SACW | 3 Oct. 2003
- South Asia Citizens Wire | 3 October, 2003
 Pakistan-India: Genghis Khan can't be our model (Praful Bidwai)
 Indo-Pakistan travel links (Salahuddin Mirza)
 India: Write to Medical Council of India re how a fascist doctor
is tarnishing a profession
 India: Justice in a secular society (Rajeev Dhavan)
 India: New Muslim secular group formed
 India: '84 riot victims put Best foot forward (Sreelatha Menon)
 URLs and Reports on Internet Censorship in India
 USA: "Promise of India" campaign for Communal Harmony
The Hindustan Times
October 3, 2003
Genghis Khan can't be our model
We should all be utterly horrified and disgusted at a report in this
paper (September 28) on two grisly episodes amidst growing skirmishes
in the Rajouri sector of the Jammu and Kashmir border with Pakistan.
Last month, says the story, Pakistani troops crossed the Line of
Control and ambushed a Jat Regiment unit, killing four soldiers.
Then, in medieval-style triumphalism, they cut off the head of an
Indian soldier and "carried it back... as a trophy", along with a
In gory retaliation, Indian soldiers last week ambushed and killed
nine Pakistani troops. "And for gruesome impact, the Jats brought
back the heads of two Pakistani soldiers." These events are repulsive
to a civilised conscience for many reasons. Killing 'enemy' soldiers
is in the first place unlawful unless war is declared. In no other
circumstances do soldiers enjoy immunity under international law for
using force against an adversary.
When Indian and Pakistani armies kill one another's troops almost
casually through incessant shelling or ambushes - which has long been
a routine at the LoC - they commit grossly irresponsible acts. These
show their leaders' contempt for human life.
Legality apart, once you lower the threshold for pulling the trigger
- for example, merely because the 'other side's' sentry comes into
your view across the LoC, or because you want to make a (false)
statement of power/dominance at Siachen - you risk wanton, mindless
bloodletting. When 'eye-for-an-eye' retribution and revenge prevail,
professional armies are reduced to feuding groups of mafiosi stalking
each other in senseless vendettas.
Wantonly killing soldiers is illegal, morally repugnant and
militarily irrational. Mutilating dead soldiers' bodies is downright
barbaric. It is indefensible under any circumstances - no matter how
grave the provocation and how reprehensible the adversary's conduct.
Minimally, civilised societies, or societies that aspire to that
description, don't commit and can't permit certain acts not only
because their consequences will be bad, or because the outcomes would
be worse than the starting point, but because they are inherently
wrong and intrinsically evil - and hence impermissible. Genghis Khan
cannot be their model.
It is futile to plead for exceptions to this norm. For, once you
accept a sliding scale of morality, there's no stopping your own
slide down the slippery slope of compromises leading to the abyss.
One cannot duck the issue by saying "war is hell", there's bound to
be killing and maiming. It's precisely because war is violent and
terrible, that its conduct must be regulated. One doesn't have to be
a pacifist to say this. Humanity - including generals and
war-planners - has itself evolved elaborate rules and conventions not
only about the justice of going to war, but about just means of
waging it (jus in bello). Wars are horrible. But some - like those
against tyranny or colonialism - can be just. However, they must be
fought justly, following rules.
There are clearly defined rules about whom you can attack and by what
means. Non-combatant civilians cannot be targeted. The use of force
cannot be indiscriminate or disproportionate. Inhuman, degrading or
cruel methods are banned. There are rules about reprisals and sieges,
about the rights of prisoners of war and ordnance-factory workers,
and about application of the vital principle of non-combatant
immunity in varying circumstances.
These rules, embodied in international humanitarian law and the
Geneva Conventions, are enforceable. Their violations can invite
severe penalties - as happened to Nazi war criminals and is likely to
happen to the perpetrators of the Rwanda and Bosnia genocides.
The least the Indian and Pakistani armies can do is court-martial the
culprits of the two recent gory incidents, and send out a categorical
message that Genghis-style methods are impermissible. The urgency of
this arises from past examples. During the Kargil conflict, Pakistani
troops mutilated the bodies of Indian soldiers. This was widely
publicised and rightly shocked the public. But Indian troops,
shamefully, did the same thing. They hung the head of at least one
Pakistani soldier from a tree - apparently for 'inspiration'. This
fact was widely known, but censored.
This raises a larger ethical issue. If one cardinal principle of
justice-in-war is non-combatant immunity - that is, civilians must
not be targeted - then certain kinds of weapons themselves become
Mass-destruction weapons belong here. They quintessentially target
civilians and kill massively in horrific and inhuman ways. The damage
from nuclear weapons lasts for many generations and tens of thousands
The world has negotiated agreements to (verifiably) abolish chemical
(and less rigorously) biological weapons. It's legally committed to
abolishing nuclear weapons. The world's highest international law
forum has held them illegal and 'generally incompatible' with
international humanitarian law.
The World Court pronounced its profoundly important judgment in 1996
outlawing nuclear weapons. India passionately argued for their
abolition, indeed for declaring even their manufacture and possession
"a crime against humanity".
Two years later, the Indian government committed that very crime.
Five years on, it's about to deploy nuclear weapons and building two
underground bunkers to protect the cabinet from a decapitating strike.
Nothing highlights more effectively the contrast between security for
the cabinet and insecurity for India's citizens - millions of whom
have become vulnerable to a holocaust that will make Genghis Khan
look like a playful schoolboy and medieval scalp-hunters like angels.
Dawn - Letters to the Editor
2 October 2003
Indo-Pakistan travel links
Now it is apparent that the hopes that the Indo-Pakistan relations
will soon be normalized have been dashed to pieces and we are back to
square one, hurling allegations and abuses on each other. It is no
use blaming one party or the other: we are only concerned with the
However, re-establishing the travel links and either abolishing the
visa system or rationalizing its procurement and making it easier and
cheaper need not wait for the settlement of the disputes. It is a
humanitarian issue and affects a man's basic right to visit his
relatives and friends even though they may be living in an 'enemy
What crime have the citizens of the two countries committed to be
punished with denial of this right? Or, was it a crime for the
Muslims of India to struggle for Pakistan and then, some of them
moving to it? It is only they, and the Hindus of Sindh, who suffer
from this continued denial.
I urge the two governments to consider the ordeal of the common
people and work out some formula under which restrictions for the
Indo-Pakistan travellers are reduced to the minimum - and till this
is done, at least the Lahore-Delhi bus service may be run on rational
and practical considerations of requirements. At least 200 passengers
should be enabled to commute daily either way, and for this the
frequency and the number of buses need to be increased.
Visa procurement is a big problem. It costs more to go to Islamabad
to obtain the visa than going to one's destination in India. If
deputy high commissions cannot be re-opened in Karachi and Bombay
(and new ones opened in Kolkata and Hyderabad Deccan, and Mirpurkhas
in Pakistan), can't visa officers be posted at these places or can't
visa be given by post?
Future generations will surely laugh at the irrationality of the
present system of visa. We often hear of rationalization of prices or
rationalization of this or that system. Why should we not consider
rationalization of the visa system as well?
Even 'adabi' and literary activities are adversely affected. The
Mushaira Committee of 'Sakinan-i-Shahr-i-Quaid' is holding the annual
Aalami Mushaira on Oct 4. It applied for NOC for 13 poets and was
given the same for 11, out of which only four could obtain visa from
our high commission in Delhi, and even they have not been able to
manage their seats in the bus because of heavy advance bookings in
the twice-a-week 34-seater bus service. As a result, the Indian poets
will be conspicuous by their absence, and the Mushaira will be the
poorer because of this. A cultural void has been created by the
prevailing restrictions on the Indo-Pakistan travel.
Date: Tue, 30 Sep 2003 18:30:13 +0530
From: Sama <samasaro@...>
Medico Friend Circle has lodged a compliant with the Medical Council of
India (MCI) against Dr. Pravin Togadia on 24.06.03. The complaint has been
lodged as a follow-up of MFC's fact-finding investigation in Gujarat and
last year's Annual Meet. It is our submission that Dr. Pravin Togadia, who
is registered with the Council, has committed misconduct as defined under
the Sections 1.1.1 & 1.1.2 and 5.1 & 6.6 of the Indian Medical Council
(Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics), and has breached general
Medical Ethics, for which he deserves to be acted against and punished. He
is also guilty of violating Sections 153A and 153B of the Indian Penal Code
On September 2nd, MCI requested the Maharashtra Medical Council to look into
the matter, which is surprising. Further, in the Mid Day of September 19,
Dr. P C Kesavankutty Nayar, acting president of the MCI, stated in an
interview, "We have not received it. If we do, we will act immediately."
(Revoke rabid Togadia's licence: Medicos, by Kavita Krishnan)
[ http://web.mid-day.com/news/city/2003/september/64239.htm ]
Given the history of the MCI in India, it is unlikely that any serious
investigation in the doctor's participation in violence and hate
campaign will be carried out unless a strong public pressure is applied. We
would like all of you to come forward and send your signatures, so that we
can strengthen the campaign. This strength is very important as only a few
people speaking on behalf of MFC will not suffice. The Jan Swasthya Abhiyan
(JSA) also has taken up the issue for mass mobilization. JSA has also
provided the platform for MFC to hand over the complaint formally to NHRC.
We have attached a draft of the signature petition. Please sign the petition
and send it to MCI with a copy to the Medico Friend Circle. Please feel free
to change or add to the draft if you feel it necessary and send it to the
MCI on your letterheads.
The contacts of MCI are as follows:
Fax: +91 11 23236604
Emails: mci@..., contact@...
Alternatively, if you agree to be a signatory, send us your name,
organisation (if any) and address. We will add a list of all the names under
the petition and send it to MCI.
Sarojini and Amar Jesani
On behalf of MFC
For more details please contact:
(a) Manisha Gupte - Managing Trustee, Medico Friend Circle - masum@...
(b) N.B. Sarojini, Convenor, Medico Friend Circle - samasaro@...
(c) Amar Jesani - jesani@...
(d) Sanjay Nagral: nagral@...
(e) Anant Phadke: amolp@...
Visit MFC at http://www.mfcindia.org
J-59, Saket, 2nd Floor, New Delhi 110017
o o o
TEXT OF DRAFT PETITION
Medical Council of India,
Firoz Shah Kotla Road,
New Delhi 110002.
We have come to know that the Medico Friend Circle and over 50
medical doctors have filed a complaint to the Medical Council of
India stating that Dr. Pravin Togadia has harmed the dignity and
honour of medical profession; and violated some other guidelines of
the Code of Medical Ethics of the Medical Council. This complaint, as
we have come to know about, is using the media and other reports to
point at his participation in the campaign of hate against the
Muslims, advocacy of violence, instigation of mobs to indulge in
violence, threatening health professionals providing care to Muslim
patients, asking them to discriminate on religious lines, and so on.
We do not know whether the allegations contained in this complaint
before you are true, but we do believe that they very serious
allegations of misconduct against a doctor because if found to be
true, then people's trust in and the credibility of the Medical
Profession and the Medical Council of India would be shaken. Only an
immediate, impartial and efficient national level investigation by
the Medical Council of India could prove or disprove the truthfulness
Therefore, we strongly feel, and urge you to:
(a) To undertake immediate and thorough investigations in the press
reports and the allegations contained in the said complaint;
(b) To ensure that such investigation is done by a national
independent authority consisting eminent and ethical doctors and
We hope that needful will be done at the earliest.
The Hindu, Oct 03, 2003
Justice in a secular society
By Rajeev Dhavan
Confronted with communal terrorism from within, India's justice
system is in danger of losing its secular soul.
JUSTICE IN a secular society can be neither blind nor blindfolded.
The slovenly breakdown of India's legal system has produced amazing
ironies. After the Bhopal gas tragedy, the Government of India hired
the American `India' expert, Marc Galanter, to file an affidavit in
New York that India's civil justice system could not deliver justice
to the victims. Subsequent events have made this startlingly amazing
confession mild by comparison.
In 2000-01, Nadeem who took refuge in London from being tried in the
Gulshan Kumar murder case almost succeeded in convincing the British
courts that a Muslim could not get justice in India. He escaped
extradition because the case against him was not credible. On July
15, 2003, Abu Salem who was wanted in the Bombay blast cases of 1992
pleaded before a Portuguese court that he would be victimised by
Indian courts because he belonged to the minority community. If this
plea succeeds - as it nearly did in Nadeem's case - India's criminal
system will suffer yet another shameful reprimand.
On September 13, 2003, a dramatic confrontation was reported. B.N.
Kirpal, former Chief Justice of India, offered expert testimony for a
Japanese company that its case should be heard in New York and not
New Delhi. On the other side was A.M. Ahmadi, another former CJI, who
refuted Mr. Kirpal's depressing but accurate prediction that the case
in India would take 20 years, to counter predict that a case in Delhi
would take one year. The former CJIs sparred with each other in a
foreign jurisdiction to denigrate or defend India's justice system.
Earlier in 2000-01, S.P. Bharucha, another former CJI, made an
oft-quoted remark that 20 per cent of the Indian judiciary (that is 1
in every 5 judges) was corrupt. In response all kinds of solutions
have been offered: fast track courts, summary procedures, draconian
anti-terrorist legislation like POTA and the Malimath Committee
proposals for adopting a brand new criminal justice system. While we
grope for a solution, the justice system declines in credibility to
produce strange dichotomies. Its Supreme Court and some High Courts
enjoy an enviable international reputation for imagination and
courage. The rest of the justice system lapses into disrepair.
What are we to make of all this? Is the system just over-burdened?
Does the answer lie in pumping in more resources? Or in restyling
procedures? This is what successive Governments, Law Commissions or
specialist committees say. But while more resources and more courts
may change things a bit, there are new challenges, which pose threats
that go to the root of governance.
There are very severe indictments that India's justice system is
class-based, communal, anti-women, anti-Dalits and the oppressed.
Cases of Dalit and tribal oppression are on the rise. Violence
against women goes unpunished. The minorities are scared that they
will not only not get justice, but will also be brutalised. Beyond
equality before the law lies equality of treatment and an equality of
A multi-cultural secular state needs to view justice in terms of the
confidence it inspires. Following the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and the
destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the crisis of confidence in
India's justice system has deepened - all the more so after reviews
of the working of the anti-terrorist legislation (TADA and POTA) have
shown that these measures were wilfully used against the minorities.
In 2003, we witness remarkable contrasts, which present the
`communal' crisis confronting justice. At the end of June 2003, the
judgment in the Best Bakery case produced the worst of justice. The
judgment is a tour de force of strange insights wholly out of place
in a criminal case. The National Human Rights Commission had to take
the case to the Supreme Court because the Gujarat Government failed
to move on incontrovertible indications that the Muslim witnesses
were threatened into submission.
In the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice, V.N. Khare, was forcefully
forthright in exposing the rotten state of affairs. Tenaciously
getting to the truth, he condemned the Gujarat Government for its
inaction asking it to quit if it could not govern fairly. On
September 19, 2003, the Chief Justice went further to record the
statement of the State's Director-General of Police that the Best
Bakery casewitnesses had been "won over" to expose the worst endemic
tendencies in which communal injustice in India is enmeshed. What the
Supreme Court proceedings have done is to restore confidence that the
Indian justice system has the capacity to correct itself in communal
cases of a failure of justice.
As if to reinforce the confidence, on September 22, 2003, a trial
court in Orissa sentenced Dara Singh to death and 12 persons to life
imprisonment for the murder of Graham Staines and his children in
1999. I do not support the death penalty. But the death penalty in
this case was consistent with the Supreme Court's principle that it
can be imposed in the "rarest of rare" case of extreme depravity. But
what astounds is Dara Singh's decision that he will not appeal, and
face the gallows to become a "martyr" in the cause of communal
killing. He does so on the confident assumption that there are many
who regard his cowardly killing as an act of `Hindu' heroism. Behind
the face of `secular' justice lurks a frightening monster, which
exalts communalism as an act of grace.
The third major recent case is that of the Babri Masjid demolition,
in which several BJP leaders were charged by the Rae Bareli court for
various offences connected with the destruction of the mosque in
1992. But the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, was let off because
of some evidence that he might have tried to restrain the miscreants.
But surely this was a matter for trial. Mr. Advani was on the same
terrace as the others. Having arrived there after several provocative
`rath yatras' (celebratory processions), his segregation into
innocence required a probe through a trial. But instead of
representing the triumph of secular justice, the case was twisted
into political controversy. The Law Minister, Arun Jaitley, treated
the destruction of the mosque as a political case concerned with
public order offences. Murli Manohar Joshi resigned from the
ministerial post but with equivocal party political results. Mr.
Joshi's judicial appeal threatened Mr. Advani by claiming
similarities with the latter. What should have been an occasion for
reinforcing secular justice was converted by the BJP in power and its
other supporters into a tamasha (spectacle).
It seems amazing that those who rule India seem to make a virtue of
communal atrocity. Surely, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)
should appeal Mr. Advani's case to obviate the charge that political
pressure has elevated India's Deputy Prime Minister above the law.
Even more ironical is Mr. Advani's, Mr. Joshi's and others' plea of
innocence of a crime they make political capital of. Surely they
should declare that they had nothing to do with the destruction of
the Masjid, and that they disapprove of the destruction and support
making amends by re-building the mosque. But the BJP White Paper on
Ayodhya (1993) gives a truer picture of the hate underlying this
wanton act. What do we make of a system of governance in which the
top leaders who run India take a silent pride in communal
destruction, treat - as Mr. Jaitley does - the 1992 event, which
shattered peoples' faith in Indian secularism, as a public order
problem and are unable to publicly apologise for this act while they
profess their innocence.
Poor management, delays and insufficient resources are not the only
things wrong with India's system. There is something more that robs
the system of its credibility and legitimacy. There is a declining
faith in India's justice system on the part of the minorities and the
deprived. When the system succeeds in delivering secular justice, it
is mocked at by politicians in positions of power. When the system
fails, it shocks to undermine peoples' faith. If India is to stay
together, it cannot be a random communal democracy unbounded by the
rule of law. Confronted with communal terrorism from within, India's
justice system is in danger of losing its secular soul.
The Times of India
New Muslim secular group formed
TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ THURSDAY, OCTOBER 02, 2003 10:00:48 PM ]
MUMBAI: Gandhi Jayanti this year will witness the formation of a new
national body - Muslims for Secular Democracy (MSD).
The members of the new body include educationists, businessmen,
doctors, lawyers, journalists, artistes, and women activists from
Pune, Kolhapur, Kolkata, Bhopal, Allahabad, Patna and elsewhere in
Among the issues that the MSD will look at will be the growing
religious intolerance, the Ayodhya issue, culture policing, the
Uniform Civil Code, state subsidy for Haj and population control.
October 01, 2003
'84 riot victims put Best foot forward
New Delhi, September 30: Encouraged by the National Human Rights
Commission's successful intervention in the Best Bakery case which
led Supreme Court to give the victims new hope, families of the 1984
Sikh riots victims are planning to take the same route. The over 5000
families in the seven resettlement camps in the Capital are
approaching the NHRC with an appeal to speak for them.
The President of the 1984 riot victims camps, Atma Singh, said that
nearly two decades after the riots which killed over 3000 people, not
a single accused has been brought to book. These camps include the
ones at Tilak Vihar, Sangam Park, Raghuvir Nagar, Madipur,
Jahangirpuri, Garhi and Rohini Sector 16.
The memorandum to be submitted says the way NHRC dealt with the Best
Bakery case has given them hope that minorities can get justice.
Hence, they wished NHRC would take up their case now.
It is being pointed out that the Delhi Government never went in
appeal or sought review of judgements of lower courts in any higher
court when the accused were let off one after another, Singh said. In
Delhi as in Gujarat, both the accused and people in high positions
who instigated the riots were given state protection, he alleged.
''We have attached a list of hundreds of victims who have been marked
untraceable by Delhi Police in courts and whose cases have been
closed. We will appeal to the commission to take up this list and
reopen their cases to get them justice,'' Singh said.
He said the memorandum pointed out that despite thousands of deaths
in Delhi in 1984, neither was a single FIR filed, nor any MLC or
The memorandum names then Home Minister Narasimha Rao and
Lieutenant-Governor T N Gavai for ''not trying to stop the riots'',
Atma Singh said.
''We have pinned our hopes on Justice J S Anand and we have also told
him that the pensions and jobs promised to the victims' families were
not given. We have mentioned that the Ahuja Commission report in 1985
had identified 2773 persons as victims. But the government of Delhi
does not recognise this list.
Blocking of Yahoo groups content in India . . .
[Update : morning of 03 October. 2003]
URLS AND REPORTS ON INTERNET CENSORSHIP IN INDIA
o o o
Business Standard, October 02, 2003
Published : October 2, 2003
On September 10, 2003, the Department of Telecommunications, under
the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT),
issued a terse communique to Internet service providers.
Signed "Jayant Kumar (Director LR II)", this ordered Indian Internet
service providers (ISPs) to block access to http://groups.yahoo.com/
The order came from the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team
(CERT-In). Through a notification in July, the government designated
CERT-In as the authority for blocking of sites. This was the first
time CERT-In asserted its right to censor content.
The Kynhun group consists of about 25 members of a minority in
Meghalaya. They exchanged posts detailing petty harassment by local
Most posts were uncomplimentary about state and Central government
sentiments that Kynhun members would be better off if Meghalaya was
not part of India, or if their specific minority wasn't part of
We see a lot worse on a daily basis in the media but presumably
somebody with a thin skin and connections in the MCIT was hassled
enough to try and stop this being disseminated.
The follow-up to the order was Kafkaesque. It isn't easy to block a
single Yahoo! group. Most ISPs complied with the directive by
blocking all Yahoo! groups.
So, thousands of forums discussing classical music, trading stocks,
how to do better in competitive exams and so on became inaccessible
to Indian surfers. This is equivalent to banning all taxis because a
taxi was once used to carry a bomb.
The government, as is its wont, ignored protests and refused to
clarify what it found offensive about Kynhun and what norms, if any,
applied to the decision on the ban.
Most Indian surfers will still find all Yahoo! groups inaccessible
although some ISPs have now put a specific block on Kynhun.
Enterprising people trying to access their own Yahoo! groups have
found ways around this.
Any material on an open server can be accessed regardless of blocks.
The Chinese discovered this years ago for, the People's Republic
routinely blocks content. As routinely, dissidents bypass those
The Kynhun incident has induced many Indian surfers to take crash
courses in the mechanics of anonymous proxies and web-mirrors. Kynhun
has seen more traffic post-ban than it could ever have dreamt of.
A block works by refusing to route to a domain. Domains are defined
in terms of four three-digit numbers.
The first number is a country locale, the second is a regional
locale, the third set is assigned to a specific organisation and the
fourth set is assigned by that organisation. The assigning authority
is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
For example, 220.127.116.11 is a MTNL Delhi domain. The number "204"
is India-specific, "94" is Delhi, "192" is MTNL. The last set of
numbers, from 0 to 255, may be assigned by MTNL to whoever it
chooses. An Internet address, like www. mtnl.net.in, is "translated"
into domain numbers.
An ISP block can be bypassed by using an indirect route. To use an
analogy, A may be prevented from speaking to B. But A may speak to C
and C can speak to B and relay messages.
The via media is an "anonymising (or "anonymising" since spelling is
important in queries) proxy". Free anonymisers are easy to setup and
widely available. When a domain is accessed through an anonymiser,
the ISP knows nothing about it.
Web-mirrors operate by copying the content to another domain, which
is not blocked. The government uses mirrors, for instance, when
relaying the Budget speech or election results, since traffic at
those moments would overload a single site. Unless the mirror is
continuous, content won't update realtime.
The inherent absurdity of censoring web-content in a democracy will
obviously not be realised in the circles empowered to do it. If a
site complaining about corrupt section officers in Shillong can be
blocked, presumably sites discussing corruption elsewhere can be as
The government did not consider it necessary to make any explanation
on this occasion to the millions it inconvenienced. It won't in
future when it inevitably blocks something else; just as inevitably
those blocks will also be bypassed.
o o o
October 01, 2003
Yahoo group users fail to Net any results
Express News Service
Pune, September 30: WHEN Shahid Burney tried to access a Yahoo group
on the right to information that he is a part of, the group account
was difficult to access.
Several Yahoo group users like Burney have been facing a problem
since the past week and a half.
''I had been trying to get through yesterday but to no avail,'' says he.
The problem has been attributed to the Indian government's Computer
Emergency Response Team which has imposed a blanket ban on Yahoo
groups in response to secessionist group Kinhun's postings.
''The trouble in accessing the Yahoo e-group is because of a
government order on for the past few days,'' says an executive at the
''India is the biggest democracy and yet, we're behaving like
totalitarian regimes on this issue. One cannot police the Net like
this. Why should so many people suffer for the fault of a few,'' says
S Joshi, who has not been able to access yahoo groups where he is
part of an alumni network.
o o o
[Abridged version of :
'Staring Back:The Indian government is pitted against Yahoo.
By SALIL TRIPATHI
From The Asian Wall Street Journal ]
October 03, 2003
EDITS & COLUMNS
Try Staring Back, It May Work
Why governments believe they can bully corporates
An obscure Internet newsgroup has threatened the free flow of
information across India's information superhighway, pitting the
Indian government against Yahoo, one of the world's most popular
search engines. Last week, India decided to ban the newsgroup of the
separatist Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), called
kynhun Bri U Hynniewtrep, because it carried reports India considers
anti-national. India has banned the HNLC, which wants an exclusive
state for the Khasis in Meghalaya.
When India asked US-based Yahoo to block the newsgroup, the company
declined. Carrying out such an order may even be illegal under US
laws. Yahoo was being consistent: When France asked Yahoo to stop
selling Nazi memorabilia from its website because of France's strict
anti-racism laws, Yahoo removed such items from its French website.
But when a French judge asked Yahoo to remove such items from its
US-based site, Yahoo questioned the extra-territorial application of
Undeterred, India called in its Computer Emergency Response Team,
whose actions have disabled access from India to all Yahoo groups at
the time of writing. This action severely disrupted
cyber-conversation in India. While Yahoo did the right thing in
dealing with the Indian request, its defiance would have made more
sense if it had shown similar zeal last July, when China asked Yahoo
to sign a pledge to monitor its Chinese language Internet portal for
information and content that "might jeopardize state security and
disrupt social stability." At that time, Yahoo complied without much
True, China did not pick on Yahoo alone, and asked hundreds of
domestic academic institutions and Internet companies to sign a
verbose statement drafted by a Chinese Internet society. But the
impact was chilling; in effect, Yahoo was promising to supervise all
websites to which its search engine pointed, to block anything that
the Chinese authorities might deem anti-national, and to report such
content to the authorities. Beijing was, in effect, asking private
companies to do its dirty work of censoring information and
conversation. Other search engines - Google and Alta Vista - declined
to sign the pledge, and China blocked their sites.
China's leaders want the Internet's commercial benefits without the
social upheaval that the net's iconoclastic, barrier-busting spirit
may spark. China makes such demands because other businesses have
acquiesced in the past. Rupert Murdoch's Star TV network dumped the
BBC World Service because Beijing did not like the content, a
Murdoch-owned publishing company reneged on a deal to publish Hong
Kong's former Governor Chris Patten's memoirs, and Mr Murdoch
ridiculed the Dalai Lama's preference for certain brands.
Businesses of course have to make money, and Yahoo can't afford to
ignore China. Governments, too, have to govern; and occasionally even
ostensibly democratic governments crack down on civil liberties. In
the Indian case, both Yahoo and India have come off poorly. India is
proud of being the world's largest democracy. "The Indian government
has done what it thought best in the short term. But it has given the
HNLC more visibility and importance than otherwise warranted. People
should be free to read or reject what such groups say. Both the
government and the armed groups should respect the public perspective
and not try to force their views," says regional expert Sanjoy
Hazarika, consulting editor at The Statesman newspaper and managing
trustee of the Center for North East Studies in New Delhi.
Democracy apart, blocking Internet discussion lists disrupts India's
ambition of becoming an IT superpower. And Indians know how to beat
the system. During the Kargil War with Pakistan, overzealous Indian
officials had asked Indian ISPs to block the website of Dawn, the
Pakistani newspaper. Indian websites promptly provided how-to
instructions on their sites, allowing net users to bypass the ban on
But Yahoo can't afford to be smug. Principles are worth something
only if they are not expendable when the going gets tough. Yahoo
kow-towed, instead of standing firm to China. As Mr Patten observed
on leaving Hong Kong in 1997, the main problem with the international
community is that it does not treat China as a normal, regular
country. If China glares, stare back, he said. If it throws tantrums,
ignore it. But too few businesses and political leaders take this
advice to heart. Noticing corporate pusillanimity in the face of
Chinese firmness, other countries believe they too can bully
[This article from the Wall Street Journal has been edited for space]
"Promise of India" campaign for Communal Harmony
Promise of India is a coalition of US-based Indian non-profit
organizations who have come together to strengthen the democratic,
secular, and pluralistic fabric of Indian society. The campaign will
be officially launched on this day and information about the various
programs to be organized by the coalition will be announced.
Representatives from the sponsoring organizations will be present to
sign the Promise of India Appeal, an urgent call to the people and
the government of India to restore communal harmony.
When: Saturday, October 4th, 2003, 2 PM - 4 PM
Where: India Community Center, 555 Los Coches St., Milpitas, CA
Who : Sponsored by AID, AIF, ASHA, CAC, ICA, ICC, PrajaNet and TiE.
Additional sponsors will join in the coming weeks.
Contact: Raju Rajagopal 510-559-1049
This event is free.
More info at <http://www.promiseofindia.org>http://www.promiseofindia.org
Buzz on the perils of fundamentalist politics, on matters of peace
and democratisation in South Asia. SACW is an independent &
non-profit citizens wire service run since 1998 by South Asia
Citizens Web (www.mnet.fr/aiindex).
The complete SACW archive is available at: http://sacw.insaf.net
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not
necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.