Recently, I read the disturbing news on Slashdot that Google is cooperating with the Indian government to provide IP addresses of people subscribing to fanlists of underworld dons, and to remove anti-Indian groups from Orkut.
Now, the thought that folks are emulating murderers is disturbing, but what worries me is #2. Apparently, there's an orkut community called "We Hate India" that was started with the intention of complaining about the government policies. Fair enough. But many folks have, of late, started using this community as an outlet to bash the culture and people. And the government wants to ban them altogether.
I'm disturbed that India has begun to implement web censorship. Sure, it's natural for a government to feel threatened by such websites. But seriously, how is censoring a few hundred folks' public hatred of government policies going to help? And will it really affect the loyalty of almost a billion people to their country?
Recently a film about the Gujarat riots was banned in the state of Gujarat, and several petitions were sent to the government protesting the duct tape over our freedom of speech. Several months ago Blogger was temporarily shut down by the Indian government but several protests later, the blogs were back.
I checked out the community - fortunately, I found that it hasn't been shut down yet. I read through it and here's what it says:
"The sole purpose of this community isn't meant to offend india.Its about having a group of people who have enemity for india just coz of its oppressive & hostile approach.No matter how much proofs & justifications you give but there are many things which can't be denied & they won't be.You can flood anyone's scrapbook by talking trash & by misleading people like you've been doing it but it won't make any difference.I don't believe on any friendship bullshit.Though i didn't do much beneficial for my country but i tried to refrain myself from supporting indians & in embracing their Kaleidoscope culture.Damn you RAW*,BJP*,Shiv Sena*,Bajrang Dal* & all those bastards who think they are the most wisest dicks of all. There shall be no peace and no surrender. We will bring this scourge down once and for all."
Now, I think these guys simply don't know what they want. They hate India for some reason, and they don't know why. Which is fine with me, really, because everyone can't be pleased. I just hope they limit their hatred to words and not deeds, if you know what I mean.
The founders of the community are, strangely enough, Russians. The asterisked names you see are names of political parties that are mostly Hindu fanatic groups. I haven't the faintest idea what the hatred is for. Is "kaleidoscopic culture" an insult? I don't think so. Over aeons, Indians have descended from a mixure of the Greeks, Persians, Europeans, Africans - you name it. I've grown up in a very multicultural society and I like it that way. In India, cultural differences are mainly due to religion - and I'm not very religious, or rather, I don't follow a specific religion. So multiculturalism doesn't bother me in the least. I do my own thing, and I let others do their own thing as long as it doesn't involve murder, rape, slaughter of innocent animals or any such heinous crimes.
Some people have joined the community to defend India. This is getting weirder by the minute.
I checked out some of the forums and what I can see are nothing but stupid, mindless arguments. There's a smorgasbord of Indians, Pakistanis, Americans, Russians and lots of other folks, plenty of swear words directed at the community founders by some particularly red-blooded Indians, counter-arguments between one particularly vociferous Indian girl and one of the moderators. Crazy.
I'm happy this community hasn't been banned yet, though. Sure, I'm an Indian and while I too hate the way some things are running in the country, there are a lot of things about my country and culture that I like. All the same, I'm a believer of democracy and that people have a right to express their hatred of things as long as they don't express their hatred physically. These guys in particular have formed a community of their own (there's a reference to the "Red Army" on one of their profiles - Communists?) and they're free to express their dislike, childish and immature as it is. I don't think we need to bother about them unless they're planning a terrorist attack or something.
In my opinion, it's silly and mindless, and like most such communities, completely harmless. Every nation is screwed in some way or the other. Every country has its share of horror stories, terrorism and cowardice. And some are a lot worse than others. Yet, every nation has something unique - some things of beauty that the whole world enjoys, yet chooses to forget. I'm not one of those who forgets - I prefer to appreciate all the good things about the countries I know and their cultures as far as possible, and associate those things with their people.
I also believe that people have the freedom to hate, as long as they don't express it in a way that would offend the sensibilities of the people around them. I'm a vegetarian, for example, and I do my damnedest to avoid consuming meat and animal products - I even try to avoid silk and leather, though I'm unsuccessful at times - but at the same time I'm not rabid about it. Because, lets face it, it's not humanly possible at all times. It's wrong to hate the Eskimos for eating raw seal meat - I mean, what else do you expect them to eat? You don't get plants there, do you?
Over the past year I've grown even more accepting. I've also accepted that some people cannot like certain things, just as I don't like certain things. People have their own phobias. I'm okay if someone is uncomfortable with a sexual orientation different from their own, as long as it's put across in an inoffensive way. I'm okay if someone finds someone else's lifestyle or culture weird as long as they're not downright rude about it. Because I too find some things uncomfortable. It's okay to be different, as long as you're true to yourself. It's hypocrites that are way down at the bottom of the ladder, and they're the ones that ought to face the proverbial guillotines. Let everyone do his or her own thing, and as long as their (wrong) paths don't cross it's all good.
I hope the government leaves these guys alone. If they are doing something wrong, let them - it's only an online forum, after all, and the government should have the gumption to stand up to the freedom of speech mentioned in the constitution. Gagging is a sign of trying to hide something. If they really haven't done anything wrong, then why can't they just hold their heads high and continue forward? Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to ignore it.