Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Internet Censorship saga in India

Anna Hazare/Image courtesy:

2011 was a tumultuous year as it saw citizens’ movements toppling dictatorships all around the Arab World. Former president Hosni Mubarak’s fall in Egypt was ably aided by social media that helped citizens rally together for a cause. 2011 also saw a huge anti-corruption movement in India that was headed by a 70-year-old crusader Anna Hazare. This movement saw a huge participation by the Indian middle class, the same section of society which also has a presence on the Internet.  The movement that called itself ‘India Against Corruption’ (IAC) had a very active presence on social media including sites like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter etc. Co-incidentally it was in 2011 that the Government increased its curbs on the internet, despite already having problematic provisions with the existing IT (Amendment) Act, 2008.

Big Brother Government

Let’s first get into the main problems with the amendment of the Act that happened in 2008. Till 2009, India’s Internet Freedom Status was relatively free and censorship was sporadic. Till then, the government did not particularly bother about censoring the Internet. The status changed after Mumbai, the financial capital of India suffered a massive terrorist attack in November 2008. This lead to the Government making sure that the state had the powers to decrypt communications done over the Internet, especially post-terrorist attacks. The terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2009 changed the scenario and the Internet Freedom Status became set to ‘Partly Free’ and has remained unchanged since then.

The amendment made in 2008 to the IT Act (which governs the Internet) brought in criticism by cyber activists and netizens alike since the amendment was passed without any discussion in the Parliament and had clauses which enabled violation of civil liberties. Under section 69 of the new amended act, it is possible for the police to snoop through one’s emails, phone calls, texts and other personal communication over the Internet without any warrant for the same from the magistrate.
Draconian provisions

69B. (1) The Central Government may, to enhance cyber security and for identification, analysis and prevention of intrusion or spread of computer contaminant in the country, by notification in the Official Gazette, authorise any agency of the Government to monitor and collect traffic data or information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource.

(2) The intermediary or any person in-charge or the computer resource shall, when called upon by the agency which has been authorised under sub-section (1), provide technical assistance and extend all facilities to such agency to enable online access or to secure and provide online access to the computer resource generating, transmitting, receiving or storing such traffic data or information.

(3) The procedure and safeguards for monitoring and collecting traffic data or information, shall be such as may be prescribed.

(4) Any intermediary who intentionally or knowingly contravenes the provisions of sub-section (2) shall be punished with an imprisonment for a term which any extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Courtesy: IT (Amendment) Act 2008
After the above mentioned amendment, the central government fired a new salvo in April 2011 that made some alert Indian netizens sit up and take notice. The Indian Government formulated two sets of rules to the Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008. The first rule set out to make the intermediaries including companies like Google, Facebook etc. and Internet Service Providers responsible for the content their users upload. The second set of rules make cybercafé owners to maintain a record of all their users who use their services to access the Internet.

N Vijayshankar, a cyber law expert in India said, “It is difficult to question the Government’s motive behind having these curbs when they cite national security risk as the reason. However, the censorship bans can only be used for the said reason only. However, the very way the sections of the law is written is ambiguous and gives arbitrary power to the police. Otherwise, the way these laws are used can be in violation of our fundamental right to free speech. Also, the government is using these acts for censorship of content in accordance to whichever political party is in power.”

Mumbai Police bans cartoonist’s site
One of Trivedi's cartoons that got his site banned. The commode resembles the architecture of the Parliament of India

Image courtesy:

The repercussions of these rules were seen when Aseem Trivedi, a cartoonist from Kanpur could not access his website in the last week of December 2011. Aseem Trivedi, an ardent supporter of IAC had uploaded political cartoons on his website— Subsequently he received a mail on December 27th from BigRock, the domain name and web host where his site was registered. The mail informed him that they were suspending his domain name and associated services since they received a complaint from Mumbai Crime Branch that he has been using the website for displaying objectionable content related to the flag and emblem of India. He has ever since migrated to a new website. (The cartoon above shows Indian Parliament as a commode among many others which were deemed as offensive).

Trivedi says, “As per the law, one is guilty until proven innocent. The onus is on the person to prove that s/he is not guilty. This is in direct violation of the constitution of India. The extreme frivolity of the entire process worries me. A blog can be banned with just a simple complaint by anyone if they feel offended about it. This has to be challenged. I was not even informed, leave alone served a notice, before they pulled out my site.” So aghast was Trivedi by the whole issue that he has now started a campaign against Internet censorship in India. “I am currently touring different cities of India talking to people about this issue. I plan to culminate this journey on the 13th of May with a rally in India Gate, New Delhi.”

Vijayshankar says, “The law in its present form makes the intermediaries responsible for the content uploaded on their site. It also insist that they take action within 36 hours of receiving a complaint. For instance, I can file a complaint against any content I deem offensive and since the intermediaries have to take an action within 36 hours, they ned up taking the content off the net, which is a misinterpretation. These kind of actions also give unlimited powers to any individual and private companies.”

Anja Kovas, of Internet Democracy Project, points out to a graver effect of such regulations. "Censorship on the Internet is very different from the censorship in the real world. There will always be ways to circumvent it. However, it is mostly the tech-saavy geeks and people with the knowledge of technical know-how who will have access to such technologies. For majority of people, access to such knowledge will not be easy. The danger of such laws is that the society will be polarised between people who can enjoy freedom of expression and those who cannot."

Call for pre-censorship of content on Social Media

Image courtesy:
December 2011 saw India’s Union Communications and Information Technology minister Kapil Sibal calling for social media biggies including Google, Facebook, Twitter amongst others to pre-censor content uploaded by their users. This invited widespread criticism from Indian netizens and media alike. He later clarified that he did not mean pre-censorship of content but meant that companies ought to have standards that prevent such content from being on their space. He also insisted that these companies need to follow the law of the land, which meant that the social media companies ought to follow the restrictions to freedom of speech as deemed by the constitution. Content that violate the following issues are considered as restrictions and violations on freedom of speech.
  • Security of the State
  •  Friendly relations with foreign States
  •  Public order
  • Decency and morality
  • Contempt of court
  •  Defamation
  •  Incitement to an offence
  •  Sovereignty and integrity of India.
The media in India does not enjoy a separate ‘freedom of press’ as enshrined by the USA constitution but the freedom of press is subsumed under the freedom of speech and expression, a fundamental right. However, there are many curbs on the Indian media. For instance, Radio news is completely banned in India with the State owned ‘All India Radio’ enjoying a complete monopoly over broadcasting news over the radio. Internet till 2008 was relatively free and censorship by Government sporadic.

Sibal's proposition received a widespread criticism amongst the netizens, especially on Twitter.

The Vinay Rai Case

Amidst the din of censorship of the Internet, intermediaries like Facebook, Google and other companies faced a fresh jolt when Vinay Rai, editor of a Delhi-based Urdu newspaper Akbari, filed a case against them in December 2011 for allowing objectionable content up on their sites. Rai has submitted examples of what he deems as offensive content against various religions and religious figures that he found on the sites of these companies. However, Rai chose not to interact with the websites regarding this issue. He stated that the government is the ultimate authority to deal with multinationals in matters like these. Indian Penal Code has strict provisions against promotion of religious enmity in the country including Sec 153 (B), Section 298 among others.

Even as Google and Facebook have argued that they are not legally responsible for the content uploaded by the users, things don’t look rosy, thanks to the cyber laws in India. The outcome of the case is still pending since the case is still with the Delhi High Court.

Vijayashankar added, “Vinay Rai seems to have filed a case against content that can hurt religious sentiments of the people. There are some strong provisions in the law against hurting religious sentiments. The only fear I have is that the court should make it clear that the judgement is for this particular case alone and that the outcome of the case should not be considered as a precedent. There is a big element of public interest in this issue. It has a danger of being misinterpreted as a precedent which will affect our freedom of expression.”

Indian Govt asks Google to remove ‘offensive’ content

When the debate over Internet censorship was at its peak, Google revealed data that showed the true intentions of the Government. According to Google, the company received 68 content removal requests (which included 358 items in all) from the Government of India in the first half of 2011 (January – June) of which 51% of the requests were adhered to. The reasons ranged from defamation, national security, government criticism amongst others. It is interesting to note that of all the requests, only one of them was attributed to National security, the main reasons cited for the amendment that happened in 2008.

In April 2011, Centre for Internet and Society, a research and advocacy organisation in India revealed that the Government of India banned around 11 websites using provisions like 69B, which aforementioned give sweeping powers to the Government.

While Google stood up to the Chinese Government refusing to adhere to the latter’s censorship norms, it has not exactly shown the same spirit in India. Recently, this month, the Delhi High Court responding to a civil suit filed by Aijaz Qasmi, an Indian citizen ordered Google to remove ‘offensive content’ from their sites.  A statement released by Google read: “This step is in accordance with Google's longstanding policy of responding to court orders.” Google has already resorted to self censorship and have claimed that they will respect the law of the land. Twitter has also declared that it will censor tweets geographically.

Trivedi says, “This was bound to happen. Companies like Google, Facebook and others are business entities. They will ultimately bow down to these unfair laws. It is ultimately up to citizens of India to fight these unfair laws.” Kovacs adds that, "By making intermediaries accountable for content uploaded by the users, the Government is making sure that a vast amount of internet users can be controlled and this is dangerous."

Laws for a space sans geographical boundaries

If Facebook were a country with the number of users on it, it would be the third largest country in terms of the population. Internet by its very nature has broken geographical boundaries and epitomises the Sanskrit adage of Vasudaiva Kumtumbakam—the world is but one single family. To impose laws that are applicable to a particular geographical area to a space that knows no geography is going to be tricky indeed. While Google has announced that it will censor content as needed by the laws of the land, the same aforesaid content could be accessible in other countries. This is an exercise in futility since proxy servers could be used to access the same content from the same country where it is banned.

The battle in India is in the backdrop of global threat to Internet freedom. More than 100 countries plan to meet in Geneva on February 27, to give United Nations, power to control the Internet. While it remains to be seen how Internet censorship takes root and is fought in India, the global fight just gets as interesting!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Slutwalking in India and the besharmi of it all...

Cambridge dictionary's defines ‘slut’ as a woman who has sexual relationships with a lot of men without any emotional involvement. Now think of the word ‘slut’ that regularly is used as an abuse. What is wrong if a woman wants to live life this way? Why should she be subjected to such a judgement? Who are the people calling her a slut? Where did the meaning develop? The answers to this question pretty much determine the genesis of the word.

I dislike the word not because of what it denotes but because of the way it is used. The word slut has stopped bothering me now. At the end of the day, it is a choice made by a woman to live life the way she wants to. I hate it that that her personal choice carries along with it so much hate, disgust and humiliation that it makes so many of us cringe. It also makes so many of us be on our toes all the time lest anyone regards us as one. Besides, why should there be pressure on a woman to prove the whole world that she is not a slut? This is just another way of curtailing a woman's sexuality. There lies a very close association with the so-called sluttishness and then the following justification if she undergoes violence. It is like saying.... Be a slut and violence will follow. So, better toe the line.

Given this context, ‘Slutwalk’ does sound revolutionary. It definitely is. But then I guess it is not for everyone. I also wonder if the idea of ‘Slutwalk’ in India works for me.

Ever since I read about Slutwalks, I have been confused about my stand regarding it. My first reaction was that of discomfort. Discomfort not just with the term but about the idea in general. But then I did find myself agreeing with everything they stood for. Why this discomfort? The answers weren’t easy.

Firstly I found the campaign to be reactionary. Also for better or worse consists of only women from an upper middle class English speaking background. Now there is nothing wrong with this target group starting something. But it definitely is problematic when the issue just becomes an issue of that class alone.

So what is slutwalk all about? Where did it start from? Slutwalk has its origin in Canada where a policeman in a speech asked women to not dress like sluts in order to avoid violence.

“Slutwalk might be one of the more provocatively named events of 2011, but that's the whole point. Founded shortly after a police officer participating in a safety forum at York University's Osgoode Hall remarked that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized," the protest seeks to re-appropriate a term that has been used historically not just to limit and stigmatize female sexuality, but as a rationalization for sexual assault.”
More here and here.

In Canada, the police officer told women to not dress like sluts if they wanted to avoid violence. In India, people tell us to dress ‘decently’ in order to avoid molestation and rape. Dressing indecently doesn’t always mean dressing like a slut. Dressing like a slut comes much later. It can also mean pushing the boundaries of being a good girl, just a bit. So, why is this important? This is important because of the major difference in the way the word ‘slut’ —in all its regional variations—is used in India and in other countries.

It is not when you are dressed as a slut that you are molested or raped. “Good girls” from “good families” with no trace of dressing like a slut are molested too. School girls wearing uniforms, Muslim girls wearing burkha, women wearing salwar kameez, baggy pants and loose shirts get molested too. Yes, a slut gets molested too, so does a prostitute. There is no discrimination here! So it is not just when you are dressed as a slut that you are molested, you are molested if you are a girl/woman. It is as simple as that! Given this context, the very word ‘slutwalk’ seems very limiting. If the victim were ‘sluts’ alone, then ‘besharmi morcha’ makes so much sense. But since the victims are not sluts alone, what do they plan to do then? How does being besharam help? What is the point of all this ‘besharmi’? The whole thing just seems like a very direct import from the West. As Tamura A. Lomax, a black feminist says in this very well writtenblog post  that, the need to want the freedom to dress the way we want is a demand made by women in privileged positions. Indeed, to proudly claim oneself a “slut” (meaning, to boldly and explicitly claim one’s sexual liberty), with little to no socio-political consequence, is (sort of) a privilege—Lomax.

My right to public space is denied to me NOT because I am a slut but because I am a woman. And I want to demand my right to a safe public space as a woman and that includes rights of sluts too. There are many things that are denied to me because I am a woman. So, basically the struggle is to reclaim all my rights as a woman and that encompasses rights of a good girl, rights of a bad girl, and rights of a “slut” among many others. For me the fight is to be treated as a human being. The situation in Canada is considerably different from that in India. If I dare say so, their fights and struggles are not as basic as it is here. Our daily fight is for the world to consider us a HUMAN BEING worthy of living a life. As Lomax says: “This reality, which significantly impacts African American women and girls’ day-to-day experiences, makes it difficult to fight for “slut-hood,” particularly when one is still demanding to be seen as a full-fledged person with innate dignity and worth.”

The thing is, if a girl is molested, she would be advised not to roam out at night alone. Case in point being the Delhi police commissioner who advises women in Delhi not to roam at night all alone. Not always are woman chided for being’ besharam’. Is the ‘besharmi morcha’ going to address these attitudes or is it just about the freedom to dress the way they like? I am not implying that freedom to dress is trivial. I really wish I could dress the way I want to without having to worry about people, setting and countless other things. But then when one talks about that without factoring in various other social realities, the whole exercise just seems like a blind import from the West without contextualization. The use of words like sluts, or besharmi would I am afraid alienate a lot of people because not everyone would want to be considered a ‘besharam’ to just walk on the road freely. This is a struggle that is common across womenfolk. But ‘besharmi morcha’ doesn’t seem like addressing that. It is self-defeating if it doesn’t unify women who more or less face the same problem across the society.

Oh yes, the girls will get media attention for sure. ‘Sluttishness’ is sexy! Dressing slutty will definitely make for sexy images on page 1 or page 3. It will make for a sexy copy too! But then, what beyond that? Will it address the issue in a deeper way? In my opinion, the issue should be to address issues of street sexual harassment, safety of women in streets, reclaiming public space for women in a holistic way. How do the organisers of the ‘besharmi morcha’ even plan on doing that?

Recent interviews by the organisers have them clarifying again and again that women can dress in whatever clothes they feel like and that there is no pressure to wear anything skimpy. Now what is the point of calling it besharmi morcha? *puzzled*

The campaign (with all its contradictions) is at best a shock raising event. I guess, at the end of the day, even they play a role in a city that is notorious towards women.

Also, NO WOMAN ever asks for it!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Is it possible to be proud of one's Brahmin roots?

This post made me revisit a dilemma I have had for quite some time now. I will revisit my dilemma later on. First of all, I want to respond to this post. In this post Rahul Pandita, a journalist, talks about his Brahmin-ness and wonders why he should not feel proud about his Brahmin roots and culture.
It is important to understand the caste hierarchy. Brahmins, as we all know, occupy the topmost position in the hierarchy. Their position that they enjoy and have enjoyed over a period of years is also based on severe oppression of lower castes. Simply put, one is not a Brahmin just like that. The position of that of a Brahmin cannot be without oppression. To put it very simply, Brahmins became possessors of knowledge purely on the basis of exclusion. Because of the position they enjoyed, they could conveniently exclude people who were non-Brahmins and their power also could be sustained by centuries of exclusion. It still continues. I haven’t seen many non-Brahmin priests. It is still the domain of Brahmins. So what are we saying, when one says, “I am proud of Brahmin culture.” Can we be proud of a culture that has evolved under conditions of having oppressed such a large majority? I definitely don’t think so. Culture cannot be devoid of politics. Culture that evolved then was also an outcome of political economy of that given period. Thus, it cannot be viewed in isolation of this historic background. It is important to know and understand under what conditions the cultural practices originated from.

Rahul Pandita is a Kashmiri Pandit. Their history of displacement has been very painful to say the least. It just appears to me that he has taken recourse to his culture as a response to being a victim of displacement. Taking recourse to one's culture is a very common way of connecting to one's roots especially in the face of physical displacement. The history of caste oppression of Dalits has been happening across centuries and cannot even be compared to the displacement of Kashmiri Pandits. Their history of oppression existed long before the displacement of Kashmiri Pandits. That is why I think Kashmiri Brahmin culture cannot be contextualised without taking into account the centuries' old oppression of the Dalits.  Feeling sorry for the Dalits is futile if one doesn't take into account that their condition is very deeply connected to the Brahmin culture.

Recently, there has been a website that has been famously frequented by many Tamil Brahmins. It is called the TamBrahm RageTambrahm rage. It is a site where Tamil Brahmins collectively make fun of all things Tam Brahm. When I checked out TamBrahm Rage, I experienced mixed reactions. When I go through Tam Brahm rage, I feel an acute discomfort when I see people laughing at all the jokes and the rituals. That is because I often wonder if they are just mocking or actually being critical of the entire thing? But even as I say this, I also laugh at the same jokes that that I am being critical of right now. That is because I think there are some things I have no control over. For instance, my upbringing. And it does have a major influence on things I do relate to. All my life, I have seen all these practices happening all around me. It has been an inevitable part of my growing up and my reality. I have never bothered to join the innumerable Tam Brahm groups on various social networking sites as I find it absolutely ridiculous to talk at a platform where the main reason of association is that of being a Brahmin. But then, I do frequent Tam Brahm rage sometimes because it does consist of some (of the many) questions I asked in my childhood which were left unanswered. Many of which are also ultimately responsible for my disregard to Brahminism as a whole.

The issue of personal identity is a very complex one. While I don’t consider myself as a Brahmin per se, I am one by default, in terms of my upbringing; in terms of certain privileges I have enjoyed being one. While I consciously do not associate myself with the identity of being a Brahmin and its associated rituals, I wonder if I can be away from it at all? Ideally I would want the destruction of the entire caste system and the annihilation of caste identity.  But then, I also wearily sometimes wonder, is it possible?

Can one really separate culture from the oppressive conditions it thrived in? Carnatic classical music has been a preserve of only Brahmins till now. This clearly means that Brahmins would have isolated everyone outside of their community in the spread of the art. No wonder we only have Brahmin performers ruling the roost. But then, I love Carnatic music very much. I often wonder where I stand. I often wonder if I can ever enjoy it without these confusions in my head.

Monday, October 04, 2010

An open letter to Rajan Welukar

Dr Rajan Welukar, they claim you are the vice chancellor. But I think that is paying you too much of a compliment. You are just a first rate coward! So you decide to ban Rohinton Mistry’s Such a long journey because some thugs decided that Mistry offended Bal Thackeray! Brilliant stuff! Kudos for caving in to the demands of the thugs!

Co incidentally, I am reading a beautiful book right now- Reading Lolita in Tehran a book by Azar Nafisi. It is a sheer co-incidence that it was only two days ago that I read a chapter where she talks about how she dealt with a situation where books were being banned left, right and centre in Iran in the 80s as they were accused of propagating ‘Western’ values, values which were decadent enough to corrupt the youth. She later talks about how she puts the novel, the Great Gatsby on trial in her class because of few opinionated students in her class who want the book banned.

“Was it necessary to put this book on trial? I was somewhat taken aback. Did he want me to throw the book aside without so much as a word in its defense?” (An excerpt)

I am not asking you to conduct a trial. But have you even read the book? I am sure you haven’t. So why do you really want to ban a book? How does it help to ban a book? Why didn’t the students get any chance to give their opinion? Do you think they are not capable of having an opinion or do they really not matter at all in the given scheme of things? Am I asking for too much? Did you even ask the teachers what they thought of the book? I am asking this because you seem to have effected this ban by bypassing the academic council. You only chose to hear one puny section of the student (?!) group and decided to act. It is appalling that a vice chancellor of a university which is 150 years old chooses to act in such a cowardly fashion. It is not just cowardly, it is also chauvinistic. By not taking into account the opinion of any other the groups associated with education per se, you have exhibited totalitarian attitude.

And that was Iran where it happened. India I think despite all its problems is still a democracy. I am not shocked by Shiv Sena’s acts. They have acted according to what is expected of them. But what message does a university send when it caves down to empty threats like these?

It saddens me to see not a whiff of protest either from the student community or the teachers’ community. It reflects the sad talibanisation of our society, a society that is marred by fear and apathy.

So, what next? Which other group’s pathetic ego do you plan to appease next? What are you planning to do? Do you have a list of dos and donts that a novel should follow in order to be considered to be taught in your esteemed university.

I used to be a student of this university once. I feel very sad when I look at it now, in its current state. Mumbai University is dead and I mourn its demise.

I end my piece by again quoting these lines from Reading Lolita in Tehran. Such a long journey was this and a lot more!

A good novel is one that shows the complexity of individuals, and creates enough space for all these characters to have a voice; in this way a novel is called democratic-not that it advocates democracy but that by nature it is so.

Shobha S V

P.S. Oh I just came across this. Some hope!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Should writing be a task to finish?

Quite occasionally, I read the weekly column by Soumya Bhattacharya on his experiences being a parent to his daughter Oishi. I read his column on 14th March, Pre-Emptive action in Hindustan Times and wrote to him. Following are my observations :-)

Hello Mr Bhattacharya,

I read your column with lot of interest every week. Your column on 14th March, 2010 was very interesting. I have many things to share with you.

Firstly I am very critical of the mainstream education system. It saddens me to see writing given as a task. By making creative writing a task somehow obliterates the love for it. It is a sure shot way of kicking joy away. Don’t you think?

The pedagogic system and parent-child relationship have one common feature- the desire for approval. Let me explain. When the child is given a task, the task is given by someone who is in a superior power relation as compared to a child. It can be a parent or a teacher. The child is acutely aware of this lop-sided power relation. Therefore there comes a need for the child to please the person in power by fulfilling the task that has been given. You see, in this process the whole idea of the creative activity is lost. Creativity is just for one’s own self. I do understand that artists too need their audience. But should this need to please others be inscribed at such a young age? Should one inculcate the desire to find gratification in one’s own work through seeking approval from others at such a young age?

The hierarchy and the resultant unequal power equations in the education system (between the teacher and the child) and in the family (between the parent and the child) bother me. I think the power over the other manifests itself in this need for approval that we all seek and have sought at one stage or the other. I think children need to be left alone to do things that they want to do, that they wish to do. Besides, it is definitely not easy to state an opinion in a way that doesn’t come across as evaluation of the same. Only when this need for approval and evaluation goes away can the boundaries between the teacher and a child disappear (in terms of hierarchy) and can they both learn and discover things together. This applies to parent-child relationship too. Only then will a child realise that human beings are all fallible in nature. Only then as you mentioned in your last column, will the children not feel astonished when they find that their parent often doesn’t know everything. I think the disappointment of parents not being super human beings can vanish if parents and child learn an activity (that is new to both of them) together.

Besides I feel your daughter needs all the praise from your side. Small slips are always pardonable. The mistakes should never over shadow the creative work that the child has come up with. I do understand the anxiety of a parent regarding dispraise that the child can face. But then sadly that is the system we live in. I really don’t have an answer for that dilemma.

Keep writing.


Shobha S V

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What's in a name? Lots says Bombay High Court

Ok, this is going to be a rant.

I came across this article and yea I am irritated! Apparently divorced women cannot use their ex-husbands' name. If there is no legal compulsion on a woman to change her name after marriage, why should there be any compulsion on her to change her name if her marriage ends? Why can't she have the freedom to choose? Why should there even be an option available only for a woman to change her last name post marriage is something that totally puzzles me. But then I'm reminded of being in a patriarchal society...blah blah and blah!

The whole idea that a woman's identity is totally related to presence of absence of men in her life is so problematic. Currently there is a move to disqualify the citizenship of a Kashmiri woman in case she marries a non-Kashmiri person. To know this and this . I hope that this bill is opposed tooth and nail. It is a big problem if a democratic state treats its women as someone devoid of any independent identity of her own.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


This is ridiculous. I just don't have any other words for it.

An appeal for your support

A very strange time is upon us…
Very recently, TATA Sons filed a case against us ( in infringement of their TATA name (as our domain name contains the 'TATA' word!). Tata Sons has contended that it is confusingly similar to its 'Tata' brand and the travel portal runner has no rights or legitimate interests to use it. The company had argued that the site infringed the right of its registered trademark/service mark 'Tata'.

What is even more ridiculous is the fact that TATAs actually won this case.

And in a decision by a sole panelist, ownership of the domain has been awarded to TATA by WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) Arbitration and Mediation Centre.

This is taking the whole idea of copyright infringement to another (stupid) level altogether. What next? Are they planning to sue every one of us for uttering TATA without their permission?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Meena Mami-2

Hello world :-)
It seems so good to be back here. I was away all this while because I just did not feel like blogging anymore. It was one long break. However, the urge to communicate in this space has come back and I'm glad to be here once again. So many things have happened ever since I blogged last. But then let's not delve into that. Ever since I decided I want to blog again I kept wondering what should be my comeback post. Something happened few days ago that made my decision very easy. I was convinced that I have to write about it because there is a small connection with my blog. I don't know how many of my old blogger friends, acquaintances who would read my latest post. But does anybody remember this ? For all the new readers here, please do read this, otherwise the following post wouldn't make any sense.

Circa 2004...
It is amazing but I got to meet Meena Mami just few months after having made this entry.
(I still remember that I wanted to write about the incident but laziness took the better of me). Out of the blue, one day my father told me about how his common friend mentioned about Meena Mami coming to Bombay to meet a relative. I was so excited hearing about the news and I couldn't believe that I was getting a chance to meet her just months after having written the post. That was quick! I got the details of the relative and went to meet her. Before meeting I did call her and she stood outside the door waiting for me. It was wonderful meeting her after
such a long time. Mami thought I had changed quite a lot and we began catching up with our lives. Meanwhile I also called up Lalitha who spoke to Meena Mami after more than 15 years. It was amazing. Pieces of the jigsaw puzzle were finally falling in place. However we still had to find Bablu.

Circa 2005...
Later I got busy with my graduation, work and other things in life that searching for Bablu was put on a backburner. Then in 2005, Lalitha came back to be my neighbour once again...after 17 long years and it was just as it was before :-) During that time we realised that even though we were in touch with Meena Mami, we still did not know anything about Bablu. It is only after this that we both began a search for him. Till then funnily enough both of us (me and Lalitha) did not know his official name. We never needed to know, he was always Bablu for us. We later learnt that Bablu's official name was Vijay Raghavan. Wow! This news was enough for us to find him online in this age of Internet (or so I thought). We began our search for him immediately. I searched for him on Orkut and of course, Google. We still couldn't find him. Most of the Vijay Raghavans we found were younger than me. Finally we found one person whom I thought could be him. He was from Bombay. I discussed about this exciting possibility with Lalitha. When we figured out his age from the online records, it hit us that he was 35 which couldn't have been possible even in 2005. Our online search also hit a dead end. Sigh! :-( After then, we always wondered where Bablu would be. We wondered if he ever searched for us. However there were no answers. We left it at that. However somewhere deep down I just knew that we would all meet again. The only question was 'when' for which I had no answer.

Even though me and Lalitha knew about the whereabouts of Meena Mami, I was not in frequent touch with her though we did speak over the phone couple of times. Lalitha was more regular, thankfully. She used to talk to her quite often and I used to get updates from her. After 2004, I couldn't meet Meena Mami even once. But the very fact that I knew that she was fine kept me satisfied. After 2004, Meena Mami lived in Noida, in Chennai and host of other places before settling down in an old age home in Sringeri in Tamil Nadu. Last month I came to know that Mami would be in Delhi in the month of July. I did not have Mami's contact number and Lalitha told me that she would be contacting me once I reach Delhi by July end. I got a call two days ago and I set out to meet her. This time I met her after 5 whole years. I noticed that Meena Mami had aged even further. Rather than salt and pepper hair, Mami now possesses silver grey hair. We began talking and the subject of Bablu came up again. We again spoke about how sad it was not to know a single detail about Bablu. Then I asked her, "Mami, is Bablu's full name Vijay Raghavan?" She replied in affirmative. "So his father's name was Raghavan?", I asked. "No, his dad's name is Parthsarathy." "Oh so his name is Vijayraghavan Parthasarathy. Ohhhh!" It suddenly hit me that we never knew his correct full name. We had assumed it wrongly. All this while we had searched for Bablu using a wrong name! This information brought a smile on my face since I realised that it would be easier for us to search for him again.

I went online and I began searching for Vijayaraghavan Parthasarathy. I thought not many people would have a name like this. But no, I was sorely mistaken. I found close to 10 people by the same name. I wondered who would Bablu be among this. I surfed through people's profiles and found that they did not quite match Bablu's probable description. Finally I landed on a page which was out of bounds for me. But I could still see the guy's communities and I decided to send him a message. I also found a guy on Facebook and I pinged him as well. During this process I did wonder if I would be successful in my attempt. Subsequently I got back to my work. After about 15 minutes I refreshed my Orkut page and I saw that this Orkut fellow had added me. I wondered why. Within a moment I saw his scrap on my page and I couldn't believe what I had seen on the page...."This is Bablu, the same. I have been looking out for ways to contact Meena Mami so long. After we moved to a different place we lost contact. When we did go back all we were told was she moved to Delhi. PLease give me your phone no. Where do you live? How are ur parents. I live in USA. I will be waiting for your reply."

I kept staring at the screen and still couldn't believe it. The other contents of the scrap convinced me that he can't be an imposter. The jigsaw puzzle pieces had finally fallen in place. It was amazing :-) I had found Bablu...finally!!!! It took me few moments to register this. I immediately called Lalitha. She was on another call. I kept calling her. Finally when she did answer, I screamed....."We have found Bablu!!!!" Lalitha was dumb stuck and her reaction was quite thanda! All she could say was, "Yea? How?" I explained to her. She did not appear to be very convinced. Meanwhile I added Bablu on my messenger and hoped and waited he would come online. After an hour he did come and then called me. At 1 am, me, Bablu and Lalitha had a telephonic conference. was just unbelievable. Bablu couldn't believe it and neither could we. Meena Mami could finally talk to Bablu. Bablu had tried hard to trace Mami, but sadly was
unsuccessful. He had not tried searching for us...hehe! He admits that he did not think about that :-) But we did the needful and here we are...all back in touch again :D This is such a filmy story....This is my Yaadon ki Baarat!!! Ismein drama hain, emotions hain, bacche bichadte hain....phir 20 saal baad milte hain... too much :D When we finally did meet Bablu, we found him married with a kid. Bablu promptly called Meena Mami the next day. For Mami, this was a shock and such a pleasant shock at that :-) When I spoke to her later, she couldn't believe how quickly everything happened. Bablu gave her contact details to his parents and even they got in touch with her. My parents and Lalitha's parents still can't believe that we found Bablu. It is tough for them to realise that world is indeed such a small place for people of our generation :-)

Come to think of it, if only I had asked the correct question of Bablu's father's name few years before, the reunion would have happened long time ago. But it's all good now. Better late than never :-) Many people ask me in wonderment how I can remember incidents when I was so young? Well, even though I don't remember everything, I do have vivid memories of certain things. Besides I was showered with lots of love that I have a good feeling whenever I think of those days (despite memories being hazy)

Currently, the reunion has still not happened in its entiriety. We are all waiting for Bablu's visit to India so that we all could go and meet Meena Mami together :-) Now that'll be one filmy pic :-) YAYY!!!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Open letter to Mumbai top-cop Jadhav

Dear Mr Jadhav,
I just saw you on TV. It was quite an enlightening experience. I did not know molestation was a small thing. Hmmm...that's news to me. I did not have an inkling about that.

You see, I am quite dumb. I did not have a clue of how your yardstick works.I did not realise how small the crime is before you clarified it. You know, I am molested quite often on roads. In fact many of us are. But well, now I know, it is such a small thing. We will definitely ignore these occurances from now on because we know how small and insignificant it is.

So Mr Jadhav, tell me one thing. How do you classify various crimes? Is attempt to murder a small thing? Well, i assume since it is just an attempt, it will be small. the deed's not done as yet, right? Tell me, what do you think it needs to classify molestation as a big crime? Will you wait for the rape to happen to classify it as a big one? Do you wait for the deed to be done?

I am eagerly waiting for your reply. I don't know if you will ever read this. But I will try my level best to get the message across.


I just kept staring at the TV screen. My first reaction was of absolute shock and disbelief. Later anger took over followed by helplessness. Mr Jadhav, you shock me completely and I am ashamed of you.

How can you classify molestation of 2 girls by a mob of 70-80 scum (I refuse to call them men) as small? I really want to know your yardstick because I really don't get it. I can't believe that this man is the commissioner of police of Mumbai. He is responsible for the safety of the citizens out of which half of them are women. WOW!

I quite agree with Mr Jadhav, molestations happen everywhere. But what doesn't happen everywhere is your reaction to it. Unfortunately not everyone can be as clinical as you are. You have no right to dismiss it as just another small case. Your primary responsiblity is the safety of every citizen in the city. Now that everyone knows how miserably you failed in the duty, at least have the grace to accept the mistake. I know how capable you are especially since this is a repeat of what happened last year in Gateway of India.

Continuous exposure to various kinds of crime on a daily basis can make anyone a tad indifferent. One tends to become immune to even the most serious of crimes. I say this because, being a journalist, one experiences the same. Many friends of mine who cover crime, talk of
rapes, murders as if they are discussing prices of vegetables. Well, we can't do anything about it. However, as a commissioner of police, one needs to be extra cautious. You should never let the cynicism affect you. You have no business being cynical and insensitive. This post comes with some responsibility and Its your responsiblity to ensure safety of every citizen. The numbers don't matter. You should be careful enough to note that the crimes aren't just bland statistics for

I am in talks with many friends who are completely outraged by this man's comment. For starters, please write an open letter to Jadhav in your blog. Some of them want to file a PIL against this man too. Many of us are also looking at filing an official complaint with the
Maharashtra State Women's Commission against this man. Only if action is taken at the top, will the bottom rung understand that molestation is NOT A SMALL THING. I will definitely post about the developments here. Keep watching this space. Besides, if you have any ideas, please keep them coming :)

Looking forward for it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bhutto killed!!!!

I really don't know what to type here. I'm just shocked completely after seeing the news bulletin of Benazir Bhutto's death. It's just so sad to see how unstable Pakistan is politically....