Recent events in West Bengal and the role of the Internet
The situation in West Bengal (the state in India I come from) is getting scary. A University professor was arrested (and beaten up, though not by the police) for forwarding emails containing cartoons that were critical of the chief minister. While it’s worrying and saddening to see this kind of blatant repression of dissent and intolerance towards criticism, to me, it is even more worrying (and scary) to see the pretext of the arrest. According to news reports, a clause involving “derogatory images” of the Information Technology act was invoked for the arrest. It is debatable whether the images in the cartoon in question were derogatory or not, and also, it raises further question about the use of the somewhat vague term to surpress dissent and criticism of any kind. Newspaper cartoons has been around for centuries, and it is worrying to see a very different bar being set for what happens online. Moreover, it also looks like the crime investigation bureau of the state (the CID) has asked for IP addresses from Facebookto figure out the original uploader of the images. Again, very scary, since IP addresses rarely tell the complete story, and given the history of the knee-jerk reaction of Indian law-enforcement, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone gets harassed without valid reasons (assuming the somewhat remote possibility of Facebook actually divulging the IP addresses).