Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The oppressive Indian

Gaurav Sabnis has decided to leave IBM after Arindam Chaudhuri's Indian Institute of Planning and Management threatened to burn their Thinkpads before IBM's offices in New Delhi. Sabnis' choice was his own, and his reasons for resigning are clear: 1) To not inconvenience IBM, and 2) to stand by his principles. His comments about IIPM, an institute whose claims were first exposed by Rashmi Bansal's JAM magazine, brought him a lawsuit but no refutation of the points he made. If there was a civil way of conducting this then-potentially embarrassing business, it was through a study of facts. This route would have been less forceful than the one eventually chosen.

Bansal found herself inundated with crass messages from overnight blogs before her readers began to weigh in their support. The offensive comments ventured nowhere near fact, preferring instead to silence her through fear. The threat to burn laptops was another intimidating measure to enforce silence, and there are some victory celebrations now that Sabnis has resigned. That is a misinterpretation because Sabnis left in support of his ideas, and has found favour widely for his behavior in this matter. The alternative, to remain quiet and withdraw his opinion, would have been easier and understandable given the stakes involved. But the only way to keep speech free is to defend it, and his departure is part of that defense.

So this is an offensive to suppress truth and a dissenting voice. It is not surprising but always worrying that people choose this path. And so, further and further we slip into ignorance, not knowing the truth, not given access to facts that are our right to know because they are buried. However, the events of the last few weeks have been recorded, for posterity and easy access, as well as the aggressive manner in which the IIPM has approached argument, and the support Bansal and Sabnis have found from friends and advocates of free thought and speech. The IIPM's conduct has been despicable, for if they have not told the truth people have suffered to find their efforts and investments coming to little, and if they have not lied, their handling of this situation has been in poor taste. The internet is perhaps the last place where free speech is understood, respected and appreciated, and is a place beyond the reach of IIPM's marketing clout. If mainstream media raises the issue of speech and truth and moves on, as it must, an archive of these happenings will remain here. That these words exist at all, that this dissent is there for all to see easily, is a significant win for those who speak freely and truthfully.

Give Bansal and Sabnis all the support you can. We all need it.

A wide range of supportive opinions are to be found on India Uncut, Kitabkhana, and Desi Pundit.

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