BJP protests over “wrong” Indian map at Wiki conference
Wikipedia does not take a stand on controversial issues, but presents both sides to educate people. “We must study what the opponents believe too,” Jimmy Wales, founder of the free online encyclopaedia, said on Friday. He was speaking on the opening day of the three-day Wiki conference being held in the city.
Mr. Wales' remarks came in the context of a brief demonstration staged by the BJP youth wing outside the venue. A group of supporters raised slogans that Kashmir was an integral part of India. Ameet Satam, Mumbai president, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha toldThe Hinduon the phone, “In the [Wikipedia] map of India, Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh were shown in a different colour. This signifies that they are not a part of India. That map has been there for a long time. Earlier, objections were raised, but the head of the India chapter said it had no control over the content in Wikipedia. So we protested today.”The protest took place at 10 a.m. after Mr. Wales had left the venue. Mr. Satam said around 35 protesters were arrested and later released on a bond.
Arguing for a “neutral” approach, Mr. Wales said, “If Wikipedia has a one-sided map that is a mistake.”
“We should be neutral. We are not here to push an agenda. Writing about the world in a neutral way is a fundamental right. It is important to understand our opponents.”
The purpose of his collaborative venture was to “educate people without taking sides”. “You have to explain controversies to people,” he said. In Germany, for instance, advocacy of the swastika is “illegal,” but an academic discussion on the Nazi symbol was not. “In India, there is no filtering on these kind of issues. It is important to understand the map debate before saying the Government of India map is correct,” he said.
He cautioned Wikipedians not to violate national laws, but at the same time maintained that unjust censorship laws needed to be changed. “Many countries have newer filtering regimes. “China filtered pages on Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.”
Mr. Wales said the thrust of Wikipedia was on fostering the growth of content in other languages. Currently, English was the largest language in Wikipedia. With a view to encouraging local language speakers and communities to contribute to the portal's database, a Global Wikipedian of the Year award was in the offing.
To facilitate entries in smaller languages, Mr. Wales called for “simplification” of rules and procedures. “There are over three million entries in English. A large community needs a lot of rules. But we don't need to copy these for a small group.” Hindi contributors stabilised with 50 editors, he said.
Professor Krishna Kumar, working on Indian languages in the U.K., said the future of Wikipedia and Wikimedia was bright. “It has done in a decade what the Alexandria library could not do in 2,000 years. Wikipedia will do a service to India where language problems have multiplied.”
Visually impaired persons spoke about the use of software to access Wikipedia. “Every word you type in Wikipedia is a helping hand for the visually impaired,” said Sathyasheelan, a government school teacher from Kerala who has been experimenting with software.
Anirudh Kumar, a Delhi professor, said most visually impaired persons only read the content on the portal but did not contribute to it.