Everybody has encountered that feeling of being watched by the Big Brother. That’s called surveillance. Different people react differently to it: some revolt; some curse; but the majority comply. Childhood is the best time especially if there is nobody bigger than you amongst your siblings and the rest don’t matter. But suddenly the adolescence arrives with an urge to grow up fast. There is no boy worth his salt who has not thought of becoming a man overnight by becoming a soldier. So, every boy in his teenage appears at least once for an SSB (Services Selection Board) selection (through NDA or whatever else). Girls also like it; so, an interview call from SSB generally transforms a boy into a celebate celebrity on the verge of losing virginity. Exploiting this prediliction of young boys, the biggest terrorist organizations of the world attract young cadets into their folds with the promise of a star like existence. But the above comes with a rider!
Bangalore SSB is located next to the famous Brigade Road. I went there in early nineties when Manmohan Singh had recently presented his pro-liberalization budget. Bangalore was amongst the first ones to adopt it. Big Malls and Multiplexes had already arrived on the Brigade Road with lots of tastefully dressed girls as embellishment. So, it was the first choice for us young boys. There is always a ring leader in the group who performs new attractive things, but not many realize he seldom do it all of his own. He is often prompted by one of his faithful supporters in doing innovative things, who actually satisfy his own instincts for experimentation albeit vicariously through the ring leader. I fitted into this role pretty well. Automatic escalators were a serious source of inquisitiveness for me. What if we walked up in an escalator moving down? Will we ever reach the top? What if we ran? I shared my inquisitiveness with the ring leader PRIVATELY, which immediately attracted him and he vetoed everybody else from trying the experiment because he considered himself a natural guinea pig for the impending invention. So, first he walked, and then he ran! And voila, he fell on his stomach and was thrown out of the escalator with a thump.
Of course, the people gathered. The guy got a sound scolding. Was I feeling guilty? Yes, a bit, but not enough because I never asked him to run like a joker. Anyways, nobody was supposed to know our PRIVATE conversation. But not really. In the melee, one hand gripped my wrist and took me aside as if I had committed a murder. Well…he was a spook of the SSB, especially employed to keep watch on us young aspirants. And, of course, he knew how to decipher PRIVATE from the PUBLIC. Suddenly, I started thinking of the neigbourhood temple and the marriage with the pornstar whom we saw in nude in the early morning show, which, of course, this spy would have watched us do too — only lately have I realized that the forces are the biggest perpetrators of prostitution and pornography. Anyways, he let me off with a warning, and, of course, I wasn’t selected, and the celebate celebrity continued for almost a decade. But it seems this surveillance has not yet stopped even though I have not watched any thing other than Kapil Sharma’s show for more than a decade, where girls and guys resemble each other so much so that there can’t be any marriages, pornography or no pornography. Nor have I supported any ring leader or even joined any group for that matter. So, why this surveillance on me? Of course, it has no connection with the SSB event. The reason has to be something else. I can only guess.
I think the answer can be found in the SSB surveillance itself, which surveillance may seem innocuous, but is it really? The aspirants are never informed that they would be under surveillance during their stay in the SSB center. Most of the boys go there just to have a little fun without any feeling of nationalism or patriotism. Moreover, why should defense forces be allowed to even recruit boys who have not yet matured into men? Do they even know the repurcussions of their decisions? Do they know they might actually end up dying as celibate celebrities? Is this not a serious attack on the Free Will of the young boys? And who is benefiting from it? A nation! Yes…it is pretty obvious the root cause of all surveillance is nation. A nation would not only like to surveil foreigners for intelligence but also its own citizens for counterintelligence. What if I sincerely believe there shouldn’t be any nations as they are against humanity? And not only that I even ask others to become #AntiNationalHumanist. Will I be taken aside yet again? If yes, that’s again an attack on my Free Will and this time it does not even seem innocuous. BTW, it is natural for a young mind to try new naughty things; so, running up on an escalator while it is moving down, is not such a big thing as to invite the attention of a spook. He must have been extremely unprofessional, and yes his intervention was a serious attack on the exercise of my Free Will.
So far so good! But, what if the attack is not on an organization or the nation but on a specific individual or a small group in control of power? Will he/they not target me? Of course, he/they would. Let us assume instead of watching the early morning porn movie, I had actually wooed an army officer’s daughter and done some hanky panky with her — opportunities for which in the SSB centers btw exist. Would have he then let me off with a warning? So, what actually happens is I get punished for a non-crime in disguise of an unrelated crime because I happen to offend a powerful person. In other words, I am punished for being powerless. Surveillance, especially mass surveillance, is a tool for the making of a totalitarian state, where the powerful rule over the powerless through the infringement of their liberty with privacy being the most vulnerable. In a totalitarian state, it’s not law but proximity to lawmakers and like which decide your success in getting justice as well as in not getting punished for crimes. When the Finance Minister of the country makes AADHAAR amendments through a Finance Bill and, on being challenged, openly makes a contemptuous statement in the parliament that he is forcing people to obtain AADHAAR, you know the totalitarian state is round the corner. And that’s my biggest fear because, in a totalitarian state, SURVEILLANCE NEVER STOPS.
© Ankur Mutreja
Featured Image Credit: Elbert Barnes (https://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/11826794843)