From a Free Society to a Surveillance Society


Gorge Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty Four depicts a situation of extreme state power in which the super state is controlled by a privileged few of the Inner Party. It is overseen by Big Brother who enjoys intense cult of personality. In this state there is omnipresent government surveillance. The government persecutes those with independent thinking which is considered as thought crime and enforced by the thought police. Those in outer party are expected to rewrite everything according to the party line.

The situation that is emerging in India seems to be taking us in that direction. We are moving from a free society to a Surveillance Society. The reason which guides the State to assume this supra power is to move in the direction of setting up Hindu Rashtra. The role of State is assumed to be to enable this process. The State assumes the need to have a fresh Social Contract between the State and the Citizens. In this new contract, the citizens need to give up their respective Social and Class identities and become what is considered as ‘Hindu’ identity which is again equated with ‘Nation’.

The State knows that there would be constant threat and opposition to the idea of Hindu Rashtra. There are inherent opponents to the same. There are opponents who come from various segments of Society and come with various ideological leanings. There are Minorities, Women, Dalits, Adivasi and Workers who are opposed to this idea of Hindu Rashtra. There are Marxists, Ambedkarites, Gandhians and Liberals who tooth and nail oppose the idea of Hindu Rashtra. Such segments and ideologies become a threat to the idea of setting such a State. In this situation, the State assumes the need to achieve the Social contract between the citizens and the state by hook or crook.

This desire of achieving the same makes them to open up avenues to those who are considered as part of ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ party. All the powers are concentrated in small elite consisting of the Prime Minister and close confidantes such as Amit Shah with ideological allegiance to Nagpur RSS headquarters. The small elite are overseen by a Big Brother (the Prime Minister). In the process of overseeing, all the thoughts considered contrary to the idea of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ are considered as ‘thought crimes’ and branded as anti-national or pro-terrorist. There is thought police who are constantly into identification of ‘thought crimes’ or ‘thought criminals’.   This is monitored by an inner party which consists of key figures of Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other organizations affiliated to RSS. The outer party consists of Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Bajrang Dal and other entities of RSS. The attempt is to identify those with ‘thought crimes’ which contradict with the idea of Hindu Rashtra and persecute them.

The acts committed by members of ‘inner’ or ‘outer party’ such as killing of the rationalists, incidents such as Dadri lynching and giving clean chit to the perpetrators, events related to the acts of violence by Gau Rakshaks (Cow Protectors), hate spreading against minorities, constant tracking on valentine’s day and enforcing forced marriages, targeting students of opposite ideological fronts and branding their resistance as anti-national, targeting ‘thought leaders’ of opposite camp as ‘thought  crimes’, trolling the ‘thought leaders’ of the opposite front and constantly abusing them, creating fake images stories around those resisting are part of the process of exercising ‘thought control’ against those involved in what it considers ‘thought crimes’.

The increasing spaces being provided to Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in University and College campuses and its assuming responsibility as to what events should or should not be held in campuses, RSS deciding on what should or should not be written or spoken, Bajrang Dal taking up the role of deciding as to what is Indian culture and imposing it on people, saffron coterie deciding as to what is or is not an anti-national act, the ones with leanings to the saffron ideologies being provided spaces in top leadership of academic and non-academic bodies are part of an attempt at achieving ‘thought control’ and identifying ‘thought crimes’ by members of ‘inner’ and ‘outer party’.

This emerging scenario demands resistance to the idea of Surveillance Society. More than the opposition to the emerging surveillance society, exposing the hollowness of the concept of Hindu Rashtra may be the need. A society based on an idea of a religious identity and supposed religious supremacy is an artificial construct which work against the demands for equity and equality for all. It can never meet the material, human and spiritual aspirations of human beings. It is important to expose that those inflicting this surveillance are the ones who are involved in ‘thought crimes’.

 T. Navin works with an NGO as a Researcher. He did is M.Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University.


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