Porn ban: Modi sarkar's bid for swachh internet has become a source of mockery

The government insists its big bad porn ban has been done in the name of blocking child pornography rather than as a blanket ban on adult entertainment in general.

But some of the names on the black list of 857 don’t seem to quite fit the pedophlia proscription – maturosexy.com or shemale.asia, not to mention a very not XXX-rated CollegeHumor.com and BarstoolSports. But then who is going to sit and parse the list and petition the government to unblock their matureosexy entertainment on the grounds that no children are involved? Which bureaucrat does one write to?

Representational image.

Representational image.

It’s surreal enough that our politicians are jousting with high minded rhetoric about porn in public. Once upon a time they just minded their own business and watched porn quietly in parliament on their mobile phones. Now they are minding everyone else’s business.

But in true government style this is all show with no substance. Just as the much ballyhooed Swacch Bharat campaign tagged people with gusto but has hardly resulted in a visibly cleaner India. The 15 August deadline is approaching and the Economic Times says companies are scrambling to scale up their toilet building plans. Toilet building is one thing, toilet maintenance is another. The only thing we know for sure is that the government has spent Rs 94 crore on ads for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. “Now people are at least aware they should not litter,” says skill development minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy. But do they not litter?

The problem was always really about will not awareness. And the fact that most of the time there are no dustbins to be found nearby. On 15 August the government will probably trot out an impressive number of toilets built as proof of a giant leap forward for Swachh Bharat but the basic question will remain – do we feel we live in a cleaner India?

Symbols are important but if a campaign gets mired in its own symbols, it defeats its very purpose by ignoring the big picture and painting by numbers instead. A Swachh Bharat is about a cleaner India and the toilets have to be a means to that end, not the end in itself, something crossed off a checklist.

Cleaning the internet of child porn is even more riddled with hollow symbolism. The government might think the list of 857 is proof of its commitment to the issue and testimony to its seriousness about combating child porn. In reality, thanks to the government’s ham-handed efforts, the media is awash in the last few days with more coverage of porn than it has done in years. The government has effectively legitimised porn in mainstream discourse by taking a sledgehammer to it.

As any Indian who downloads pirated movies could have told the government, this is an exercise in futility. 857 is just a drop in the bucket given the tens of thousands of sites out there. Blocking the URLs does nothing because the same sites can rechristen themselves or create a mirror site and pop up again. A Pakistani friend commented that “Your Pakistani neighours have one word for you: Proxy” which might lead to interesting new frontiers in Aman ki Asha – VPN tutorials instead of Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Finally there’s always BitTorrent. And appointing someone like a retired Supreme Court judge to be the porn ombudsman, as the government is apparently mulling, is hardly going to fix any of these loopholes. Where there is a will there is a way and this list of 857 will not clean up the Internet anymore than tagging Shah Rukh Khan or Shashi Tharoor will clean up our streets.

But at least Swachh Bharat can be credited for attempting to create some kind of awareness about the importance of cleanliness and sanitation. Swachh Internet is actually having the reverse effect. All the government has really done in its zeal is informed the nation at large about hundreds of porn sites they knew nothing about day before yesterday but can now check out via VPN. In its efforts to combat child porn, the government has made scouring the world wide web for it that much easier with its handy Beginner’s Guide to Internet Porn.

It’s mystifying that a campaign that was so good at fine-tuning and honing its message has proven so klunky in power.

In a way this half-hearted website-scrubbing move parallels what the censor board tried to do with its blacklist of forbidden words. Those included “masturbating” and “haramazada”. Apparently sitting MPs can get away with using that word but films cannot. @uddubhaskar scoffed on Twitter “So, going by the list of words banned by the Censor Board, none of Pahlaj Nilhalani's films would have passed without censoring the songs.” Nihalani, is of course the chief of the censor board. Even his own committee member Ashok Pandit panned the directive calling it a “murder of creativity”. Director Hansal Mehta said “This board has again taken us back in time. They want us to protect Indian culture but it is the culture as the [Hindu nationalist group] RSS wants.”

Whether a true RSS-supporter never says any of those cuss words or visits any of those forbidden 857 sites, all that these loophole-ridden plainly ineffective measures prove is that while puritanism can be a source for concern, half-baked puritanism is a source for mockery.

There were already a slew of jokes yesterday saying the government’s porn ban was to boost the home-grown “certified adult” efforts of its chosen FTII head Gajendra Chauhan’s ouvre like Jungle Love, Jungle Queen and Khuli Khidki.

As for the next MLA caught watching porn on his mobile phone, we can already hear the robust defence “Well I was not on any of the 857 sites identified by the government.”


Published Date: Aug 04, 2015 10:57 pm | Updated Date: Aug 04, 2015 10:59 pm


Also See