Blog Block

July 19, 2006

I woke up in the morning and headed straight towards my comp. I need my daily dosage: Orkut, Chats, News, Blogs. Blogs. I tried opening mine. Didn’t work. Assuming that there might be some problem with it, I tried everything possible, from mailing them my complaint and cleaning up my cache to updating my windows. Nothing worked. Quite concerned about loosing my blog, I tried consulting my friends just to know that blogspot. has been completely banned in India!

Government of India has taken this drastic step of blocking 12 websites. And blogspot, one of the major sources for Indian blogs has been banned too. According to an article I read in www.outlookindia.com , people who w re in charge of cyber security and threats, decided to ban a few websites like Dalitstan.org, Clickatell.com, Hinduhumanrights.com and Hinduunity.com, which were spreading extreme religious views. And one such blog, princesskimberly.blogspot.com, contained such offensive material. Since, they didn’t know how to block a particular page, they blocked the whole website!

In the process of blocking blogspot.com, they are curbing an Indian citizen’s most basic right: Freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a). The government has taken such a drastic step without even informing the public about it. Isn’t the government responsible for such an action or should we consider this as an authoritarian regime, in one of the most liberal democratic countries. What did they expect, that this issue would die down amicably? Have they forgotten that these blogs were the most helpful tools during the Mumbai blasts?

I am shocked. I have nothing important in my blog, other than a couple features and some poetry. Nevertheless, It is my blog. Something I have created and nourished for such a long time. It is an extension of myself. A platform that made me express my opinions and views on everything. I could criticize and appreciate, yet get away with it. And no one has the right to take that away from me.

When the officials were contacted this is what they had to say: ‘We would like those people to come forward who access these (the 12) radical websites and please explain to us what are they missing from their lives in the absence of these sites.’

Now, this campaign of bloggers against censorship will answer them all: http://censorship.wikia.com/wiki/Bloggers_Against_Censorship

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Rang De Basanti: Part 2

May 19, 2006

Gruesome videos of the lathi charge against the medical students, haunts me. I sit at home helplessly, trying to figure out, what would be the outcome of this whole issue. In the process I am reminded of a similar incident that happened a couple of months back.

The incident took place at Jyoti Nivas College, Bangalore. One of the most prestigious colleges in Bangalore known for imparting standard education. Being an ex jncite, I have no complaints against that.

Come February and it is the time for all the students to pay up their examination fees. Nearly three thousand students are expected to pay up their fees at the bank within two days. And the bank is open for about four hours a day. This brings a lot of confusion at the ‘only’ counter. In an attempt to keep it more ‘organized’ the watchman of the college manhandled a girl on the chest area and even went further to slap her on the face. The watchman got a slap back in return and the girl went straight to the principal’s office to complain. The principal, who had already heard the watchman’s side of the story, turned a deaf ear towards the girl. She not only asked the girl to kneel down and apologize to the watchman but also called her a ‘third rate north eastern girl’ and threatened expulsion from college.

Discriminated in her own college, the girl poured out the whole story to couple of her friends. Unfortunately the girl stayed in a hostel. The news spread. All the sixty girls from the hostel had a meeting and decided to protest against this. They started messaging the others.

Day 1: About fifty students gather near the canteen to discuss the whole issue. They have a meeting with the principal, as expected all the acquisitions are denied. Expulsion of the watchman from the college is not even taken into consideration. The news reaches the media.

Word Spreads.

Day 2: Around 200 girls, clad in black, protest against the management outside the college. Slogans are used, looking for justice. More reporters covering the issue. Traffic comes to a halt.

Day 3: Meeting is organized, apologies accepted and the man in action thrown out of the college. Classes resume as usual.

Christ College: Another not so well known episode. One of the students, happen to submit his project about five days after the deadline, due to some personal problems. The Consequence: On the day of the exam the internal examiner claimed that he hadn’t submitted the project at all. He said: “Arent you rich? Go buy a certificate for yourself”. The boy couldn’t write his exams and lost a year.

After listening to all these episodes, I thanked my stars for not falling into s*** during my college days. When I heard about the incident in JNC, I was shocked but not surprised. Because it rekindled my memories: Of my friends going through, a good, negligible amount of racial discrimination on various occasions. On the second situation, all I could do was pity the forthcoming students, as the college was going autonomous. Their lives were at the stake of the teacher’s fingertips. They could make or break them. Personal prejudices, mood fluctuations, dominance, obligations and the ‘this will remain between the four walls syndrome’ have lead to Rang De Bansanti like episodes in the country. Atleast now, thanks to technology, I can voice my opinion…am sure there are hundreds out there who want to.

Stung Again?

May 19, 2006

 In an attempt to track the reservation controversy I changed the channel from Times now to NDTV, just in time to catch an episode of the Witness. The issue was Sting journalism again…the episode being Sex, Lies and Video Tape. 

Reporters, from NDTV had used cameras to capture darker side of the cine industry in Mumbai. The issue dealt with how C grade movies pass the censorship board, mange to get a certificate, but are being released as hard-core porn movies. These movies are usually released out side Mumbai, in smaller towns.

 The video clipping showed the ‘movie makers’ interacting with the middlemen and the girls themselves. The girls being the willing participants charge anywhere between 5000 to 1 lakh for their acting ‘skills’. But, they have only one condition; the movies shouldn’t be released in Mumbai-for the fear of being recognized by their own family and friends. Generally, they strike an agreement through written contracts. Among these there are a few who carry a portfolio- Copies of CDs of movies they have acted earlier. The more experienced they are the higher the charges. While a few fear the family, a few are even accompanied by them. One of the girls had her mother accompanying her, and wanted to be present during the shoot; according to her poverty has pushed them into this trade. These movies shot on a low budget, get the certificates from censor board as C grade movies. They are reedited, and then sold to the distributors outside the state. Though the cine industry and the censor board is aware of this, they can’t do much about it. 

I watched all of this, with a “what’s so surprising about this” expression on my face. Isn’t this supposed to be a public secret? What were the reporters trying to do…digging the old grave…isn’t it supposed to be dead and gone? I don’t know…none of this impressed me  a bit. May be because, the news was rotten…or Sting itself was stale…?

  

Tarun Tejpal

May 3, 2006

Tarun Tejpal. I had an opportunity to be at his seminar recently. As usual I expected him to be those arty-farty types, with a khadhi kurtha and the trademark spectacles. What I got was a breath of fresh air. A jean clad Tejpal, with a salt and pepper pony, strolled inside.

What I probably noticed was not his looks, but his attitude. The way he carried himself, the way he spoke…his “Passion for Journalism.”

With the influence of couple of teachers, I had come to the verge of hating journalism. But, the flame inside never perished; I wrote again…through blogs. I think it is people like Tejpal, who (re)kindle this flame for you, reminding what a noble profession journalism could be.

Known to be the Father of Sting Journalism, he pointed out a few things, in my words ethics, he made sure his paper stuck to.

1.      The 80s had been eventful with the political and religious disturbances enveloping the country. It was a golden era when journalism had ‘took off’. A brilliant experience.

2.      The launch of his paper Tehelka, their first sting operation…its aftermath, which lead to the fall of the paper, and probably, the sole reason for it to rise up again. 

3.      The relaunch of his paper in 2004, and how within a matter of five weeks they had done it again. Sting.

4.      The Best Bakery. With the ever-changing testimonies of Zahira Sheikh, the people’s paper was in search of truth. They found out how she had been paid Rs.18 lakhs, to keep mum about the whole issue.

5.      Ethics. Whether it is justified to sting people. Tejpal, who was completely against the idea of interference into peoples personal lives, said he, in other words his paper would perform sting operations only if its of public interest. Obviously referring to the Shakthi Kapoor’s episode, where he was requesting sexual favour from an “upcoming actress”. The ‘actress’ was a reporter from India Today, and the man had actually been framed.

6. Finally, he hit the bull's eye. If you want good journalism be willing to pay for it, if not the fourth estate is definitely going to be dominated by what the advertisers want.

As he finished his talk, I was reminded as to how, I had started out. To cover stories that would drive you. Give you a high. To expose the truth. Tehelka had done it when no one had dared to do it. Plunging into darkness they have passed through the tunnel to see light. To give hope. To themselves and to people. They did it again. They have set us on fire.

So, whats so great about this blog? Nothing. I haven’t tried to say anything that people are not aware of. The difference is I wrote about it about and you…didn’t.

Check This Out:

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main.asp?filename=te013004our.asp&id=2

     

Ethical?

April 21, 2006

Bangalore was engulfed in flames and fire. Innocent lives taken. Buildings burnt. The reason: death of a beloved actor, Dr. Rajkumar.

Having lived in Karnataka all my life, I have grown up with his movies; he is not only a brilliant actor but an amazing singer too. As the news of his death spread within minutes of his demise, we were all chased away from our offices to reach our protective homes. 

Having wound up our day early, we sat on our couches to watch tv, just in time to see all the other channels being knocked-off in honour of the thespian. The only channels available were the news channels updating us with the happenings in the city.

As we slowly became a part of the mourners, we started witnessing the funeral grounds turning into not much less than battlefields. Stones being pelted, mobs turning violent, tear gas being shed and angry flames stretching across the skies.

As we helplessly watched innocent lives being given away, we also ‘helplessly’ watched our reporters reporting ‘live’ from the area of action: Thrusting their microphones towards close family and friends, “Sir, how do u feel about this”?… ”Ma’m, what is the condition of the family members”…”What do u think about his unexpected death”…

On the other hand, we had all the crème de la crème of Bangalore, who were probably not at all associated with the great artist, at any point in their life time, appearing on the national TV channels, expressing their concern and anguish. Forget being associated, I wonder if these people were even present at his funeral.

Now, is this what the ‘we’ want or is this what the media has to offer?

From giving a brand value to this whole issue, the so called representatives of the society, went on to sensationalize the story by further branding: “South Indian Idolization of Stars”

Now, may be am wrong…was it not very long ago, when the whole nation mourned when one of the well known actors of Bollywood, met with an accident at the sets of his shoot? If idolization of stars worked only for South India, then why are we still caught up with the idea of brand ambassadors?

All, am trying to say is, idolization exists…and it exists all over the world. Being a mass communication student , myself, am caught between what I was taught and what works. I am aware that the gyan that we get in our schools doesn’t work in the industry, yet, there is something called ethics…no, not necessarily journalistic ethics, but mere humanitarian considerations.