Akash Narwala, a 16 year old boy from Kota, wants online pornography banned.
He has submitted an affidavit in an ongoing online pornography case in the Supreme Court, for joining the case. This is the same case, still unresolved, which led to the government of India directing ISPs to block over 800 porn sites in 2015 — colloquially referred to as #PornBan — which was subsequently removed after public criticism. The Attorney General of India, Mukul Rohatgi, had then blamed the Department of Telecom for blocking sites without verification, and said “We will obey court orders, but we don’t want to become a moral police.”
With the case due for hearing again in July, Narwala has added his voice to that of lawyer Kamlesh Vasvani, asking for a ban on porn in India. We spoke with Narwala, asking him about his motivations in adding his voice to the case:
MediaNama: When did your activism against pornography start? How old were you then?
Narwala: I started activity on this when I was 11 years old. I started the Ashleel Mukt Bharat Sangathan (Pornography-Free Movement India) in Kota. It was on TV. I was very young then, and people did support me, but I couldn’t do what I had planned out in three months’ time — I was really young and had to read out speeches. I continued working on it. After that, I was also in the Dushkar Mukt Bharat Sangathan, the Rape-Free India Movement. We hunger-striked for two-three days, for example, when a rapist in Kota wasn’t caught. I even hunger striked for a week in Delhi.
MediaNama: Why do you think that pornography is causing ‘perverse behaviour’ among Indian youth, as you said in your affidavit?
Narwala: That’s simple. Bad information does bad things when that’s the only thing a person consumes — it gets into their head. What’s happened to children’s morality? Their moral balance has been completely destroyed. The kind of things fourth and fifth graders are talking about these days — it is high time to think hard about what has happened, and to have a huge discussion about it. Saying that you can do whatever you want in your own room, including criminal activity, is not acceptable. Children’s rights matter now too. It’s the government’s responsibility to safeguard our rights, and to give us a better society. This is why I went straight to the Supreme Court and asked them to ban pornography.
MediaNama: Do you think the government is taking good steps to that end?
Narwala: Yes, I believe that it’s the government’s responsibility to protect children. Because children are dependent on others for their future. Giving them a better society is the government’s responsibility, isn’t it?
MediaNama: Do you think this government is acting effectively to carry out that responsibility?
Narwala: So I have submitted an affidavit. The Supreme Court will give orders to the government, and what they do, or don’t do, will be visible to everybody. The hearing’s going to start very soon, they’ve accepted the affidavit.
MediaNama: Before the Internet, pornography was much more difficult to access. Do you see any difference between the generations which didn’t have Internet and the ones that do, which led you to say that today’s youth are being harmed?
Narwala: Yes, definitely — but I won’t say that we have to go back to that era. It’s the age of technology. Technology is a good thing, and I want us to progress. But if something bad is happening, it is very important for society to end it. Technology is a good thing, but we need to look at its bad effects too, especially for children. Bill Gates — the world’s richest man — refused to give his children a phone until they turned fourteen. But I can’t say ‘don’t give children mobile phones’. I can’t say that. Give them a phone, but also give them a better society where they can become good people. Every child is an artist, but to actually make an artist out of them, is society’s responsibility. So the kind of society you want — for example, do you want a sub-culture, like it is happening these days? Perhaps young people are seeking out sub-cultures. I don’t want children to have a future that veers towards such sub-cultures. I want a better society, as described in Taarak Mehta [ka Ooltah Chashmah]. I dream of such a society for the whole world.
MediaNama: Do you think the previous generation had it better because they didn’t suffer from the ill effects of technology?
Narwala: The facilities that have come up now [because of technology] are good. But the graph of crime has been continuously increasing. Tell me of a single percentage — rather, an example — of crime ever actually reducing. Prisons are full of juvenile criminals these days. I have even met some of them, thanks to the movement we have started. These kids’ futures have been ruined. How did tenth graders who topped exams become rapists? It’s becoming normal. The whole world knows this.
MediaNama: How did you find out about Kamlesh Vaswani and his work?
Narwala: There was a really good discussion in the media recently. The government had said, “we can’t stop what people do in their own homes,” and so on. But they never considered who would take care of the children’s future. Children aren’t allowed [to watch porn], are they? But pre-kindergarteners are being shown these things. There was an incident in Mumbai recently where this happened. Also consider what happened in Jaipur, where a male school principal made vulgar videos with students and uploaded them online. There was also another incident in Mumbai when a man in a car started masturbating to two women in an auto rickshaw. Where does all this come from? This moral corruption is in public places now! What society wants this? Tell the children — what society wants this sort of thing to happen? This is how our futures are decided.
MediaNama: What do you think of your chances in the Supreme Court, now that your affidavit has been accepted?
Narwala: I think there’s a 100% chance [of success]. The rest is upto the government. If money ends up becoming a part of it, things may turn out differently. Even in justice. If people are determined to bring about an improvement in society, nobody can stop this. 100% chance. I won’t even say 99%. Winning this is one thing, but I can’t really peer into the government and see what they’ll end up doing. I have even tried to meet the government and make representations on this, but they never heard me out. I kept trying to get them to listen, but they never did, so I felt that going to court was the only way to solve this.
This interview was translated from Hindi.