Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The New Emergency 

The Indian government, in what is perhaps a horrific reminder of the Emergency, has decided to ask most ISPs (a few friends who use Tata Indicom have been spared) in the country to block access to all Blogs. Starting yesterday, Indians weren't allowed to access InstaPundit, DesiPundit, Zoo Station or any one of the several thousand web logs we are accustomed to visiting everyday. Ostensibly, these gag orders have been passed as an added security measure post the 7/11 bombings in Bombay, but as is the case with the bureaucracy in India, the government has overreached. Here are a few updates I managed to salvage before going behind the screen.

Update: Soon, you may not be able to see Blogspot blogs In India, that is. The block on Blogspot blogs that I mentioned here seems to be spreading across ISPs, and if you find you can't visit my blog any more, here are a number of things you can do.

One, subscribe to India Uncut via Bloglines. You should be able to see at least my posts regularly, though not my blogroll and so on. I use Bloglines myself, and recommend it.

Two, use http://www.pkblogs.com. This was set up to enable Pakistani residents to view Blogspot blogs after a ban on them there. For more ways to cicumvent the ban, hop over to Amit Agarwal's post on the subject.

Update 1: To my horror, it seems that this may not be a false scare. Airtel reps told Amit that they have received government orders to block Geocities sites, just as Spectranet chappies had told Mridula that they'd got orders to block Blogspot, and a lot of ISPs seem to have blocked Blogspot, Typepad and Geocities sites. I hope it's just a kneejerk reaction by some clueless babu that is soon corrected. I hope we don't go the China way.

Update 2: For the latest on this, please follow the wiki and the email group we've set up for this purpose.

Update 3: Chacko writes:
Two sources, one inside the Government of India and the other kind
of inside/outside have confirmed to the Mutiny (http://www.mutiny.in/), that ISPs are being instructed to 'control' access to blogspot. It seems that some blogs are being used by some terror units (read SIMI) to communicate. There is a crack down in place. IP numbers are being physically located and identified. All should come back to normal once this operation is over.

Please join in the protests.

Update: On July 20, the Indian government saw reason and bowed to the anti-blog ban protests and lifted the gag order.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Hate Rajdeep Sardesai 

First, I hope all Mumbaikars who read this blog are unhurt and safe. I'm not even going to dwell on how much the events of July 11 have come to bear on the collective consciousness of the country. All I have to say is that thanks to CNN-IBN I have learned to stop worrying about Bombay and have renewed faith in the city's amazing ability to bounce back from what is the worst terrorist strike it has seen in 13 years. Also, thanks to CNN-IBN, I have come to loathe news on Indian television. As a journalist, I understand the significance of being the first on the scene (CNN-IBN was). But as a fairly aware citizen, I fail to understand the glory in harping about being the first on the scene on prime time television. Rajdeep Sardesai, CNN-IBN's gung-ho editor-in-chief, did exactly that starting 7.00pm on Tuesday evening. Instead of delivering the news with the gravitas required, the man practically drooled all over himself last evening - lacing every question, soundbite, factoid and analysis with lurid glee that reminded me of Alex in A Clockwork Orange.
You could almost see him rub his hands with joy when his news channel (correctly) reported the sequence of blasts and confirmed all (at the time) six explosions. When Bombay police commissioner AN Roy got on the phone with Sardesai (before he talked to NDTV), it was all the former TOI hack could do to keep from exploding with joy that Roy confirmed a seventh blast. Indeed, I have never in the four years I spent on the crime beat seen anyone call the police commissioner 'sir' that many times. Sardesai dispensed with all manner of punctuation and supplanted the obsequious 'sir' during the five minutes Roy was on line. It didn't stop at that. For a full hour, Sardesai gloated about being the first in India, and later the first in the world (courtesy sister channel CNN). He pleaded with citizens to SMS-in (to the designated number 2622) photos, information, video footage of the blasts; and as an afterthought, messages to loved ones, and ended by saying: "2622 is the number, Mumbai. It is the magic number."
I shudder.