Über Desi

Keeping it real, desi ishtyle

Is Google playing political games with India’s map?

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And Betteridge’s Law may not hold the answer, in this case. You make the call after reading this post.

A few days back, I tweeted out something I noticed when checking out the new Google Maps – the Indian states of Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh were entirely listed as dotted lines (See below) instead of solid, indicating Google considered them, at best, disputed territories, and at worst, not part of India.

My limited understanding of international politics notwithstanding, I know that most maps these days split Kashmir in 3, to indicate regions controlled by India, and the ones not controlled by India. Additionally, the state of Arunachal Pradesh has been a point of contention between India and China for the better part of the last century. So, my assumption was that Google Maps was reflecting the same.

However, after a brief interaction over Twitter, my findings are as follows: Google Maps displays the state of Arunachal Pradesh as disputed territory (image on left) when you access it from the US (and perhaps, the rest of the world) but when you access Google Maps from India, the state of Arunachal Pradesh is shown as an integral part of India (image on right).

This post is not intended to stir “patriotic fervor” between Indians, Pakistanis and the Chinese but rather to encourage a discussion on how big technology companies are starting to indulge in politics, at an international level. Please feel free to add to this discussion in the comments space below.

Indian government enters new era of censorship

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This leaked memo contains a directive from the Department of Telecommunications of the Government of India to all ISPs in India explicitly directing them to block various YouTube links, Twitter handles and other web pages.
Per Economic Times reports,

Through four (1, 2, 3, 4) directives to Internet Service Providers between 18 August and 21 August, the department of telecom has blocked numerous web pages on concerns that communal tensions were being fanned in the wake of the unrest following violence in the border districts of Assam. After protests in Mumbai on August 18 turned violent, the government had said that hate content was being spread through the Internet by groups in Pakistan.

This Orwellian move by the Indian government comes in the wake of recent incidents in Assam and the rampant rumors surrounding those incidents which triggered a mass exodus of migrants from the North East from various Indian cities.

Just to highlight how ridiculous and politically tinged this move is, one of the banned accounts is a parody Twitter account of the Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Wisconsin Sikh Temple shootings

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News first started trickling in, mostly via Twitter, around noon East Coast time about a shooting incident in a Sikh temple in Milwaukee, WI. My first reaction, unfortunately tempered from years such attacks directed at Sikhs, was that this was one of those post 9/11 incidents, where the perpetrator attacks Sikhs thinking they belong to the Taliban or Mujahideen. Based on current report, this may very well turn out to be the case.

Initial reports were of multiple gunmen taking hostages at the temple. But when the dust settled, it turned out to be a lone gunman, Wade Michael Page, ex-Army and alleged skinhead. The first responding cops exchanged fire with the gunman; one was hurt and the other killed the gunman, but not before Page killed 6 others on the temple premises. These cops, “prevented a tragic situation from becoming even worse”. Satwant Kaleka, the temple’s president succumbed to injuries he sustained while trying to restrain the attacker, perhaps saving more lives.

Now on to the (American) media coverage of the situation, CNN had some decent updates about the situation itself but the reporters and anchors showed an appalling lack of knowledge about Sikhs, the worlds 5th largest religious group. For some reason, the CNN reporters and anchors were strangely defensive, almost hostile, to the victims’ and their families’ suggestions that this could be one of those typical post 9/11 hate incidents directed towards Sikhs. Additionally, CNN anchors and reporters, played thought police, insisting that this incident should not be classified as a terrorist incident (the FBI later classified it as domestic terrorism) and CNN anchors also were quite emphatic that this was not the time for debate on issues like gun control and hate crimes (the two major issues that most likely led up to this carnage). Having said that among cable news outlets, CNN was the one with the most coverage of the incident.

Fox News, when they were not discussing topics like “Liberal Media attacks against Mitt Romney”, had intermittent coverage of the incident. Even with lesser coverage, Fox still managed to commit a faux pas as one the reporters asked a member of the Sikh temple if there had been any “anti-Semitic acts in the past against the Sikh community”. MSNBC, the other media outlet, was busy covering the Olympics and had breaking updates now and then, but largely failed in it’s mission as a “news channel”.

The other troubling fact on the media coverage was the fact they kept mentioning that this was “misdirected hate” aka “hate directed towards Muslims but incorrectly targeting Sikhs” which leads one to believe that targeting Muslims would be “normal”, which speaks to the sad state of affairs in this country.

As of this posting, Wade Michael Page has been identified as ex-Army, 1992-98, (Toma)Hawk Missile repairman, and “psychological operations specialist”. Reports are also starting to flow in that he legally owned the guns he used in this massacre and was the leader of a neo-Nazi band called End Apathy.

Largely, the media coverage and outrage among Americans has been miniscule compared to the ones we witnessed after the movie shooting incidents in Colorado. Call me jaded by post 9/11 America but none of this comes as a shock.

For updates, please follow our Twitter account http://twitter.com/uberdesi

That’s racist

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Ashton Kutcher’s popchips ad is racist, plain and simple. I’m not sure how else I would classify a white actor in brown face mocking Indian accents. That most white people, black people and other races are not offended by it, while sad, is understandable. Other people of Indian descent may not be offended by it and that’s their personal choice.

It’s *NOT* about the fact that no one would dare don a blackface today. (If you said Robert Downey Jr, please take your discussions to this forum – link via @sepiamutiny). In 2012, to don brownface and mock a foreign accent is just plain unacceptable.

As an Indian man with brown skin and an Indian accent, who gets ribbed on it every now and then, it does sting a little to view these mock portrayals on TV. I don’t have a choice on how I look or talk, Ashton does when he signs up for these ad campaigns.

Re-purposing an immortal quote from a great leader, I have a dream that my yet-to-be-conceived children will one day live in a nation where they will not be mocked for the color of their skin or the accents of their parents.

Also read MetroPCS’ unfunny commercials

Also, feel free to tweet Ashton Kutcher @aplusk and tell him what you think about this topic.

Sepia Mutiny ends

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Doesn’t seem that long ago that one of the major desi blogs, DesiPundit, downed their shutters. Now arguably the biggest of all desi blogs, Sepia Mutiny, is going the same way. [Sepia Mutiny]

T’was not too long ago, between 05-09, blogs were thriving: Sepia Mutiny, Desi Pundit, Ultra Brown, and if I may say so, Über Desi, were bustling with activity in the niche market of Indian sub-continental culture and pop-culture. Quality content was being generated by the hard working bloggers, at least in the first 3 instances. Then life happened, Twitter happened. Most bloggers found it easier and more convenient to microblog on Twitter, and so did their followers. Slowly but surely, the quality content dried up and previously bustling blogs became desolate arenas. Trolls and spammers took over in the comments sections of long dead posts. You get the idea.

The bloggers at Sepia Mutiny did an amazing job of building a thriving South Asian online community, and for this, they will be remembered and the blog will be missed.

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