Congress today said the Modi government’s “hasty retreat” on the contentious draft encryption policy re-establishes the strength of “democratic dissent” over “Tughlaqi farmans”.
Claiming the move was aimed at “overriding” all sense of individual freedom of speech and expression and encroaching upon the right to privacy, the party called for united efforts to repulse any move of the government to subjugate individual liberty “again through the backdoor”.
“Modi government’s hasty retreat re-establishes the strength of ‘democratic dissent’ over ‘Tughlaqi farmans (diktats)’,” it said.
“Like in the case of net neutrality, a massive public outrage over encryption policy has made the government take a u-turn momentarily. Intent of the government, however, stands exposed.
“All Indians would need to stand united to ensure that the government does not bring back such policies to subjugate individual liberty again through the back door,” Congress chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala told reporters here.
Surjewala said that the Draft Policy on Encryption of the Department of Electronic and Information Technology first circulated, then amended and now withdrawn with a rider for re-issuing it, is “a totalitarian, misconceived and a failed attempt of Modi Government”.
Alleging that subjugation of individual freedom, surveillance on the citizen and suppression of dissents have emerged as the “DNA” of the government, he said in the last 16 months, the Modi dispensation has made “systematic, sinister attempts” to quash dissent and undermine individual liberty.
He said another recent example is the “authoritarian” circular issued by the BJP-led government in Maharashtra threatening to press sedition charge for legitimate criticism of government and political leadership.
Besides, he said, contrary to the stated objective of creating an information security environment and secure transactions, the draft encryption policy gave the Modi government a licence to indulge in 24×7 surveillance and monitor private lives of citizens, particularly the youth.
Congress’ sharp reaction came within hours of Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad announcing withdrawal of the draft encryption policy that sought to make it mandatory for everyone to store all messages, including those of WhatsApp, for 90 days.
The draft encryption policy, released yesterday, wanted businesses, telcos and Internet companies to store all encrypted data for 90 days in plain text which should be presented before law enforcement agencies whenever asked.