How Indo-Pak rivalry is harming Wikipedia

The dynamics of the famed Indo-Pak love-hate relationship may be familiar to many here at PP, afterall it periodically manifests here in form of flamewars and hottie girl talk! Unfortunately this very Indo-Pak jingoism is unraveling Internet’s biggest exercise in democracy ever, Wikipedia the free encyclopedia which anyone can edit. Wikipedia’s official policy states that in all articles, NPOV (Neutral Point of View) should be religiously maintained as far as possible with due coverage of POV of all concerned parties. But they didnt take Indo-Pak chauvinism and the emotions it evokes into account when they formulated the policies of Wikipedia! Visit any subcontinental history page (err… in these days of NPOV its strictly called South Asian history) and you will be greeted with a sign like the one above.

Brainwashed to their respective (distorted) versions of history, Indian and Pakistani nationalists are busy slugging it out over the wiki world. In the ongoing battle for ideological supremacy at Wikipedia, quality of many articles has suffered. These juvenile jingoists dont seem to realise that Wikipedia is an attempt at a serious encyclopedia not their propoganda soap box. At stake here is the credibility of South Asians and Wikipedia itself. With the ever so frequent revert wars at Indo-Pak articles, Wikipedia has become a place to read some of the most obnoxious, colourful and imaginative narratives of history. Pakistan article for example proudly proclaimed for months that Pakistan lies in Greater Middle East (wherever that is). It was only after a month long exchange of pithy insults between Indians and Pakistanis did they reach a compromise, according to Wikipedia Pakistan as of today lies in South Asia and overlaps into Greater Middle East. Indians on one hand donot seem to grasp that signifciant number of Hindu converts to Islam may have converted out of sincere belief while Pakistanis on the other hand cannot stomach that there might have been a darker side to their heroes like Aurangzeb hitherto untold to them while others are irked at the fact that linguists choose to club Urdu under “Western Hindi Languages”. Another issue that has become a bone of contention between them has been the persistent refusal of some Hindus to acknowledge the possibility of existence of Muslims belonging to their caste. Rajput article for example has seen comical revert wars with Hindu Rajputs editing out all references to Muslim Rajputs and Muslims retaliating in kind. 8 months, 3 RFC’s and an ArbCom hearing (a sort of Wiki Disputes Redressal Court) later the vandalisms continue.

With Hindu and Muslim fundamentalists engaging in one long macho repartee at Wikipedia, how can our Sikh fundys be far behind. Just a cursory glance at the Khalistan article gives one impression that the movement is much alive and kicking in India. Nevermind the fact that situation on the ground is more or less normal. Oh forgot… thats just another milicious lie spread by Congress and those nasty blood traitors (K.P.S Gill, Manmohan Singh & Co.).

To contrubte and edit in co-operation with others and develop a broader outlook and learning to appreciate others POV has been a guiding principle of Wikipedia. Sadly our South Asian editors seem to miss the point altogether. They are fast making a name for themselves as the most quarrelsome, chauvinist editors with an axe to grind in the wikiworld. Half the Wikipedia’s bureaucratic time is wasted in sorting out the mess created by South Asian editors. In past few months Wikipedia has really taken off with even a low-cost offline version in the pipeline, it is set to become a reference library of choice for millions. But unless South Asian editors learn to deal with each other and reduce the anarchy that prevails over most of South Asian articles, the articles may well be reduced to mere footnotes by the Wiki admins. And South Asians may well loose out on a chance to have reasonable portrayals of themselves in an internationally known reference library.

I am a self confessed Wikiholic with 750+ edits to Wikipedia. My wikipage can be found here.

Update: Thoroughly edited edition of this story can be found at Pickled Politics.