Anil Thakraney: The IT Act needs to be rewritten. ASAP

21 Nov,2012

By Anil Thakraney

 

‘If you have nothing good to say about the departed soul, best to keep quiet. Safety of Mumbai comes first.’ This was my tweet immediately after the announcement of Bal Thackeray’s death. This was not because I panicked, it’s because, one, I wanted all those Mumbaikars who were out on work or on personal errands to make it home safely. And if possible, stock up on rations in case the Sainiks decided to go on a rampage. Two, people from my generation are well aware of the Shiv Sena’s methodologies, and a violent reaction was always to be expected. That nothing happened is largely because of Thackeray Jr’s call for peace.

 

Which then brings me to the two young girls from Palghar who were made to face the music over an anti-bandh FB update. (Wish they had been following me on Twitter!) First, the girl who posted the message made a technical error. The Shiv Sena had not called for a bandh (though there were stray incidents of a few goons intimidating shopkeepers). The city had decided to shut down on its own. Partly because of fear, partly because of respect. Secondly, and this is where I blame the parents, many young Indians may not be aware of the Sena’s violent ways because that outfit hasn’t launched a big campaign in the last ten years. But those of us who lived through 1992 and 1993 are perfectly aware of what these men are capable of when provoked. I think parents need to make their kids aware of political realities, now that the social media has given everyone an unfettered platform to speak. In that sense, I don’t really blame the two girls.

 

So does that mean there’s no place for dissent in this so-called democracy? Obviously not. But belting out criticism even before a mass, hugely popular leader has been cremated is inviting trouble. Had the young girl posted her update later this week, I suspect there might have been no reaction at all. Also, it must be said she got unlucky, many others had posted far more damning messages. I do believe timing is the key out here. Unfortunately, the social media has turned many young fingers very itchy, and I have often noticed folks hit the buttons before they think.

 

So then what now? Well, the goons who attacked the hospital need to be punished, for sure. Charges against the girls need to be dropped and the case withdrawn. But more importantly, the IT Act needs to be totally re-written and made abundantly clear so that there’s zero scope of misuse by the cops in the future. That is a no-brainer.

 

However, that still doesn’t change the fact that the Facebook-addicted girl has caused two big harms. One, many, many young Indians will now think ten times before commenting on hard issues. I am told many have already deleted harmless updates and tweets on Thackeray. Two, she may have unwittingly given the Sena the bite it needed after their patriarch’s demise. The Sena shakha pramukh from her area is already being hailed as a hero amongst the party cadre.

 

Net net: The law needs to be amended. And parents need to inform and educate their children on ground realties. Because when virtual world collides with real world, the result can often be traumatic. As we just discovered.

 

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[youtube width=”400″ height=”220″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0N8axp9nHNU[/youtube]

PS: An utterly charming, endearing Christmas ad from the UK. The power of love. And the power of advertising. Brilliant! This is what festival ads should be like.

 

Anil Thakraney is a senior journalist and editor based in Mumbai. He is also Editor-at-Large, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are his own.

 

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