Archive for December 6th, 2011

Sauce for liberals isn’t sauce for fundamentalists?

6 December 2011

The ghastly ritual of Madae Snana at the State-run Kukke Subramanya templewhich entails members of the Malekudiya community (among others) rolling over plantain leaves of leftover food of Brahmins for wish-fulfillment—has pitted progressives versus traditionalists, thanks to the “ban” lifted by the BJP-ruled Karnataka government.

“Liberals are carrying out a smear campaign against an established centre of faith of Hindus. This ritual is not something that has come into practice in recent times. It has been around for generations and people do practice it even today. By denigrating the ritual and its practice, the liberals are hurting the religious sentiments of devotees,” a local leader has been quoted as saying.

But what is the likelihood that the equally ghastly sight of devotees happily walking over fire and flogging themselves in public (as they did on Moharram in Hubli and Bangalore on Tuesday), will tie up liberals and fundamentalists in similar knots, or exercise human rights bodies?

Or will this too pass, as it has been around for generations and devotees do it voluntarily (presumably)?

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Unlikely this is for Sachin Tendulkar‘s 100th century

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Facebook be censored?

6 December 2011

As if all the problems facing this glorious land—hunger, disease, death, malnutrition, farmer suicides, etc—have all been miraculously solved; as if all the scams facing this wondrous government—2G, CWG, Delhi international airport, etc–have all been cracked, Harvard University’s proud son, Kapil Sibal, has stepped in to crack the whip.

The telecommunications and information technology minister, he of the “zero-loss” formulation, now wants “social media sites like Facebook to prescreen user content from India and to remove disparaging, inflammatory or defamatory content before it goes online”, according to the New York Times.

According to the Indian Express, Sibal’s ire is motivated by the “derogatory, defamatory and inflammatory content about religious figures and Indian leaders such as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the Web.” (Not surprisingly, somebody’s created the hashtag #IdiotKapilSibal to express his ire.)

The attack on social media comes in the wake of the attempts to muzzle mainstream media following the anti-corruption campaign. Read together, it reveals a growing political distate for privacy and free speech, reminiscent of the censorship era during the Emergency, without a formal proclamation on the part of the Congress-led UPA.

There is no denying, certainly, that there is plenty of stuff on the internet that is vile, abusive, even verbally violent. But that’s the nature of the beast, its anonymity lends it an edge, and there is no denying that there is plenty of stuff offline too that is vile, abusive, even physically violent. But to seek to prescreen everything goes against the laws of the land, indeed it veers dangerously close to China’s (or more recently Thailand’s).

Questions: Should social media be screened? Is it possible to prescreen everything that appears online? Doesn’t the government have anything better to do? Or is this just another diversionary tactic of a government that is trying to cover its tracks?

Also read: Say ‘No’ to India’s blogger control act

How will media react if Emergency is reimposed?

Censorship in the name of  “national interest”

Bonus reading: The greatest poet since ‘Bhakti’ movement?

External reading: Medianama, Kafila, Khamba, IBN Live, Tumblr, First Post, Faking News, South Reports

Stepmotherly affection for Father of Constitution

6 December 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: For all the lip service it pays “dalits and the downtrodden”, for all the tokenism of a Dalit as speaker of Lok Sabha, and for all the buzz about a possible Dalit replacement for Manmohan Singh as prime minister, the Congress-led UPA government has issued a measly six pages of ads in 12 newspapers to mark the birth death anniversary of the father of the Indian Constitution—and the icon of Dalits—Dr B.R. Ambedkar.

In contrast, the State government of Uttar Pradesh, headed by Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party, has issued seven pages in the same 12 newspapers surveyed by sans serif.

The Centre’s six pages of ads for Ambedkar is in stark contrast to the 393 pages of ads issued by various ministries and departments of the Union government and Congress-run State governments to mark the three birth and three death anniversaries of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi in 2011.

While various ministries were falling over each other to sing hosannas for the three ex-PMs, only the ministry of social justice and empowerment is in evidence for Dr Ambedkar. The only State government advertiser is the Delhi commission for safai karmacharis.

***

The breakup of the Ambedkar ads today are as under:

Hindustan Times: 24-page main issue; 2 Ambedkar ads amounting to 1½ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 26-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

Indian Express: 20-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

Mail Today (compact): 36-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 compact page

The Hindu: 20-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

The Statesman: 16-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

The Telegraph: 24-page issue; 0 ads amounting to 0 broadsheet pages

***

The Economic Times: 24-page main issue; 0 ads

Business Standard: 14-page issue; 0 ads

Financial Express: 18-page issue; 0 ads

Mint (Berliner): 24-page issue; 0 ads

***

Last year, on the 19th death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, the historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in an edit-page article in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that on May 21, 2010, perhaps Rs 60 or 70 crore were spent by the taxpayer — without his and her consent — on praising Rajiv Gandhi. Since the practice has been in place since 2005, the aggregate expenditure to date on this account is probably in excess of Rs 300 crore.”

Photograph: courtesy Sepia Mutiny

Also read: Nehru birthday: 58 ads amounting to 26¼ pages

Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

Rajiv death anniversary: 69 ads, 41 pages in 12 papers

Indira Gandhi birthday: 64 ads, 32 pages

Times, Express groups get most anniversary ads


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