I was surprised to read India is blocking BlogSpot and TypePad blogs. Apparently, it started at the weekend. When I first read about it on the Desi Pundit forum of Indian bloggers, I thought it was just a technical glitch. But a report by the India Uncut blogger Amit Verma on the Guardian website in the Comment Is Free section was an eye-opener. The Indian government is deliberately blocking some sites.
"Suspecting that terrorists might be using Internet blogs to exchange messages, the Indian government has jammed at least 20 blog sites over the weekend in the wake of the July 11 Mumbai blasts," reported India eNews.
But it’s like using a sledgehammer to crush a fly. Overseas readers can still access those sites, said India eNews, while bloggers in India who write about nothing more incendiary than their daily life can’t post their thoughts.
And the Indian Internet watchdog supremo couldn’t care less about violating their right to freedom of expression. Indian blogger Shivam Vij managed to contact the official on the phone only to be brusquely brushed off. "A few sites have been blocked. What’s your problem?" said the big man. "He was downright rude," says the blogger.
India does not have a history of Internet censorship, writes Verma. But now it seems to have followed the example of neighbouring China and Pakistan.
Some Indian bloggers, however, are proving just as resourceful as their Chinese counterparts. Desi Pundit reports Indians can still access their blogs using the pkblogs site. It bills itself as a free gateway for bloggers whose sites are blocked in India, Pakistan, Iran and China. It’s a shame that India is ranked with those three countries, but they are all in the same region. Indian blogger Amit Agarwal on Digital Inspiration suggests a few other ways to access the sites.
Verma comments on the silliness of the official action. Those who want to will still be able to access the blocked sites, he says. Instead of directly going to those sites, they will use newsreaders and RSS feeds. He is absolutely right.
Global Voices Online has a roundup of reactions and the news has also been picked up by Boing Boing, OneWorld, Blog Herald and several other sites. Shame on India.