One of the most popular messaging apps, WhatsApp, with a billion-plus user base is home to many conversations, jokes with friends and family and much more but all of that might also being monitored by your government.
According to a report in India Today, a 30-year-old resident of Uttara Kannada district, Karnataka (India) has been arrested for a morphed image of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared on his WhatsApp group.
The man arrested, Krishna Sanna Thamma Naik, wasn’t even responsible for posting the image, rather some other member of the group shared the image.
A few weeks earlier, a joint order issued by the District Magistrate and Police Chief of Varanasi stated that admins of any WhatsApp group found sharing offensive posts such as rumours or fake news will be arrested.
The person was arrested after a FIR was lodged with the police which took immediate action and arrested the admin as well as the individual who shared the image.
Big Brother is Watching
With the evolution of Internet and technology surrounding it, the dystopian future suggested by Orwell seems to be nearing with surveillance.
Surveillance, not only through government agents but also by those who conform to their views and can’t stand even the idea of a modest dissent.
Although this is the first time someone has been arrested for making derogatory remarks against PM Modi, the incident doesn’t reflect a bright future for dissent in any form — even a harmless joke.
Trolls and memes surrounding world leaders is a common thing, and to be arrested for being an admin of a group where a joke was shared — among a group of friends — shows sheer intolerance on the part of the acting authorities.
Hoping this trend doesn’t catch up in other countries, else the idea of free speech might soon be turned into ‘thoughtcrime’ — when thinking becomes a crime.
Dissenters Shall Be Punished
Something that history books taught us and talking about India, this would be classified as something the British imposed on the citizenry of a colonised India.
It seems the representatives of the Indian government are following their predecessor government’s footsteps and aren’t really ready to take a joke.
Going by the express orders of DM and Police Chief of Varanasi, ‘fake news or rumours’ which can create unrest due to communal or religious tensions, won’t be tolerated.
Now that is ok, but how a morphed image of PM Narendra Modi is going to create unrest is quite unclear.
It might create an unrest among the ‘Bhakts’ (Read: PM Modi’s Fans), his party members and affiliated party members too, but those can be controlled by the PM, who in all possibility is least affected by someone sharing his morphed image.
People can not be expected to have the same opinion. Remember, it’s not necessary that what you think is what others do too.
And if you’re as big a personality as PM Modi — who leads the nation of 1.3 billion people — there are going to be haters and his followers need to start living with it.
Can’t put a few million or even more in jails now, can you? Developing country, marred with poverty — remember? We certainly don’t need more mouths to feed in our quality prisons.
I’m a WhatsApp Admin, What do I Do?
Well, if you’re a resident of India, you’ll need all the luck. One piece of advice though — refrain from adding members to your group who you think can not tolerate a joke about their favourite political leader or the likes.
Doing this will help you escape a lot of trouble. Like, seriously, a lot.
It’s not you who is wrong, but it certainly is you who is going to bear the brunt of the situation at hand.
You can also try putting a disclaimer as the group image stating that you don’t take responsibility and get it attested by a gazetted officer maybe — that might help or not.
You can even try making someone else an admin or shut down your group — it won’t even create a ripple in your universe, let alone WhatsApp’s — there are way too many already which you’re a part of.
WhatsApp is a private messaging service, and quite frankly, the government of India and its policing authorities have much more pressing matters at hand than to look after a case involving a morphed image in a group which in all probability has no more than a 100 members.
If you’re an admin based out of India, you’re in luck! Troll away. Here’s hoping your government doesn’t take any inspiration from this one.