Arindam Chaudhuri promises to get Kafila page unblocked

The webpage has been blocked by Internet Service Providers in India. Some users will see a blank page (like above) and others will see a note that the page has been blocked on the orders of the Department of Telecommunications.

Until Nikhil Pahwa of informed me, I had no clue that  India’s unjust and arbitrary internet censorship regime had finally affected Kafila. Medianama published on Friday 15 February a list of 78 URLs that the Department of Telecommunications had ordered ISPs to block. 73 of them were webpages critical of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), whose Arindam Chaudhuri has a long history of complaining about the Internet.

The Kafila page in question is simply a copy of a 2011 press release put out by The Caravan informing the public that it was taking down Siddhartha Deb’s profile of Arindam Chaudhuri because of a defamation suit file by an associate of IIPM. I republished the press release here. The original source of the release on The Caravan‘s website has also been blocked; they have republished it as well.

Medianama managed to get a copy of the 14 February blocking order (.pdf here), which as you can see is marked restricted and instructs ISPs to not mention the URLs in their compliance letter – part of the Indian government’s (lame) efforts to make sure its censorship of the internet remains secret and thus unquestioned.

A few hours later, quoted Gulshan Rai, technocrat and chief architect of India’s draconian internet censorship regime, as saying that the blocking orders came from a court in Gwalior. This is part of the problem with internet censorship (or “regulation,” the Orwellian term the government prefers): not only did the court in Gwalior not give Kafila or any of the others a chance to defend itself. Thereafter, having blocked the content, neither the hon’ble Gwalior court nor the Department of Telecommunications thought it fit to inform those whose content was being blocked. Is this not against the principles of natural justice?

A data analysis by Medianama shows that of the 73 URLs, 26 are blog posts, 25 are news sites and 9 are satire. Amongst the blocked news items are this Indian Express report of a PIL against IIPM, this mild and unoffensive interview of Siddhartha Deb in the Wall Street Journal, and a Times of India report on a Karnataka High Court judge’s question about Shahrukh Khan’s association with IIPM.

The spoof site Faking News has published all their blocked articles about IIPM in one single page. The Unreal Times (which is funny enough to be blocked in Pakistan) has lampooned the government for the blocking. Their blocked article had made fun of Chaudhuri’s attempts to control his image on Google. Many other articles making fun of IIPM and Arindam Chaudhuri on that site have, however, not been blocked.

I had an encounter of sorts with Arindam Chaudhuri this afternoon at the CNN-IBN studio, in a Sagarika Ghose-hosted show that will be telecast tomorrow (Monday) at 10:30pm IST. I took him on against imposing such censorship. After the show, however, Chaudhuri explained that an IIPM “channel partner” (an agent who helps IIPM get students) in Gwalior had got the court order and that Chaudhuri himself had not looked at the list of URLs before the interim order was obtained. He said “sorry” to me for the blocking of the Kafila page and agreed with me that a mere press release about the lawsuit between IIPM and The Caravan should not be blocked, but added that  he was not directly responsible for the blocking. He said that IIPM had now been asked to become a party to the case and would now tell the Gwalior court to order unblocking of the Kafila page in question, as also the satire sites and other URLs that he does not find are making “defamatory” claims against IIPM. I write this post partly to hold him to this promise. He said his press release yesterday had made it clear he was not against satire.

His main grouse is with the University Grants Commission; a notice against IIPM on the UGC website has also been blocked. Chaudhuri told me that IIPM has so far filed only four lawsuits against only four organisations. These are, The Caravan (along with Penguin India publishers and Siddhartha Deb), Careers360 magazine, the UGC and the AICTE. Two articles about IIPM on the Careers360 magazine that have been blocked can be read here: one, two.

Medianama is updating their excellent coverage of the issue on a live blog. Siddhartha Deb’s controversial profile of Chaudhuri is available here.

11 thoughts on “Arindam Chaudhuri promises to get Kafila page unblocked”

  1. Good for you, Shivam. I am sure that he will not be able to unblock the site tomorrow or even two months from now. Govt orders are not at a phone call away from Arindam’s suite. Will watch the programme for sure. I do not buy Arindam’s story about being unaware of the sites that have been blocked but I think that I buy less your story of meeting him outside the studio and his apologizing. As they say, you might be making it up fwiw. Do you really believe that defamatory statements should not be removed from the net under the guise of freedome of expression? Armchair activists like you are equally at fault for the ham-handed brand of internet censorship, as you guys have no idea that calling your dad an idiot is freedom of expression, saying he is a pedophile is defamation. And if you want that to remain on the net because you, dear you, are running Kafila, then so be it.


    NEW DELHI – 110002
    No.F.2-19/2007 (MPC)
    It is hereby informed to the public at large and students that Indian Institute of Planning
    and Management (IIPM) is not a University within the meaning of Section 2(f) of the University
    Grants Commission Act, 1956. Further, as per Section 22 of the University Grants Commission
    Act, 1956, IIPM does not have the right of conferring or granting degrees as specified by the
    University Grants Commission under Section 22(3) of the University Grants Commission Act. It
    is further clarified for information that IIPM is neither entitled to award MBA/BBA/BCA degree
    nor it is recognized by UGC.
    The public and students are also hereby informed that the universities established either
    by a Central Act or a State Act or an Institution deemed to the university under Section 3 of the
    University Grants Commission Act can confer or grant only those degrees which are specified by
    the University Grants Commission under Section 22(3) of the University Grants Commission
    Act, 1956. A list of degrees specified by the University Grants Commission is available on the
    University Grants Commission website for information of all concerned.

    (Niloufer Adil Kazmi)


  3. i do not understand why the piece by deb is characterized as “controversial”. in fact it seems quite accurate and fair minded. i am also quite disappointed that the central thrust of this piece is regarding kafila and chaudhuri’s promise to unblock it. that’s all good, but surely your first concern should be the obnoxious intent of chaudhuri and his lawyer’s effort in steering any critical discussion of himself and the IMPM in the first place? frankly this looks all too self serving.


  4. Dear Shivam,

    I do not understand why you have mixed up comments of mine along with that of Alter Ego. Can you please unscramble the two sets of comments, please? Here is what I had written, “Good for you, Shivam. Will watch the programme for sure. I do not buy Arindam’s story about being unaware of the sites that have been blocked.” Incidentally, I watched the programme and noticed that you could barely get your words in. Like Alter Ego, I do wonder whether he agreed to get the Kafila page unblocked, outside the studio, as he did not seem in that kind of mood inside it! Quite the bully, as you pointed out during the programme! Hope that word will not be liable for defamation!!


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