Facebook Users Beware: Every Post you Make, Didi’s Watching

Mamata BanerjeeOn October 6, a front page news item on Hindustan Times caught my eye: “Didi claims CPI(M) defaming her with Facebook campaign; asks TMC leaders to lodge a complaint with the police.”

I read the article with more than a passing interest. Surprisingly, it hadn’t attracted much reaction on Facebook groups, which have a lot of pro-Left pages/users and have attracted the wrath of Ms Banerjee.

Social networking sites, especially Facebook, have evolved into a tremendous medium to connect easily with a lot of people. It also provides the users to vent out their frustration, anger against whosoever they feel like. Many celebrities have been the target of social networking site users.

I can understand the ire of Ms Banerjee, who has been the target of pro-Left users of FB and feels it tantamounts to defamation. To her, there is a fine line separating freedom of speech and right to infringe privacy of others. Perhaps she is not aware of the landmark judgment of the case Maneka Gandhi versus Union of India, where the Supreme Court held that freedom of speech and expression has no geographical limitation and it carries with it the right of a citizen to gather information and to exchange thought with others not only in India but abroad also. Freedom of speech and expression includes right to impart and receive information which includes freedom to hold opinions.

However, the reason I had a more than passing interest in the issue lies elsewhere. During the pre-poll run up, the users on social networking sites were immensely active. I have read reports that said the Trinamool Congress had realised the potential on the social networking sites well before the Left and had many IIM grads using this media to build up Ms Banerjee’s campaign. In fact, the electronic media too had witnessed mud slinging by both the parties. Both the parties had loose canons who put foot in their mouths by uttering obscenities and had passed vulgar comments. While Left leaders were made to apologise in public, I did not come across any TMC leader expressing regret. In particular, some comments against then CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, which amounted to character assassination, were atrocious and obnoxious. The persons concerned did not even appear to have an iota of remorse for having uttered such obscene comments against Bhattacharjee. Similarly, I personally disliked the way Goutam Deb spoke on media; the arrogance and the contempt for the Opposition he displayed was in poor taste. Either the Left leaders were totally ignorant of the reach of the media and the public reaction it can create, or they were blissfully unaware of the ground slipping beneath their feet, or for that matter both.

During the election campaigning, where the Left was battling for survival and the TMC sensing imminent victory, the media had a field day. Both the parties had channels tacitly supporting them. In today’s world, money power dictates everything and every piece of news can be paid for.

Mamata’s comment could possibly be interpreted by her detractors as a typical Fascist remark. Fascists are known to destroy every vestige of democracy and have no misgivings about using administrative measures to bludgeoning of public rights of expression with full state collusion.

To get back to the point I was making. I had read reports of Ms Banerjee venting her anger out at a particular TV channel; and had reportedly threatened to take revenge once she came to power, which was at that juncture, just a formality. I can relate the two comments — pre and post poll. To be a successful leader, one has to endure public reaction. No one possibly can satisfy all the people. In the highly polarised atmosphere in Bengal politic, the Opposition always controls over 40% of the votes. In any democracy, this is indeed a healthy sign.

However, the signs are ominous. Is Ms Banerjee showing signs of nerve? Having achieved her cherished ambition of being the first woman Chief Minister of the state, is the crown already feeling heavy? Is she feeling her throne to be a bed of thorns? Being the chief Minister of a state is certainly a different ball game from playing the firebrand Opposition leader. Now, she just cannot resort to the oft-used histrionics of her Opposition days. It was so ironic to read that she is now preaching the Opposition not to indulge in the very same acts she had earlier perpetrated during her days in Opposition — calling bandhs at the drop of a hat, roadblocks, road shows, throwing public life at disarray without notice, destruction of government property etc.

She has just won her maiden Assembly elections with staggering margin decimating the Left. The euphoria of the mass for her is still on the rise. There should not be any reason for her apparently to come out with such a statement — to curb criticism on FB — which may tantamount to gagging of freedom of expression of individuals at this juncture.

In fact, recently Biman Basu said at a press conference personal vilification of the Chief Minister was not paying any dividend and urged party workers to refrain from such personal attacks.

However, I am certain that the TMC think tank has correctly realised the potential of the social networking sites. In a none too distant past, two governments have come down viz. Tunisia and Egypt; the Opposition used the social networking sites to communicate and build up and foment the protests. The prowess of the social networking sites is simply colossal. Similarly, online protests have brought about relaxation of government laws in Jordan and Morocco. The protests and expression of opinion on social networking sites have seamlessly cut across international boundaries, virtually igniting a global discontent on key issues.

Ms Banerjee’s comment could possibly be interpreted by her detractors as a typical Fascist remark. Fascists are known to destroy every vestige of democracy and have no misgivings about using administrative measures to bludgeoning of public rights of expression with full state collusion.

Till date, Ms Banerjee is unfazed of the protests against her government, which has apparently failed to stymie the spiralling food prices. Her policy against the Maoists has backfired. She has not only gone back on her pre-poll promises of withdrawal of the joint forces from Jungle Mahal, a full scale offensive against the Maoists is on the anvil.

Her party workers are paying little heed to her own slogan “Change not Revenge (Badla noi, Badal chai)”. In rural areas, CPI(M) workers are reportedly being hounded up, over 40 Left supporters have lost their lives so far since she came to power. There are reports in newspapers that Marxist book stalls have not been allowed to be opened in many areas during the Pujas. Reports of extortion by the ruling party workers have been highlighted even in many print media that had openly backed Ms Banerjee earlier. Of late, Kolkata has witnessed a spate of daring daylight robberies. The crime index has reportedly shot up in the past few months. The condition of Kolkata streets is deplorable. Prolonged power cuts have become order of the day. Despite her warm welcome by GJM leaders and activists in the hills in her recent visit, there is a lurking fear amidst the bonhomie that the demand for separate Gorkhaland state would surface again.

How long will the people remain captivated by her charisma and charm? Ms Banerjee knows for sure that sooner or later, the same electorate which voted her to power will be asking awkward questions on the delivery of those promises. Ever since her days as the Railway Minister, she has been announcing a slew of projects left, right and centre. No one really knows whether the projects would ever see the light of the day, or for that matter how the projects would be funded, given that she has supposedly inherited a “bankrupt” state. Further, she has to take a call on industrial development of the state, particularly after she single-handedly drove the Tata’s out of Bengal, which many people feel has been a historical blunder. Yet, the reverse acquisition theory had made her dear to the rural folk, who treat as a messiah of the poor and downtrodden. How long she can compromise on the land acquisition issue for the industrial houses that supported her election campaign? (Read: M for Mamata, M for Myth)

Thus, the TMC think tank knows that sooner or later the media would run out of scams like Garbeta skeletons and Rajarhat land deals to maim the previous government. It would start looking for news and issues to malign the present establishment and whip up support for the Opposition to increase their TRP for pure business reasons. It is precisely the reason she has started focusing on the cyber-dissidents. She is aware of the potency of the hate campaign they can generate, in particular, amongst the Generation Next. Just as they did for Anna Hazare, which had sent tremors across the Indian polity and struck at its foundations.

We were promised Kolkata will become London. If Facebook users now come out with reminders of the promise, would they be defaming the CM? Right to freedom of expression does not give the people the power to malign? Or does it?

In fact, after the Egypt upheaval US President Barack Obama had said “there are certain core values that … we believe are universal: freedom of speech, freedom of expression, people being able to use social networking.” He himself has been the target of many FB users. Millions of protesters are attending mass demonstration on Wall Street against financial greed and corruption. FB is full of comments of people who think Obama is a complete failure and he is solely responsible for the present sordid state of affairs in theUS.

However, Paschim Banga will never be United States. We were promised Kolkata will become London. If FB users now come out with reminders of the promise, would they be defaming the CM? Right to freedom of expression does not give the people the power to malign? Or does it? I have read an article that quoted Ms Banerjee’s as saying “20 point earthquake was caused by global alarming“. If such comments invite FB posts, would the users be liable for defamation?

Exactly how will the present government douse the voice of protestors on FB or other social networking sites in the name of defamation and personal vilification? Will there be an emergency-like situation in Bengal? The issue is fraught with risk, will the government go ahead with the job or is it merely a threat? Which side will blink first?

The consequences are far reaching and catastrophic to say the least.

Shall the adage ‘pen is mightier than the sword’ (it’s modern age Internet interpretation) prevail? Will the individual users of FB take up the gauntlet to raise their voice against the threat of use of the police, judicial system and the state machinery to muzzle freedom of expression through coercion and intimidation?

Let us wait for the events to unfold.

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Soumya Datta

About Soumya Datta

The author is a sports aficionado, having participated in various forms of sports like football, cricket, hockey, table tennis since school days.He is an avid watcher of English Premiership League and a die-hard supporter of Arsenal.
22 comments
rajesh pandey
rajesh pandey

@Soumya da, hv read your article with extreme interest, it is marvellous. --------

I have also some points,---- what is our aim? To my mind, our aim must be to make Bengal/India a highly prosperous state/country for its citizens, and for that, it is necessary to have a high degree of development and for that freedom is also absolutely necessary- freedom to think, to write, to discuss with others, to explain, to criticize & to dissent. Thought process cannot develop without freedom. It is common knowledge that the country’s intelligentsia and educated young people have so far rely only on reasons, observations and experiments, which obviously can not be done on the dictates of anyone.

In our country, in ancient times the method of “shastrarthas” had been developed-in which thinkers has full freedom to speak and to criticize their opponents in the presence of people. This resulted in tremendous growth of knowledge.

                                                          In fact, in India, after consititution was adopted, there was an atmosphere of liberal freedom in view of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution-e.g. the right to free speech (article 19), liberty (article 21), equality (articles 14 to 17) religious freedom (article 25) etc. this helped the growth of our country because it created an atmosphere of freedom where people, could freely discuss and dissent.

I wish to clarify that I am a strong votary of liberty.however, liberty cannot be equated with licence to do any thing one wishes.liberty can’t be equated with licence to promote irrational beliefs or social strife. Should one be given the liberty to spread superstitions, to fan cast or communal hatred? I think not. All freedoms are coupled with responsibilities, and no freedom is absolute.   

 

response_anand
response_anand

At the very onset, i would like to apologize for being pretty late in commenting. Had the privilege of reading the article which was published in Hindustan Times on October 6th and found the same to be pretty derogatory against the freedom of expression of the common man. Although my study of History was confined till 10th Standard only, i do recollect some points about the charter of rights that were incorporated in the constitution of India, by the name of, "Fundamental Rights" in which, " Right to Freedom and expression" was one of the integral constituents, unless otherwise found derogatory against the running of the State.

As time has passed on, generations have progressed and the mode of communicating with other persons of same mindset have also changed. Earlier, we were all acquainted with the common proverb which says, "Birds of same feather, flock together" which nurtures the feeling that similar minded (Somo Monosko, in Bengali terminology) get along well with each other. Now the mode in which any person in question communicates to another person possessing similar interest, be it in Art, Sports or Politics, is put under scanner without citing a prior and a proper reason, you expect all such people to be dumb. And most importantly, their dumbness will be the result of unnecessary strict surveillance (better read as Governance) of their state. I wonder how our Hon'ble Chief Minister has the time to react to such things, post her strict itenary of Inaugurations, Public meetings, and so many other errands. She probably does not have time to think about the alarming rate of Food Inflation which is proving to be a major crisis to the society. Let her people friendly (to be read as Capitalist friendly) strict governance and her meticulous planning for turning Bengal into a welfare state do the honors for her, instead she commenting about the same, in such a tyrant manner. I think the time has come she starts self introspecting her Governance and also the burning problems affecting our States health and wealth, instead of attacking people possessing opposite political ideologies

I will put an end to my comment just by saying

"Critics might be people of all seasons

but we are, what we are, for far better reasons"

GargiChatterjee
GargiChatterjee

ms.bannerji's threat to fb users does not surprise me.It is inevitable..she wants to establish her dictatorship....in west bengal.Her voice resounds like da great dictator hitlar,musolini..

nupamghosh
nupamghosh

I think she is over cautious to keep her good image in the public mind and so making such type of observation which is not expected from her. Discussion & criticism in facebook or in other social networking site can help her to take right decision if she take it constructively. But merely attacking the view of other as it is against the view of her is the direct attack on the freedom of speech which is dangerous and need to be stopped and we don’t support it at all.

aliviasengupta
aliviasengupta

while reading the article it was like that i am reading a the political theatre page in ET or in TOI or in any leading newspaper . I think apart from sports it ur maiden writing in Politics . Kudos to your effort sir.

There is a common line in our Bengali Culture .." Dekhe Sekha r Theke sekha " -i could not find any appropriate english alternatives fr the phrases .Didi was promoting a FM Channel recently -the advertisement was "Didi ami kichu bolte chai " .Where people can record their grievance or suggestion/ideas in FM. Now we have come to know that Didi is on FB also. So I think didi is more interested with public opinion and critics. Social Networking sites are inseperable part of life now a days .If she or her team can use the informations/ideas/suggestions/critics productively it will be good fr her new-born administration as well as for Paschimbanga .As you narrated in the piece if she literally tries to strangle the voice of people in a SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE in the name of defamation this is nothing but fascism which can not be supported .

SaubirBhattacharyya
SaubirBhattacharyya

This article does not need any comments.The writer should use his time and energy for more constructive study of the current geopolitical situation.

ananyachtji
ananyachtji

As fresh as snow on the leaves and as enigmatic as the mist ; the article leaves us awed. The magic of carefully chosen words caressed to perfection by the skilful mind of an analytical writer speaks volumes about your dexterity. The themes are germane and the setting krasiva"ya. The write-up is brilliant in its elegance. Touche`.

sharmi
sharmi

@SoumyaDatta Sir... 1st of all u must start writing for some newspaper... but not for ABP pls... they r more a story teller than a good news provider... n about d writing.... u all know how much unpredictable n confusing character she (OUR DIDI) is... i was never a supporter of any party..wen she took d position thought we might get some real chages in our state... but alas.. till date wat we have get is chilled water in our thought...

n if she n her team really keep n eye on FB then i think it's really good for us.. watevr we think they will b aware... n if they do so, pen will obviously b mightier then the sword.. :) n let them do so.. we have the right to xpress our thought n she has the right to protest.. let's see who wins.. if they r educated they should know they cant stop people's voice...

i am not much aware of politics.. wat we know is wat is happening n wat should happen.. y did we choose her n wat she is doing... we dont hope 4 a LONDON.. but we can xpect a clean n bautiful TILOTTAMA KOLKATA... public is not so dumbo Didi...

so THEY should b careful...

SoumyajitDutta
SoumyajitDutta

@SoumyaDatta m new to Bengal politics dan most who hv commented on dis page..however hv seen Mamta Banerjee since her Vajpayee gov. days..she has always been dis unpredictable..to d extent of being unstable at times..n belongs to d league of leaders who move dier cart of ambition ahead by whipping public sentiments..much like Laloo Yadav in Bihar..Mayawati & Mulayam Singh in UP...she expectedly used her stint as Railway Minister fr getting more publicity rather dan doing ny real good to railways...hope she realizes d power she got in d state was due to a major anti-incumbency wave...d article was a good read...however felt was a bit biased n slightly lengthy.

utpalmitra8910
utpalmitra8910

Ms Banerjee's threat to the FB users seems nothing surprising to me. Hers is the same voice that the people of Germany and Italy heard from their Great Dictators. Fascism in fact started being unveiled with her refusal to allow opposition of any sort at least for ten years (if not more). Why should she want people keep mum for such a long period even if they feel to oppose whatever goes against them, while people in a democracy like ours are constitutionally allowed to express their grievances against misrule or bad governance and even allowed to replace party/parties in power with a choice alternative after every five years? The lady, as a chosen one, has been entrusted to lead all the reactionaries pledged to bulldoze the stronghold of leftists, the only potential force against smooth pasturing of Neo Liberal Economy in this country. The fallout of Neo Liberal Economy is being felt everywhere, and the worst sufferers, the common people across the world, are being seen on streets in a combatant mood. With the deepening economic crisis, a fierce resistance from the working class all over the world is looming large. Crisis is deepening even in our country, and our state will not remain an exception.Tremor has started being felt. So, fascism is the only thing left for the firebrand Messiah of the neo liberals to unleash well before euphoria amongst people of the state fizzles out.

SoumyaDatta
SoumyaDatta

@kashinath bhattacharyya

Thanks for the post. As usual it is a thought provoking one. Her recent remarks against bank employees over the payment iof Govt staff salaries, has irked even her ardent supporters working in our bank. It was never mentioned that it was due the inability of the State Govt to pay the cheques to the Bank in time that led to the fiasco. Anyway, if a per son can fulfil one's poltical ambition by driving out the tata's from Bengal, anything is possible. So lets keep posting our thoughts and opinions.

soumyadip_ju
soumyadip_ju

Soumya Da,

Very well said and political leaders should know that they can't stop people saying, they will talk through any means available whether through facebook or through balott.But I'm little sceptic whether things happened in Tunisia/Egypt will ...be repeated in India, because of low Internet penetration. And also one thing TMC is in Bengal for some 6 month that too taking a bankrupt state. So let us give them some time because during left regime we have forgot that we have some demand for a better state, at least that have come, which itself is a good sign. And yes we want Bengal to be an industrialized/good governed state let us see how Ms Banerjee can fulfil it. anyway a very good article but quite lengthy:)

joydeep chatterjee
joydeep chatterjee

@soumya datta : Soumya da, Congrats once again for this wonderful article. I think firstly we must congratulate the leading party in present state gov. and the then opposition TMC for some excellent use of media space. These days, you will find more journalists in writer’s buildings than the staff itself!!!!

In my previous comment to your post(M for Mamata M for Myth) I thought of mentioning this issue. I must say,didi is our CM now, not the opposition leader. The order of the post demands more patience, more logical, rational way of expressing your views.(Remember the issue of SBI employees conspire to delay the salary of State Gov. Employees.)She is representing the emotion of a state,we may not be sharing common political ideology still we have to stand beside her while representing our state. Her every move will be under scanner not only in state level but in national level. So irrational comments will not help.

One of the issues that Left has to address in this consolidation phase is to build up a media cell. I think we need some young generation politicians to project the face of it. We are seriously missing managers like Anil da and Pramod da(haven’t seen Pramod da, Presently reading a book on him, which is the source of my idea on him)at this juncture.

There are more serious issues like price hike, corruption to address as a member of UPA rather than monitoring the face book posts. Still believe people of Paschim Banga(Related comment: sat dhap egiye dilam…by changing the name!!! Who will help her if she says come hit me all the time?) will realize one day that all that glitters is not gold!!!!

CoolAtul
CoolAtul

Sir ,

It is rightly said-

"Everyone has the rights to the freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through and media and regardless of frontiers." (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19)", the fear and insecurity factor results in such statements, jeopardizing the very fundamentals of democracy.

A well written article by Sir Soumya Dutta.

SoumyaChatterjee
SoumyaChatterjee

well written...I just wonder Pranab A/c Debit Party a/c credit kore r kotodin cholbe??? in these 5 months [yes it was a 13th as well] how many steps has she taken to bolster the state's treasury????

kashinath bhattacharyya
kashinath bhattacharyya

You have beutifully narrated the menace of fascism in the threat given by hon'ble CM. Few days back similar threat was heard from hon'ble Finance Minister of our state about functioning of banks. He told 'sobaike dekhe nobo, sob bank gulo ke black listed kore dobo'. I think many people including FB users have noticed these in TV and in News Papers. However, Ms. Banerjee wants communication should be in one way, from her only. She clearly told that the detractors should keep mum at least for ten years.But communication is part of the very fabric of society. It takes place at all levels between peoples and between institutions, from government to people, from people back to government (not one way as desired by Ms Banerjee), and through many channels both inter-personal and mediated. It creates a common pool of ideas, strengthens the feeling of togetherness through exchange of messages and translates thought into action. Hon'ble CM has realised it very well and, therefore, she is affraid of FB. Communication through FB should continue. Carry on, Soumya.

rohanendow
rohanendow

Yes Soumya Sir Ms Banerjee's ignorance to the words she utters doesnot only defames the state's rich literary heritage and makes the Bengalis look down in shame.... it says a lot about her educational background........ if anybody can please make sure she gets herself into a spoken english class and gets her knowledge upgraded...

SoumyaDatta
SoumyaDatta

@sharmi I am so touched by ur post! In fact, my post was meant for ppl like u, who r avid facebook users, who can express their thoughts without any hesitation and are fiercely independent. I am indeed glad to find that my article has struck the right chords at the right place. Thank u Sharmi, every1 wanted a change, deep down even ppl like me wanted a change of guard perhaps, if we can do some honest soul searching; but as u said, a change for the better. R we really witnessing a transformation towards the better? The answer is no, i won't say an emphatic NO, but definitely, things are no really looking rosy.Let us really hope for a better tomorrow, dry promises won't really fetch votes in the long run...and above all, any challenge to douse freedom of expression would have to be met ... come what may let us voice our thoughts......

SoumyaDatta
SoumyaDatta

@soumyadip_ju Well, i agree that article is slightly lengthy, it cid hv been split up ito 2 parts, forst the issue regarding gagging of public opinion....second on her dossier of 5 months. A person has recently posted in FB "5 months completed. (1)55,000 closed factories will reopen: Dunlop closed. GSI Cotton Mills, Chapdani, declared lockout today. TMC workers’ union. No CITU. (2) New Industry : No industrialist is interested. One Industry under construction at Kharagpur seized work due to TMC hooliganism. (3) Joutha Bahini will be withdrawn : CM asking for more force. Maheswata Devi protested for torture on general people and females. (4) 1 lac Bandimukti : Not found. Fresh arrests incurred. (5) 10 lacs employment in 2 years : NIL. (6) Gorkhaland : periodically purchasing peace by crores of Rupees. Fresh disturbance in Tarai area. (7) Electrification in all villates : 900 mw shortage today. (8) Payment by cheques : Teachers not getting salaries. No DA to WB Govt. employees. (9) Badla noi badal chai : 37 left workers murdered. Cong. Netri shot dead by police firing. (10) Singur : 400 acre unwilling farmers. 40 acre found so far. What next ?

SoumyaDatta
SoumyaDatta

@joydeep chatterjee@soumya datta Thanks Joydeep for the wonderful observations. Yes, the left desperately needs to rope in young generation, to project an alternate image... usher in new thought.......Late PDG's capability is surely missed

SoumyaDatta
SoumyaDatta

@CoolAtul Thnaks Atul for pointing out the legal aspect... I guess ur point about fear psychosis is also right.

Trackbacks

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