerity.

IFIL also means 'I-FILL', I shall determine myself to fill the expected democratic and progressive leadership which at present, is regretfully lacking in Indian society.

IFIL initiative shall time and again continue to put forth various activities, programmes, demonstrations, symposiums, events workshops, lectures et al.

We intend to launch the IFIL initiative with one such activity. We have organised a demonstration 'In solidarity with the emerging democratic, progressive voices in Indian media' on Monday, 14th March 2016 at Azad Maidan, Mumbai between ⏰3:00 p.m to 6:00 p.m. ⏰

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Sindhu Sooryakumar, chief coordinating editor of Asianet News TV, threatened, abused after moderating debate on Mahishasur Jayanti

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Sansad Marg on 14 April 2015: Shannon, a young student of journalism, came running towards me. I thought she was approaching me for a selfie, but she wanted to show me a selfie of my profession. She asked a question that had troubled her all morning. ‘Why isn’t Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar on television screens and in the newspapers?’ The media routinely broadcast images of festivals and anniversaries, but when it comes to Babasaheb there is a blackout. Shannon’s question actually hints at a larger concern from which we have insulated ourselves. Though Shannon was smiling, she was also angry. She kept stating, ‘There is such a massive crowd on Sansad Marg, but absolutely no coverage of the event. Even when there are only a few people protesting at Jantar Mantar, the media is there to cover of the issue.’ I could have answered her, but my response would have sounded (and rightly so) hollows  - Ravish Kumar
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" Bheedtantra se Jung mein, hum hai tere sang mein - IFIL"
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" Loktantra ki baat mein, hum khade tere saath mein - IFIL "

This is to express our solidarity and support to some exemplary voices we heard and observed during the tragic Rohith Vemula or JNU episode. These voices (like Ravish Kumar of NDTV India, Nikhil Wagle of Maharashtra One TV, Sindhu Suryakumar of Asianet etc) went against the flow of otherwise Profit-making, Capitalist, Brahminical & populist image of Indian media. Amidst the noise of 'deshdrohi, deshdrohi', these mediapersons gave a voice to the oppressed in unprejudiced manner and discharged their duty of digging out the truth behind the stories. For such courageous journalism (fourth pillar of democracy) and their democratic spirit, they certainly deserve a word of recognition from the responsible citizenry.

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A day comes when you have to take call of your conscience. When principles are more imp than small benefits of life, u become a free bird! - Nikhil Wagle

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Therefore, do join us at Azad Maidan on Monday 14th March 2016 between 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. to be a part of this solidarity demonstration and help us make it a big success.

P.S: The demonstration is not in support of some specific people in media but with all those sincere democratic voices in Electronic, Print or even Social media.

Do contact, Sumedh , Pratik, Kiran, Pathak, Vivek, Anita, Mrs. Geeta, Chetan, Chandrashekhar, Prasad,  and Team IFIL (I-feel) INDIAN FIRST INDIAN LAST  to join the demonstration mail: pratikse_2007@rediffmail.com; .

You can also register through the below Facebook event link.

Demonstration in Solidarity with the emerging Democratic, Progressive voices in Indian media'

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I saw Arvind Kejriwal's easy dismissal of privacy rights when Ravish Kumar raised the question of privacy with regard to Aam Aadmi Party's promise of installing CCTVs in public places in order to "reduce crime". Other arguments on social media include making Delhi safer for women and so on.

This appears to be a rather reckless and reactive embracing of a solution that appeals to the AAP DNA - "prove it, show documentation" gene so to say. If a crime happened, then the CCTV will be proof to prosecute. Delhi will be safer for women. Absolutes appeal to AAP. Black, white. Aar ya paar, doodh ka doodh... etc

There appears to be a lack of understanding of fundamental rights when Arvind Kejriwal asks Ravish what he does on a street that he would choose to hide. This is not so much unlike other privacy violating arguments governments make and is just as much against civil rights as intercepting email would be.

I may be on the street, but I am not public property, only the street is. If a stranger photographing me on the street without my consent is a violation of my privacy, it doesn't smell sweeter if said stranger is the state. I don't have to have a reason to be refused to photographed. And this personal right cannot be discarded just because the entity taking non-consensual images of me is the state.

To someone interested in privacy rights, Arvind Kejriwal's reply was as ignorant as that of Modi's when he'd blithely dismissed brain drain as a non-issue. These are real issues and if not researched, deserve at least a sober reply that commits to researching them. Here's an example of how security can use such footage to violate your rights.

While it is true that CCTV footage can help identify criminals, an entire city with CCTV coverage creates potential to do a lot more than identify criminals and it is invasive of privacy just as stalking is invasive of privacy. You standing on the same street as me is not a problem, but when you're standing wherever I go, all day, then it is a problem. I may not be doing anything on the street, but I may not want people to have the ability to know where I went and what I did all day, everyday.

The idea that using the streets of Delhi means being okay with being watched wherever you go is very disturbing.

We have already seen footage of couples necking on the Delhi Metro. How long do you think it will take before say college students are blackmailed for money or favors with threats of their families discovering their bunking college or boyfriends or girlfriends? Will the girls of Delhi really be safer with a chauvinistic police force able to watch them daily and perhaps even follow the more interesting of them around the city?

How long before jealous spouses or controlling parents start bribing cops to keep an eye on people who have no idea they are being watched and could unwittingly return home to violence?

For your CCTV to be really effective, it will be a matter of months at most before intelligence agencies start queuing up to put pressure to have unlimited access in the name of security. To catch criminals more effectively, face recognition technology (which also often has false positives) will be "needed".

And these are still scenarios of routine corruption or misuse of power. What happens when a Center that is paranoid of NGOs and already suspected by many to spy on political opposition as well as leaders uses these CCTVs to monitor "national security"?

The Aam Aadmi Party is a party chock full of activists, born in an agitation and is well familiar with just how far a state can go to subvert dissent. What do you think happens if whistleblowers and RTI activists can be monitored across the city using CCTV?

Because these are the uses a CCTV coverage of an entire city can be put too as well. How many times does an escaping criminal need to be identified on an average street, and how many times are vulnerable girls, activists, political adverseries walking down it? What will we be sacrificing for all and who will we be endangering by grabbing what appears to be a quick fix?

Can the Aam Aadmi Party promise to be in power forever? Can it guarantee that the foundations of surveillance it has laid will not victimize the people of Delhi no matter what party is in power?

These questions need close answers. It is not a simple matter of "what do you have to hide?" in a country where people catching the eye of the state don't necessarily have to do wrong to suffer.

In a country where the first victim of a crime is the CCTV footage and over 90% instances of rapes happen off the streets and by people known to the victim (so identifying is not an issue), what miracle is expected from CCTVs to take so much risk with civil liberties?

Is this to say CCTVs are useless? No. They have their advantages, and those advantages could be identified and leveraged. For example:

  1. Creating a separate body with a high degree of safeguards to monitor the CCTVs and for any other entity to require a court order to access footage. The authority can be provided with rights to act at discretion in an emergency to give access it deems necessary to prevent a crime or ensure safety or prevent escape of a criminal with a formal process of explanation later. Such access too can be graded in the sense of officials monitoring cameras providing updates or access to the actual feed from the camera. Thus there is a direct chain of accountability for the use and misuse of the cameras.
  2. Accessing cameras locally rather than centrally for whole city. This would reduce potential for stalking.
  3. Identification of areas that are crime prone where the presence of a CCTV would prevent crime or assist in tracing criminals. For example, if there is a high density of crime in a certain spot, and if the nature of the crimes is such that a CCTV would help identify criminals, then that area could be covered by CCTV instead of carpet bombing the city. Needless to say, the success rate of the cameras installed in fighting crime must be assessed and where there is no measureable impact, the cameras should be removed.
  4. There should be a clear process for determing the scope of the CCTV camera project and assessment of risks to privacy should include privacy rights activists and technology experts from the civil society.

These are just some examples on how to avoid grand and reckless declarations of CCTVing an entire city and do more harm than the scope of even the good intent.

I would appreciate it if Arvind Kejriwal can acknowledge that there are serious questions raised about CCTVs and that he publicly commits to assessing privacy concerns and minimizing risk of misuse before the CCTVs are implemented.

About the promise of WiFi for the entire city, I endorse it wholeheartedly. I think Arvind Kejriwal's answer was somewhat lukewarm on the subject, therefore I would like to point out that WiFi allows anyone with a mobile phone to access the internet, instantly giving voice and access to information to a vast section of society. This is very enriching to democracy by encouraging intellectual capital, access to information and transparency. It will free people to seek information beyond what is packaged and presented to them from all directions and thus is among the few ways still left open that a deteriorating right to information can be bolstered. Thus, free WiFi is a great equalizer and inherently pro-democracy.