Famous English novelist J G Ballard, whose vision for mankind’s future was apocalyptic, said about porn, “A widespread taste for pornography means that nature is alerting us to some threat of extinction.” Even after 68 years of Independence, India is torn by conflict over the extinction of traditional values and Ill-liberal avant-garde irresponsibility. There are many privileged Indians opposing what they argue is an encroachment on their fundamental rights. But they don’t seem concerned about the six rights provided under Articles 14 to 32 of the Constitution—Right to Equality, Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, Right Against Exploitation, Right to Freedom of Religion, Cultural and Educational Rights, Right to Property, and Right to Constitutional Remedies. But the chatterati became inflamed with self-righteous anger against the government move to deny them free access to explicit pornography driven by commerce. Last week, the Department of Information Technology advised Internet companies to shut down 857 websites that gave unadulterated access to foreign porn. But it ignored ‘Made in India’ porn. Since a section of the government comprises the urban elite that is afraid of losing its perch in the drawing rooms of New Delhi and Mumbai, the government took a U-turn within 72 hours and restricted its embargo to child porn sites. If Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, a committed RSS swayamsevak, was in hurtling hurry to impose the ban, he beat an equally hasty retreat, singed by the heat generated by the marketers of the $97-billion global porn industry.
American theologian Spencer M Kimball, in The Miracle of Forgiveness, writing on pornography, asked, “Who is to blame? The filth peddler, of course, but even more than this vulgar entertainer, the filth consumer, the public. So long as men are corrupt and revel in sewer filth, entertainers will sell them what they want.” Natch, the male-dominated tirade against porn ban prevented public platforms, ranging from the print media to websites, from opposing the sub-erotic medium as if they were being deprived of their basic means for survival. Surprisingly, the protesters appear to be well-educated, reasonably rich and well-connected with the liberal world in which inhibitions are more conspicuous by their visibility. Yet, the tone and emotional outburst reflect their desire for more of sex in any form—however filthy. Even some foreign-educated political leaders called the move a dictatorial act by the Centre. Hence, it wasn’t surprising that the foreign media led the offensive against the ban. It is another reason that all foreign porn-manufacturing companies were hauling in the moolah from the gargantuan Indian smut market. For the government and committed conservatives, denying unlimited access to sleaze was well justified. Studies by numerous marketing and other agencies have revealed that over 30 per cent of office time is used by employees to trawl the Net for porn films. About 20 per cent of schoolchildren are secret voyeurs of sex sites. Even law-enforcing agencies feel the proliferation of skin flicks on the Internet is one of the causes for sexual crimes. Even in the US, many high-powered leaders, including President Obama, have been discussing restrictions on Internet porn. China has already banned over 150 such sites.
In India, the discourse against the ban acquired political and ethical dimensions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s detractors portrayed porn censorship as a move to curb the freedom of expression and access to information. They even went to the extent of pointing to the erotic sculptures of Khajuraho and Ajanta as being part of Indian culture. They conveniently ignored that the centuries-old carvings represent the artistic genius of ancient times and not the sleaze effect of pornographic sites on the sexually semi-educated freedom fighters for free sex and gay rights.
What causes concern is the choice of causes Indian Ill-liberals pick up. For them, a ban on a book, a small cut in any film, or protests against demeaning the images of Indian deities is more important than human rights violations. Hardly do they pick up a cause with similar vigour as they do when it comes to their individual and social preferences. No citizen should be denied practising his or her faith as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else’s sensitivities. But justifying the unbridled dissemination of pornography as just another creative lingo is insulting acceptable civil behaviour. Very few Ill-liberals have run a sustained campaign against the violation of more important rights like equal opportunity in public sector jobs. Even after nearly seven decades, why are the top echelons of bureaucracy still dominated by members of rich and powerful families? Just two clans belonging to a particular caste boasted over 20 IAS officers at a particular point in time. These new age ‘freedom fighters’ rarely engage in furious debates, championing the fundamental rights of those discriminated against in every sphere of life daily. The Right to Education, introduced by the UPA regime, remains on paper while many poor children are denied quality education. But none of the votaries of ‘free access to pornography’ have taken up cudgels on behalf of these children, fearing their entry would ‘pollute’ the exclusive character of the institutions they studied in. Even recently, many habitually strident Ill-liberals went into hiding when the case of a senior college teacher sexually harassing a student became public. The selective offensive against imagined assaults on the fundamental rights of Indians is leading to a vertical social divide all over again. With a vice-like grip over the edifices of communications and decision-making, an over-liberated elite that enjoys luxurious lifestyles is dictating the contours of our culture. Strangely, now, the Indian is being given the chance to choose between ensuring a genuine freedom of expression, life and employment, and becoming scopophiliacs of commercial sexploitation.
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