It is almost election time.
How do I know? Because the roads are finally getting fixed. That, to me, has long been the indicator of the elections being closed. The roads get fixed a few months before. The closer the elections get, the rarer your power cuts get, even if it is peak summer. That is the one year, like the leap year, you enjoy the extra hours of luxury.
There has been much debate about who the PM will be. And at this point, that is the topic farthest away from my mind. I do not support either of two so called contenders and till there is a third, I shall not think much about it.
The major concern is, however, about how much freedom we shall have in the coming years, regardless of what party is ruling.
As diverse as their political agendas might be and their ‘development’ issues, every party has one thing in common – muzzles.
Nobody thinks we are headed towards another emergency. Nobody believes that the government can do much to stifle our voice because we have the internet.
I guess the latter part is true to a certain extent. But the more things get blocked, the harder it is for us to share our information.
We currently feel euphoric because we feel the changes in laws regarding rape were our accomplishment. And we are satisfied with that. All the techies can go back to their laptops, all the party people can go back to their beers.
So we do not notice the other things that have been in the name of ‘save the country’ or some version of it.
The first step, according to me (and I’m sure I am wrong) was outwardly banning several programs on television channels, and restricting ‘adult’ content on TV. If you watch TV in India, you would notice a moment’s quiet when words like ‘kiss’ and ‘ass’ are used. This policing is to the extent that some slang, even if innocent, is silenced. On a recent episode on Comedy Central, a character’s last name was silenced because it was WIENER. Someone at the censor board has gotten english savvy because they realised that when spoken aloud, this could refer to the penis. Ooops.
Then there is that small line that keeps patrolling the screens – If you find this content objectionable blah blah blah.
Of course, it is the idiot box and nobody really noticed, not even when watching American Pie on TV was like watching a mime movie.
And then came smaller infractions that were never really covered or talked about, except in groups of journalists or people who were stupid enough to talk about these things. Like a cartoonist arrested for something he drew of a so-called politician, or a journalist being arrested for slander.
It was juicier news when you could talk about moral policing, and not really protest against it. It was better for ratings after all. Who cares if some random cartoonist in some small town got arrested for an innocuous cartoon.
They didn’t think it was important to let us know they were killing someone. Nope. They had the ultimate power to take someone’s life. They did think it was important to monitor Facebook posts and arrest people – for slander, for criminal activity, for disturbing religious sentiment etc. The religious sentiments of the different are never really considered.
They block sites that they think are harmful to the society, they silence people who they think talk too much. They guide us subtly to where we want to be… arguing about the PM of India, irrelevant foreign policies that will never come to pass, scams that are so old that we can just talk about it and perhaps, if we are lucky, get someone into jail but the money is as gone as the years. So when they tell us not to do something or to do something, we will. Because we belong to different camps. Or because we have been so subtly led there, fed information in bits that we believe it is right. Without any other access to information except those feeds what you receive and take time to read, and not explore, what else would you believe?
This happened once before. With the British. But we think it won’t happen again because it isn’t a foreign power at the center.