In a late-breaking development - delayed because the official Government Spokesperson Mooster Mukharjoy arrived two hours behind schedule at the Readers' Building in Newer Delhi - the government announced a blanket ban on all websites across the subcontinent under the National Order for Security and Emancipation of Jobless Old Bustards (NOSEJOB) Act of 1927. Under the Act, anyone found browsing - irrespective of the content or the device - any website in the country can be held on a cognizable offense without bail or hearing by a magistrate for anywhere from a week to a month. The Act comes into effect with retrospective effect from from midnight of Jan 1, 1928, which also substantiates the official government line that India had invented the WWW long before Tim, Berners or Lee.
Brushing aside the allegations that the order was originally brought into effect to protect the Bustards, a rare bird in the hinterlands, and did not have anything to do with calculators, much less computers, Mr Mooster Mukharjoy threw his slipper at the journalist before explaining. "It is in the country's best interests, you see... Our party... damn, I forgot the name... ah, yes, the Italian - sorry, Indian - International Congress - or something similar - we have always stood behind our Supreme Leader, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Blamed. And somebody recently blamed her on - what do you kids call it? Bitter or Glitter or something? It is of serious concern to our national security... even financial. Our inflation went up two inches!"
Directed back to the link between the Bustards and the implications of this particular Act, Mukharjoy had this to say: "You know it's difficult to get a new bill passed in Parliament... the A/C is very good and people are always getting up to go to the loo. So our beloved sub-Leader Mr - ah, forget the name of that chop (sic) too - anyways, that sick man - some problem with the spine, I am told - he has this bright idea. He has these things once in a decade, fifteen years... well, anyway, he suggested that rather than waste time writing new laws, we just add to old laws. Anyways, it's common knowledge that our beloved Rajkumarji invented the Internet when he was working his dual-PhD in Brazil, or Colombia... or somewhere."
In response to a question whether Mr Mukharjoy was cracking a Rajnikanth joke, the senile spokesperson glanced left and right before replying that he did not watch cricket. "Not to worry," were his parting words before being whisked off to meet She-who-must-not-be-blamed, "The rest of the Internet - except for websites and file-shares - will be free. We sold that spectrum dirt cheap so that you, my dear aam aadmi, will have the benefits!"
The proclamation has led to widespread fears about the economy, particularly the possibility of layoffs. Count Jackemoff, CEO of SPAM Exports, a startup who recently ramped up its hiring efforts following the success of its nLarge line of drugs, articulated the feelings of the rest of his industry when he said, "This is hitting below the belt. At the very least, the Government should have consulted us before taking the decision, given that we hold a 21% stake in the current alliance. We pay tax - 1% of our earnings after deductions, subtractions and divisions - and we are entitled to every protection that is offered to any other offline business."
Joining him on this issue was noted PR activist, Arundhati Rajamanickam. "This is a blatant violation of the freedom of expression," she wrote in her blog, the God of Smaller Things. "Just because I ban critics and readers who choose to criticise my work does not mean that anyone else has the right to do the same thing. I mean, simply see the injustice of the whole thing. Hardly anybody reads my first book anymore... this is the only way I can still convince Arnab Goswami that I am still a writer." In a typical show of defiance, she has posted a picture of herself on Twitter, offering an autographed manuscript to readers who download her picture. At the time of going to press, there had been zero downloads.
Noted industrialist, former actor and current owner of the IPL Team Karbon Kamal Kanchipuram DLF Cement Fighters, Mr Shekar Raj Kapur - often referred to by his trademarked nickname, @SRK-K-K-Boiling - rallied his one-time colleagues to the cause. "If there are no blogs," he thundered from behind the walls of his bungalow, "no FakeIPLPlayer, no websites to see me flex my muscles at a security guard and no places to post photoshopped images of my bod, there is no SRK! There is no Poonam Pandey! There is no... oh, wait a minute, there is no need to bring Amitabh Bachan into this." When reached for a rejoinder, SRK's long-time bete-noire Sul Mannkan ripped off his shirt and passed it to the heroine of his latest movie, Dabangg Gets Ready Part 7. (Incidentally, Ms Platinakshi Sinha is the daughter of Ms Sonakshi Sinha, who played Mannkan's elderly grandmother in DGR6)
Across the political spectrum, the reactions were divided and cut across party lines. Lalu P Yadav, the man who introduced earthen engines in the Indian Railways, asked what a website was and appeared to be ready to dismiss the hype over the Act once he realized it made no mention of Yadavs, Jats, Gujjars, Dalits, Ezhavas, Nairs, Brahmins, Muslims or Roman Catholics. His nemesis, Enphut Naik, the man heralded as the Prometheus who brought Bihar to the age of the Abacus, did not want to get caught in any controversy until he had time to study the complete ramifications of the Act. Across the country, Gujarat's Chief Minister Namodev prayed that the Internet Community would rise once again as a free and unshackled voice. "It is the only place on earth that believes I am innocent," he said, pointing to all the TV Channels on display. "I won't survive a day if left to those pontificating <expletives deleted>."
Further south, the reactions ranged from one extreme to the other. In Chennai and Hyderabad, people were almost apathetic about the NOSEJOB. "SMS still happening," said a student of Osmania University. "Me Anand Sachidanand Gopala Neerula Chaitanya Subramanya Chippala Keerthy Reddy happy." John Sam, a welfare officer and a proud member of the ruling cadre, opined that he had no faith in the Internet anyway. "All this talk about white money, black money... if there was any money, why aren't we seeing any of it? But if there is any money, then it is not in conversations but in conversions." Mr Sam can be reached at Sam@MyWayIsTheOnlyWayToGod.com.
At the fag end of the country, down and to the right of Chennai, Kerala is still the bastion of the old-fashioned romantics. As soon as Mr Mukharjoy finished his proclamation, riots broke out in front of the Government Secretariate between various groups. Mr Ach Udanandan, co-leader of the left-leaning Congress be Pushed out of India (CPI) argued for the fundamental right to emancipation and free association of Bustards. "First it was Saddam, then Osama. Now Bustards... the Bush administration must apologize to the Malayalee today, or we will strike till the last drop of blood is shed!" An aide immediately corrected him about the US's current state of leadership, to which Mr Udanandan merely grunted and shrugged his rather eloquent shoulders. The current Chief Minister, Mr Chandikunjoonju, after a desperate fight with his ministers for the right to appear in front of the camera, ran a hand through his wavy white wig. "The High Command has spoken," were his thoughts on the issue. "The High Command has spoken."
None of the other national, local, panchayat, block or house parties knew how to react.
Washington could not be reached for comment as it was still night-time, while China has reportedly dumped a trillion monitors into the sea right next to Japan's Fukushima reactor.
While the official stance of the Pakistani government is to keep silent, for once, and not talk about something it has no knowledge or control over, the average Pakistani is happy that his internet browsing should become faster soon. "We compete for downloading... hmmm... videos and stuff," said Shahid Afridi, Chairman of Suitable Viewing for Adult Pakistanis (SVAP). "If we have to show the young 'uns at all our Madrassas what is wrong, shouldn't we show them the wrong things first?"
- the Dissipated Press (formerly the Dissociated Press)