Several days in the Indian calendar already commemorate famed politicians. The birth anniversary of Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, for instance, is celebrated as children’s day, while that of former President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan marks India’s teacher’s day.
Now, Save Your Voice, a non-profit advocating free speech on the Web is lobbying for a “special day” to be dedicated to Kapil Sibal, the country’s telecom and communications minister. The day they picked? April Fools’ Day. “Mr. Sibal has represented the fools across the globe by his imprudent attempts to censor the Web,” says Aseem Trivedi, founder of Save Your Voice. “We strongly feel that April Fools’ Day should honor the reckless antics of our noble minister,” he adds.
In recent months, the government’s demand for Internet firms to remove content deemed objectionable from their sites has angered those who say this amounts to censorship. While renaming April Fools’ Day in honor of Mr. Sibal is unlikely to take off, there may be uncomfortable days ahead for India’s IT minister.
This week, the non-profit plans to stage demonstrations near prominent locations including Parliament and the IT ministry with dummies of Mr. Sibal. “The aam admi,” or common man, “can support our cause by adorning (Mr. Sibal’s) dummies with a joker’s hat, a plastic whistle and a bunch of flowers.” The clown-like attire, Mr. Trivedi says, is an “attempt to expose the foolish avatar” of the minister.
“After a week of heartiest wishes from the common man, an extravagant demonstration will mark Sibal Divas or April Fools’ Day at Rajghat,” he adds. Rajghat, the place where Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes are kept, is a popular site for protests in New Delhi.
Mr. Trivedi, a cartoonist by profession, decided to launch a battle advocating free speech of the Internet after his website was suspended in January by law enforcement authorities in Mumbai on grounds that it showcased “ugly and obscene” content mocking the Indian Constitution.
“No prior notice or guidelines were offered by authorities on what they deemed offensive,” he adds, referring to his case. The ultimate goal of his April Fools’ Day campaign is to rally public support in defense of free speech on the Web: “Our campaign is a voice for those who are victims of this government-led propaganda.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Communications and IT declined to comment on Mr. Trivedi’s campaign. He added that Mr. Sibal was unavailable and “extremely preoccupied” with Delhi’s upcoming local elections. He reiterated his ministry’s position saying that they have “no intention to censor the Internet,” explaining their aim is only to ensure that “content deemed objectionable under law is screened.”
Rashid Alvi, a spokesman of the ruling Congress party, told India Real Time that he does “not wish to comment on a campaign or an organization that is not known to anybody.” Although Save Your Voice is relatively small, it is gaining popularity on social media.
“Best wishes to Kapil Sibal on April Fools’ Day. You are truly ‘superman’ for the foolish,” a user commented in Hindi on the non-profit’s website.
“Great initiative. Now Mamata Banerjee should pester PM to declare April Fools’ Day as a national holiday,” another user commented. West Bengal Chief Minister Ms. Banerjee has reportedly written to the Prime Minister four times demanding that birth anniversaries of famed Bengalis be declared national holidays. Courtesy :The Wall Street Journal