Big Brother

Big Brother
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In 1949, George Orwell, wrote a book titled, “ 1984”. A fictional character called, “ Big Brother”, was created by Orwell to underscore the nature of power and state wherein “Big Brother” became synonymous with the intrusive and extensive surveillance powers of the state. There is somewhat of an echo of “Big Brother” in the putative call by New Delhi to bring the residents of Jammu and Kashmir under the ambit of what it has called a “hybrid smart card”. The card in contention, which is being proposed will collect and gather information pertaining to individual residents of Jammu and Kashmir. This might constitute a clear cut violation of privacy and adds another layer of intrusiveness into the lives of people here. It also suggests a differential approach and treatment of Kashmiris at a time when the Supreme Court of India has stated that the Right to Privacy constitutes a fundamental right. But, as the potential or proposed “hybrid smart card” suggests or even demonstrates, Kashmir is different for powers that be in India and is deemed as a “national security matter” wherein norms can be suspended. In this day and age, and especially, in the developed world context(s), where privacy is jealously and assiduously guarded, and where the nature and gravamen of the state is oriented towards the individual and his/her rights, here in Jammu and Kashmir, powers that be would like to add layers of laws and intrusive methods to control and intrude in peoples’ lives- all in the name of security. Even in the Western world, after 9/11, the tension between liberty and security, has been rather somewhat determined for the liberty of the individual- which includes the right to privacy. But, then , in terms of Kashmir, it is “security” that has been privileged and elevated to a pedestal; many laws have been devised to hedge people. All this is alarming. It, among, other things reflects the fact that Kashmiris are not trusted. A larger hedge , in the minds of powers that be, seems to be their default reflex, to check the people of Jammu and Kashmir- especially Kashmir. To take recourse to a developed country context, the Governments there would, would not countenance this form of surveillance, but if it did under extreme circumstances, they would have to take it to the people first, with clear cut guarantees of respect for peoples’ rights. But , this is Kashmir, where almost everything goes.

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