Look for an article from me later today (US time) on India's controversial moves to block websites that it claims contained inflammatory hate speech and false information that could lead to further intercommunity violence, like the attacks on Muslims by members of the Bodo tribe in Assam in July or the attacks on northeastern Indians by some Muslims in Mumbai earlier this month.
It's a sticky issue, but censorship isn't the answer, I argue -- especially when India's political parties, including the ruling Congress, have a track record of encouraging and exploiting intercommunity violence for electoral gains.
But here's a tidbit that didn't make the word-limit: The government's renewed crackdown on freedom of speech is playing particularly badly not only because it has allegedly targeted some of its most entrenched critics, along with the rumor mongers and propagators of hate speech, but also because it's under so much fire for unrelated screw-ups.
"It is not the best time for the government to be cracking down on free speech," the cut file from my (still lengthy) article reads.
"Facing entrenched criticism for alleged corruption in the allocation of telecom licenses and coal-mining blocks, on Thursday it destroyed taped conversations of lobbyist Niira Radia, which included evidence related to the allotment of the spectrum licenses and other political dirt. On Friday, the Supreme Court will rule on a right-wing, opposition politician's petitition seeking an investigation into Finance Minister P. Chidambaram's alleged role in allotting the 2G telecom licenses in question (the case was dismissed). And in the parliament, opposition lawmakers are calling for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to resign, following claims from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) that he and other officials cost the treasury tens of billions of dollars by allotting licenses to coal mining tracts on the same, seemingly arbitrary basis."
In that context, attempting to block the Twitter accounts of right-wing critics, including respected journalist Kanchan Gupta, will only add fuel to the fire on the web -- where, like US fans of Rush Limbaugh and company, the right already believes that the Congress Party has bought and paid for all of the "mainstream media."
Never a dull moment here in New Delhi....