As I type out yet another blog post I just hope that I can hit the “publish” button! I had written two posts which are just lying among the documents section in my computer. I suppose you can guess what those posts may have been about considering the doubts I have about their publication.
The last one week has brought to light at least two unpleasant reports about violation of the basic rights of an individual to express themselves. Though blogs have not yet been targeted, I as a blogger am deeply perturbed.
The blog world is one where common people like you and me can find room for expression. But now with these happenings, I am not sure that people want to write about what they feel. For example, I do not know who reads this blog-some of you comment regularly on what I write. I also visit some of your blogs and comment on them. I have formed some impressions about some of your views based on the regularity of your visits here. While I may not always agree with what you say, I respect you for your views just as you do mine – this is the world of freedom.
Into this world of freedom it seems has now crept in a mind full of fear. Yes, I am turning Tagore around- (please forgive me Gurudev)I am unable to stifle my feelings as a citizen and as a human being. I cannot believe I live in the world’s biggest democracy!
I remember about ten years ago I had attended an international conference where a friend from one of our neighboring countries made very carefully worded remarks about the prevailing condition in her country. She told me during lunch that as a civil society member she was under surveillance and had to be careful about what she spoke in public forums. I was amazed that such fears existed and I thanked my lucky stars that I lived in this country where people can speak fearlessly! Now when I say "fearless" , I am not saying that we just speak rashly during official meetings – far from it! We represent an organization or a country as a delegate and need to be prudent about what we say. However when we express ourselves as individuals I think it is alright to be frank-particularly if it is a personal blog or a social networking site where we do not represent any organization or a country!
But not any more! For the first time I find myself exercising caution as I word and reword even simple face book posts. I am glad that I have “unfriended” some people who may have used this opportunity to get back at me for my “liberal” views. I have also been told by some friends who have lived in other countries about things like “ultra surf” ( whatever is it? Sounds like a detergent to me). I think maybe I should be like the other narcissists and just post pictures of myself in differently colored saris!
It is not that freedom of expression is completely curtailed. We still have strong articles written in newspapers about the happenings in the country. The point is that these are written by well known journalists who have the backing of their newspapers behind them should something happen- and folks nothing really happens to them. It is Unknown Indians like you and me who are at risk. We have another life which cannot be jeopardized by this. I remember warning a couple of blogger friends to be careful about what they post. One of them is a young girl who had been quite outspoken about what she had written. I pray for her personal safety and I just hope I don’t see her name in the newspaper for the wrong reasons !
It is not that the cyber world has suddenly become unsafe. As a woman I have received personal comments from people who visit this blog-comments that I have had to delete simply because they were so inappropriate and sometimes obnoxious. Some people commenting on this blog have followed me into face book and tried to send me friend requests which I have squashed. I have taken all of this in my stride as I consider this to be one of the hazards of writing.
But what I am feeling now is something completely new because I do not know who is “out there”. I thought a lot about this and finally I decided that I should not let my fear get the better of me. I am not hurting anybody or abusing any politician. I am only voicing my fears about the unknown. So am I going to be targeted for something as simple as this? I hope not… but nothing will surprise me anymore!
Arthur Wellesley , the Duke of Wellington is supposed to have said “Publish and be damned” to his mistress Hariette Wilson when she threatened to publish his letters in her memoirs. Unfortunately, this quote has taken on a rather literal meaning today!