India Sleepwalks To Total Surveillance

Published on, by Binu Karunakaran, 02 January, 2009.

It wasn’t tough for a protagonist in a Kundera novel to figure out if he/she were living in a police state. Looking out of the apartment window they could see agents of the state keeping a watch over them from a car parked in the street round the corner. Sometimes shady characters broke in and rummaged through shelves looking for letters or diary notes. Their phones were wiretapped and there was absolutely no way of knowing if the friend they met for a drink last night was an informer or not.

It was our age of innocence and Kafka wasn’t thought to be a realist. Under repressive regimes people lived in constant fear, but the terror they felt and the machinery that enforced it was tangible …

… Thou shall not watch porn:

If the material is sexually explicit act or conduct then the punishment on first conviction is imprisonment which may extend to five years and a fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees. In the event of second or subsequent conviction imprisonment may extend to seven years and fine to ten lakh rupees.

But one has to admit that there is concern on part of the government on what could be the impact of the law on art and literature. So section 67 does not extend to any book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation or figure in electronic form, provided it is in the interest of science, literature, art or learning or religion. That means M.F Hussein can’t be framed under IT Act anymore, and that photos and videos are not considered art.

‘So what?’ is the familiar rhetoric. Why fear if you’ve got nothing to hide? Why should law abiding citizens be bothered about some ‘inevitable invasion’ into privacy in the wake of increasing terror attacks? After all the perpetrators of terror are known to use Internet and other modern communication tools to plan and execute deadly strikes like that happened in Mumbai.

There is only one answer and it is a Thomas Jefferson quote: Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. (full text).

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