The dystopian novel of George Orwell “Nineteen Eighty Four” and the crudely bold novel of O.V.Vijayan “ Saga of Dhrarmapuri”( Dharmapuranam) are the two works of the twentieth century that I chanced to read. And the plots in those works seem to be absolutely apposite today. More so now with the ‘la affaire' WikiLleaks.
The major plot of Nineteen Eighty-Four is the life in one of the seven super States of Oceania, though the allegory was to the USSR and the satellite states of East Europe. O.V.Vijayan's theme was the sardonic on goings in Lutyen’s New Delhi, while Orwell’s theme was the smothered society behind the iron curtain,censorship and curb on free speech which is displayed especially in the Ministry of Truth, where photographs are doctored and public archives rewritten to rid them of persons who have been arrested, whom the Party has decided to efface from history. Official handouts of statistical figures for all types of production are grossly exaggerated (or concocted) to indicate an ever-growing economy, and prosperity, when in reality there is stagnation, and downward plummeting..
The residents of Oceania are under constant surveillance by the “Big Brother”, and the very effective way of control of the citizenry. Eaves dropping and surveillance by the Government is so prevalent .that the smallest sign of rebellion, even something small as a facial expression, can result in immediate arrest and incarceration. And, citizens are compelled to absolute obedience at all times.
O.V.Vijayan goes to the extent of providing ample substitutes to real life characters during the infamous days of Indira Gandhi’s dictatorship 1975-77.
Both novels amply illustrate the statement of the former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, “there is no aphrodisiac as absolute power”. And he was a person who with Richard Nixon used the dictum in real life to perfection and horrendous results to the world.
The Big Brother is watching us, be it in the most populous democracy, the oldest democracy, let alone in the single party ideological autocracies or religious obscurantist states. Officialdom cannot accept free speech and prevalence of information. They need to keep the lid tight on the ongoing, deeds and misdeeds within the power wielding core. And the Company can survive only if information is denied be it under any pretext, and official secrecy and security considerations are mere excuses and diversionary.
Now I come to the vigilante whistle blowing in such situations -the icon of the day Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks. Now when the prophecy of 1984 is reality and the Saga of Dharmapuri the order of the day, the courage shown by Julian Assange deserves the nomination for Nobel Peace prize and its eventual receipt. Liu Xiaobo the Chinese prisoner of conscience and the winner of the 2010 Peace prize was awarded for his long non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights.Precisely the reason why Assange is the right candidate for the peace prize 2011.
The official Swedish yardsticks for selection for the peace prize states,"..... .shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”
Going by this selection bench mark what could we term the award of the peace prize to Henry Kissinger who was instrumental in bombing Cambodia , a neutral country, out of existence, engineering military coups in Kenya, Argentina, Chile and siding Pakistan when it was engaged in ethnic cleansing in East Pakistan? Barak Obama an upstart and with an unproven track record except that he like many of us intends to wish good to the world. Yasser Arafat, who was always a renegade, who, everyone knew, will usurp his commitments for peace in the Middle East.
The WikiLeaks team consists of five people working full-time and about 800 people who work part time, none of whom are paid consideration, or salaries. WikiLeaks has no official headquarters. The yearly expenses are about €200,000, mainly for servers and bureaucracy, but would reach €600,000 if work currently done by volunteers were paid for .WikiLeaks does not pay for lawyers, as hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal support have been donated by media organisations such as the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, and the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Its only income or receipts are from donations. WikiLeaks receives no money for personnel costs, only for hardware, travelling and bandwidth. In fact all workers for WikiLeaks offer their labour voluntarily and are not paid.
WikiLeaks states that it, “has never released a misattributed document. Documents are assessed before release". In response to concerns about the possibility of misleading or fraudulent leaks, it says, "the simplest and most effective countermeasure is a worldwide community of informed users and editors who can scrutinise and discuss leaked documents."
According to statements by Julian Assange, submitted documents are vetted by a group of five reviewers, with expertise in different fields such as language or programming, who also investigate the background of the leaker if his or her identity is known.
In 2008 WikiLleaks exposed the extra judicial killings and disappearances in Kenya.
Assange is now under arrest for alleged molestation. Apparently a well orchestrated plot and it is for all of us to see what we will be up against if we make it a profession to antagonise the order of the day. The man has tremendous courage though! The Pandora’s Box is open and more can of worms and skeletons will tumble out.
Access to WikiLeaks is currently blocked in the United States Library of Congress. On 3 December 2010 the White House Office of Management and Budget sent a memo forbidding all unauthorised federal government employees and contractors from accessing classified documents publicly available on WikiLleaks and other websites. The Justice Department is also considering criminally prosecuting WikiLeaks and Assange, although former prosecutors say doing so would be difficult. So much for the neo Orwellian State of the United States of America! Remember the Americans were fuming and agitated over the Chinese government’s decision to block Google search engine. Then, the USA saw direct threat to democracy, freedom of speech and information.
Different sets of rules in democratic dispensation. And that is why the leaks are not leaks but a fundamental right. And the guardian of that right deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.