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Gandhi and YouTube has India talking

A YouTube clip of Mahatma Gandhi doing a pole dance by Gautam Prashad, a New York-based comedian/clown/yoga teacher of Indian origin created quite a bit of wave on the other side of the continent. The Indian Government was not amused by Prashad's modern day interpretation of Gandhi (India's Father of the Nation) and had the video clip banned in India. Google had to remove the clip. Plus a couple of Indian channels that showed the video clip have been asked to apologize. The original offender in the Indian Government's eye: Gautam Prashad has also apologized.

For the past year Google has had its fair share of challenges in India. First, it was Orkut, and now Google Video. How did Indian bloggers react to this Google video clip of Gandhi? The bloggers reaction covers the whole spectrum from free speech to  don't watch to strong disapproval to let us move on, shall we?

Pooja Nair is not amused with Prashad's video clip. Her strong disapproval dissolves into some career advice for Prashad. She writes:

I feel sorry for him. I don't mean to mock him. I am genuinely concerned for the chap. I think he should shift careers. Maybe he'll do better as a pizza delivery guy or a taxi driver.

Shivam Vij has this to say about the video clip: don't watch it if it offends you. Shivam's  post also has a response from Prashad, the creator of the Gandhi clip, who says that he used this clip as a marketing tool.

Amit Verma wonders if this whole episode:

Free speech is becoming more and more endangered in this country.

Great Bong, who thinks the video clip was in poor taste has this to say about the Indian government's reaction to the video clip:

Coming back to the main point, the biggest loser in this glorious spectacle is the Indian government, which consistently insists on behaving like the typical crackpot Islamic state in obsessively frothing at the mouth in response to any perceived insult. In its infinite wisdom, it has served show-causes to the Indian channels which carried the news and called for the video to be taken down failing which a ban would be placed on Youtube.

Pass the roti on the left hand side  gives an overview of the entire episode (the YouTube does not seem to work) and says that it is time to move on.

  • http://www.pugettown.com Heather Flanagan

    I think that there can be positive portrayals of Gandhi and inappropriate ones. Here is an example of a positive one:

    http://pugettown.wordpress.com/2007/01/19/reincarnating-gandhi/

  • http://trueleo.blogspot.com/ Mahesh Subramanian

    I also subscribe to the view that if it offends you, dont watch. But some policing is necessary and I think when it comes to TV, everything should be monitored and certified, just as movies are so that programmes can be watched by appropriately aged people. Gandhi, poledancing, does seem an intriguing idea even if it left a bad taste in the mouth :)

  • Satburn

    Thanks a lot Heather for your respectful attitude.
    Freedom?????…does not mean what I like to say or what I want to do. It should be withinin the sense of touchness and respectfulness. Moreover, Gandhian attitude or practice not a property of Indian government.

  • ak dubey

    I view the whole episode quite differently. While agreeing to the viiew of Mr. Satburn (above) that Gandhi is not an indian property. I view the whole thing as the mental status of the person who did it. may be he had good intentions but on account of social perversion in USA society, he did not consider the gravity of it. The social order of that country is different. Mom kills dad, dad kills child, small kids kill their fellow kids in the school prayer. What else can one expect from them. A totally materialistic country and soil will generate only such mindset. Yes, we can talk of change therein, if we really want things to happen in a manner gandhi was meant. We have to respect all values and all people because it is there since earlier period and the people are only acting in whatever is within them based on the culture they live in.
    With regards to all, never trying to offend any society.

  • Kumar Mangat

    The video was offensive towards the general sensibilities of Indians. True.

    Free speech comes with responsibility true.

    But there is a small matter of who gets to decide what is sensible/moral/immoral/obscene. Specially when it comes to the Internet.

    When it comes to free speech and literary works, one can make a distinction between fiction/non-fiction. Fact/Satire.

    As long as it remains a work of fiction/art however crass or offensive to general sensibilities it maybe. As long as it not a call to arms/inciting violence it does not hold water legally.

    It is like the recent case over gay rights in the Indian Supreme Court. Who gets to decide what is moral/immoral. Although that was about acts between consenting adults in the privacy of their homes, the principle remains. Who gets to decide what is offensive and what is not.

    When it comes to fundamental rights majority rule does not quite hold water. Else things like abolition of caste systems/slavery, equal rights for all races etc. may never have come to pass.

    For example, the word “beef” was censored out from a sitcom aired on star world in India. It offends Hindus. The word Dick from Dick’s sporting goods (in this case a name) was censored out in another sitcom, because it may sound offensive. Never mind that Dick is a nick name for Richard. I wonder how news about Dick Cheney might be read on Indian new channels.

    The point being, it is a slippery slope when it comes to being offended.

    Free speech entails the right to be offended, but also the right to be offensive.

    The video may appear crass to millions, but it is just that a poorly conceptualised work of purported art, however crass it may appear to many. A video/film.

    The Right to Free speech was written with a clause in India. That it may be abridged in the interest of public order/decency/morality. The loophole is big enough for an aircraft carrier to sail through.

    It is this loophole which has been used time and again by every “youth” wing of political parties to create ruckus over news/literature/films/music/anything under the sky, which portrays anyone they support in bad light.

    It is vague, I cannot say if it was purposefully vague. But vague enough that any judgement even by the supreme court will depend on who is arguing the case and who is sitting in judgement.

    It is only recently, that the supreme court has been stepping in and trying to delineate from a legal stand point. Which is good as it will make its interpretation easier.

    To make matters complicated, the video was hosted on a foreign website, created by a person living abroad in a country with freedom of speech laws without any clause.

    It is one thing for a citizen or even a group of citizens to feel offended.

    But it is below the dignity of the government to concern itself with matters like these. As even its illegality is in question.

    When one feels it is crass, just thumb it down as one can do it on youtube and do not watch it, or flag it as offensive. But one cannot go around imposing the law of one land in a different country.

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