India: How to silence a nation


07 Feb 2012

The Satanic Verses

Image via Wikipedia

Legal proceedings have been filed against four authors that read aloud from Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic verses. Salil Tripathi explains how outdated Colonial-era legislation is being used to curtail free expression.

The saga refuses to end.

The Jaipur story has now taken a new turn, on Monday (6 February) two courts in the city began legal proceedings after complaints were filed by among others, members of an organisation that campaigned against Salman Rushdie’s participation in the Jaipur Literature Festival. They allege that the festival organisers and four authors who read from Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses, hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims.

The four authors — Amitava Kumar, Hari Kunzru, Ruchir Joshi, and Jeet Thayil — read from the novel to express solidarity with the absent Rushdie, and as a mark of protest. Rushdie did not go to Jaipur after he received plausible information that security forces had evidence of death threats against him. Now the festival’s organisers are also being charged under provisions of India’s criminal laws, which date back to the colonial era.

The complainants main contention is that the authors and the festival organisers conspired “to promote enmity on grounds of religion.” One magistrate has recorded the complaint to decide if the case has any merit before it is sent to the police to register a First Information Report. That case will now be heard on 8 March. Another magistrate will record a complainant’s statement today. When such complaints are filed, the court can either ask the police to register a report and launch an investigation, or examine the complaint on its own, before deciding if the matter deserves to be sent to the police for further action. The courts have decided to examine the matter first, before sending it to the police.

The relevant sections under the Indian law are:

295-A (which deals with deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings)

298 (uttering words with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings),

153-A (promoting enmity between groups on religious grounds),

153-B (imputations prejudicial to national integration)

120-B (criminal conspiracy).

Preserving communal harmony is a serious matter in India. These laws empower the state to prosecute anyone whose intends to and acts in a way that outrages religious feelings or promotes “enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language,” and the all-important, all-inclusive “etc.”

Now think again about what happened in Jaipur: the four authors read extracts from The Satanic Verses, whose import is banned in India. Note, its import is banned in India; lawyers have pointed out that the government did not ban its printing or publishing — rather, Penguin, which had the rights to publish it in India, chose not to do so after the import ban was imposed, and its consulting editor recommended that it would be unwise to publish the novel. Leading Indian lawyers say that bane does not extend to reading the novel, or reading from it. In fact, in the years after the ban, several lawyers and writers read from it in public, as a mark of protest. They weren’t charged at any time. At the Jaipur Festival, parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor, author and former diplomat, said he has read from, or cited the novel, without any problem.

And yet, now the four authors and the festival’s organisers — William Dalrymple, Namita Gokhale, and Sanjoy Roy — face the prospect of being charged under colonial-era laws. Such a prosecution mocks India’s fine judicial traditions and runs counter to its constitutional guarantees of free speech (which are, it must be said, limited). It means if you say anything that someone considers controversial or offensive, then either that individual or the state can begin proceedings that could lead to prosecution. This isn’t a theoretical proposition, nor is this the first such complaint. Many film-makers, authors, and artists have been scarred by threats of such prosecutions. Many have sued for peace by dropping contentious material before publication; some have been prosecuted. Higher courts have usually dismissed the charges, but not before a long process that’s costly and stressful. (There is also the other threat of vigilantes doling out justice in the form of ransacked galleries or theatres, or attacks on artists, with the police doing little to stop such violence). This is preposterous — but such is the state of affairs.

Neither the authors nor the festival organisers incited any community, nor did they intend to insult any religious group. The festival organisers have said they were not aware that the authors intended to protest. After the four read from the novel, the organisers even issued a statement saying the authors had acted on their own. But none of that seems to matter to the complainants.

The charge is even more confusing since there has been no violence. Nobody went on a rampage; there was no riot. The four had never intended to incite anybody, and nobody got incited. However, some Muslim fundamentalist groups had offered rewards to throw shoes at Rushdie, or spit on Rushdie. Others had said that even a video appearance by Rushdie could have repercussions, irrespective of what he might say. Many might regard these statements as threats, but as of now, no police officer has pressed charges against any of those individuals, who were at least implying that matters might get out of hand for which, of course, they would presumably claim no responsibility.

And so it is that the one who claims offence and threatens to take the law in his hands, or suggests others might do so, remains free; the ones who read from a book are being charged under laws meant to prevent violence.

The Indian Penal Code, from which these sections are derived, was drafted in 1860, and much of that law has stayed fossilised, even though India gained Independence in 1947. It is important to remember the circumstances under which that law was drafted. In 1857, many princely states in India rebelled against the rule of the East India Company, and what followed was what India calls the first war of independence, and what Britain remembers as the Sepoy Mutiny. Soldiers of the East India Company rebelled against the company, and united with various princely states in a vain attempt to overpower the colonial rule. The war ended in 1858, with the Indian states surrendering, and soon thereafter, company rule ended, and Queen Victoria became the Empress of India.

There were many reasons for the uprising, but the immediate spark was religious. Indian troops in the East India Company’s army were alarmed by rumours that the new British cartridges were greased with cow or pig fat. Hindu and Muslim soldiers alike were offended, unwilling to handle ammunition contaminated by animal fat which the respective faiths shunned.

Realising the combustible power of religion, the British decided to make maintenance of religious harmony their priority, and to do that, they took advantage of mutual suspicion among the communities. So anyone who disrupted harmony would be prosecuted, and people had the right to complain against anyone who disrupted such harmony, turning the “subjects” into informers. Colonial rulers had good reason to maintain such laws — to keep communities suspicious of one another and divided just short of fighting.

Free India is supposed to be democratic; its adult citizens vote their governments, and they argue with each other in a spirited manner. But these laws, relics of the raj, treat Indians as subjects, not citizens. They allow troublemakers to file spurious complaints under the provisions of these laws and restrict free expression, as had happened to the great painter, the late M.F. Husain, who was driven out of India, and died in exile in London last year. The same provisions are now being used against the novelists and organisers of a festival of literature.

This has gone on too long. Before it gets any worse, India needs adult supervision; it needs to repeal these laws, stop proceedings against the authors and festival organisers, and keep a stern eye on rabble-rousers who cry offence and threaten violence because they don’t like other people reading a book they haven’t read and which they are told they must dislike.

You can dislike a book; nothing is sacred. But if you don’t like a book, Rushdie had said in India in 2010, all you have to do is to shut it.

Instead, they want to shut conversations across the country through intimidation.

Salil Tripathi is a journalist and author and the chair of English PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee

Web providers hit out at ‘censorship’ of internet porn


Pornography

Pornography (Photo credit: bigcityal)

7th feb 2012-IRISH internet providers have criticised a decision by their counterparts in the UK to impose a blanket ban on pornography — branding the decision as “nothing less than censorship”.

Under a new scheme introduced last year aimed at protecting children from explicit material online, subscribers to four of the UK’s biggest internet service providers now have to ‘opt in’ if they want to view sexually explicit websites.

Customers who do not specifically ‘opt in’ for access to adult content will be unable to log on to pornographic websites.

However, the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI) has dismissed such measures as ‘censorship’, saying the responsibility should lie with parents to regulate what children access on the web.

“If internet service providers are dictating what can be accessed, then that could be seen as nothing less than censorship. Essentially we would be deciding what would be the inappropriate material. That should be left to the parents or guardians,” said Paul Duran from the ISPAI.

The ISPAI represents 20 Internet Service Providers in Ireland including the likes of Eircom, O2, Vodafone and UPC.

UCD lecturer and digital law expert JP McIntyre believes there are massive practical issues involved with the measures.

“Many of these blocking issues are easy to circumvent, but what they do tend to do is damage people who have been wrongly blocked. You’ll find that shops selling things like lingerie get blocked by these filters,” Mr McIntyre said.

He added: “Very often there are no appeal mechanisms or they are very hard to use and in the meantime people find that their businesses are suffering because people can’t access their sites and they don’t know why.”

Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald admitted that the UK was “further ahead” in terms of protecting children from inappropriate online material, but she refused to comment on whether there were any plans to persuade Irish internet providers to adopt the British model.

Yesterday, the minister launched ‘Safer Internet Day 2012′ at St Brigid’s Primary School in Dublin. The event aims to promote safer internet use for children, and marked a new Garda Primary Schools Programme module dealing with online bullying.

‘I Caught My Teen Watching Internet Porn

Mark O’Regan and Kevin Keane

Irish Independent

Documentary filmmaking threatened by court ruling


English: Official Reporters Without Borders lo...

Image via Wikipedia

7 February 2012

SOURCE: Reporters Without Borders

(RSF/IFEX) – 7 February 2012 – Reporters Without Borders is deeply disturbed by the precedent that a court in the northern city of Lille set on 26 January when it ordered documentary filmmaker Sophie Robert to remove interviews with three psychoanalysts from her film about the treatment of autism and to pay them a large sum in damages for “misrepresenting” their views.

“By basing his ruling on how Robert chose to edit her film, the judge assumed the mantle of journalism critic,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The ruling’s consequences increase its gravity. Even if she appeals, Robert is now at the mercy of bailiffs who are demanding immediate payment of more than 25,000 euros. After the seizure of the original interview footage in October, we are shocked yet again by the disproportionate nature of the judge’s decision.

“His arguments are extremely dangerous for the future of documentary filmmaking. Taking a position, defending a point of view – which is only natural with such a controversial subject – has been treated as misrepresentation. Will any person interviewed for a documentary now be able to request seizure of the footage and its withdrawal from the documentary? Will only toned-down, anodyne documentaries now be tolerated?”

The court ordered Robert to pay between 5,000 and 7,000 euros in damages to each of the three psychoanalysts – Eric Laurent, Esthela Solano-Suarez and Alexandre Stevens – she interviewed for her film, “The Wall – Psychoanalysis put to the Autism Test.” The court also ordered her to withdraw the interviews from the film and publish an apology, and ruled that its orders should take immediate effect, even if she decided to appeal.

The film is a scathing criticism of the way French psychoanalysts treat autistic children. It portrays their methods as backward and accuses them of blaming the parents. Although the three psychoanalysts she interviewed signed releases allowing her to edit their comments, they nonetheless brought a suit accusing her of distorting their views.

“The Wall is a contribution to the debate on a issue of public interest – using psychoanalysis to treat autism – and is therefore protected by article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which concerns free expression, and by the jurisprudence stemming from this article,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“At no time did the judge refer to the right to inform the public or the principles recognized by the European Court in Strasbourg, namely accepting a degree of exaggeration, taking account of good faith and tolerating ideas that shock or offend. He also ignored the principle that a penalty should be proportionate to the harm inflicted and the defendant’s ability to pay. Applying article 1382 of the French Civil Code, concerning civil liability, was also regrettable as it prevented Robert from benefitting from the guarantees granted by more specific legal provisions.”

Reporters Without Borders supports Robert’s appeal and hopes that the appeal court will take account of the principle of free expression, as enshrined in the constitution.

http://www.ifex.org/2012/02/07/france_affaire_le_mur/

For more information:

Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris
France
rsf (@) rsf.org
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84
Fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51
http://www.rsf.org

7000 Aadhaar cards remain undelivered, addresses untraced


TNN | Feb 7, 2012

KARWAR: The ‘untraced’ addresses of the Aadhaar card holders in Coastal taluks of Uttara Kannada district has landed the postal authorities in a piquant situation. About 7,000 Aadhaar cards are lying in the various post offices in Karwar, Ankola, Kumta Honnavar and Bhatkal talukbecause the addresses were not traced.

This has led to the suspicion that Aadhaar cards were registered with fake or dummy addresses in Uttara Kannada. Two days ago, the postal department issued a release asking people who had registered for Aadhaar card, but have not yet received it to contact the nearest post office to get them.

The officials who had associated with registration of such cards say they had registered according to the guidelines issued by the government. But there are allegations that the procedure itself was wrong as a mere bank passbook was treated as ‘address proof’ and it was not difficult to open an account in the banks.

Nagaraj Joshi, a social activist, points out the officials who were appointed in the registration centre to verify the address proof were either outsiders or had no knowledge of the persons who were ‘producing’ different proofs. They just signed it and some people must have exploited it, he said.

Dattaram, a resident of Karwar, said that authorities should have taken care while issuing the cards in sensitive areas like coastal belts. But clarifying the stand of postal department P L Hadaginal, Superintendent of posts, Karwar said there were many cases where people registered for Aadhaar in one place and they work in another place. This had happened in other district too. To inform the people and speed up the delivery of the cards they issued the release, he said.

Joshi alleges that non delivery of the cards was not due to the absence of the person, but due address could not be traced. So the entire lot should be withheld and an investigation should be ordered, he added.

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