How the Indo-Pak rivalry is harming Wikipedia


by Vikrant
30th March, 2006 at 3:09 am    

The infamous Indo-Pak love-hate relationship may be familiar to many here at PP since it periodically manifests in form of flamewars and hottie girl talk.

Unfortunately the same jingoism is unraveling the Internet’s biggest exercise in democracy: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia which anyone can edit. Wikipedia’s official policy states that in all articles a NPOV (Neutral Point of View) should be studiously maintained as far as possible.

But they clearly didn’t take Indo-Pak chauvinism into account. Visit any subcontinental history page (called South Asian history for NPOV’s sake) 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 on-going battle for ideological supremacy, the quality of many articles (Panipat, Kashmir, Terrorism in Kashmir, Urdu, Shah Jahan and Kargil War) has suffered.

These juvenile jingoists don’t 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.

The Pakistan article for example proudly proclaimed for months that Pakistan lies in Greater Middle East. It was only after a month long exchange of pithy insults was a compromise reached, with it now stating it lies in South Asia and overlaps into Greater Middle East.

Indians on one hand don’t grasp that a significant number of Hindus may have converted to Islam out of choice while Pakistanis cannot stomach that there might have been a darker side to their heroes like Aurangzeb hitherto untold to them. Others are irked at the fact that linguists choose to club Urdu under ‘Western Hindi Languages’.

Another bone of contention has been the persistent refusal of some Hindus to acknowledge the existance of Muslims belonging to their caste. A 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 RFCs and an ArbCom hearing (a sort of Wiki disputes court) later, the vandalisms continue.

With Hindu and Muslim fundamentalists engaging in one long macho repartee at Wikipedia, how can our Sikh brothers 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. Whoops, that’s just another malicious lie spread by Congress and those nasty blood traitors (K.P.S Gill, Manmohan Singh & Co.).

To contribute and edit in co-operation with others, and develop a broader outlook and while 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 Wiki-world. Half of 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 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 we may lose out the chance to have a reasonable portrayal of ourselves in an internationally known reference library.

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

————————
This is a guest article. Vikrant, aka Amey, blogs here.


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Filed in: Humour,India,Media,Pakistan,South Asia






29 Comments below   |  

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  1. DesiPundit »

    [...] Pickled Politics has an excellent take on how the Indo-Pak rivalry is harming Wikipedia with all the jingoistic talk from both sides. [...]


  2. Vik’s Rants »

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


  3. Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » India, Pakistan: Killing the Wiki

    [...] The impact of Indo-Pak rivalry spills onto the wikipedia says Pickled Politics. “Brainwashed to their respective (distorted) versions of history, Indian and Pakistani nationalists are busy slugging it out over the Wiki world. In the on-going battle for ideological supremacy, the quality of many articles (Panipat, Kashmir, Terrorism in Kashmir, Urdu, Shah Jahan and Kargil War) has suffered.” [...]




  1. Rohin — on 30th March, 2006 at 5:21 am  

    Ooooh look Vikrant, your very first guest post and an immediate DesiPundit link. Vah vah. Nice article, well researched and more wikilinks than any previous PP post I’m sure!

    Can’t they just shut a few of the problematic entries and appoint a neutral historian or something? Yeah…I know that’s not how wiki works and I’m sure there are hundreds of hotly disputed articles. Just thinking out loud. Wikipedia’s increased success has brought criticism – what with that American whatshisface politician. Was he a politician? I can’t even remember.

  2. Dynesh — on 30th March, 2006 at 6:10 am  

    “Wikipedia’s increased success has brought criticism – what with that American whatshisface politician.”

    I think he was a writer who was accused on wiki of being involved in an assasination or something. Plus there was the revelation that congressional staff members were altering biographies of their bosses….

  3. Siddhartha Singh Muslim — on 30th March, 2006 at 9:47 am  

    These juvenile jingoists don’t seem to realise that Wikipedia is an attempt at a serious encyclopedia not their propoganda soap box.

    Given that the Vikrant regulalry refers to Bangladesh as a “swamp” he’s well qualified to comment on other “juvenile jingoists”. Good article in spite of that nontheless.

  4. Vikrant — on 30th March, 2006 at 10:03 am  

    Thanks Sunny it looks much better now than my original elongated prose…. Well as for neutral historians thingy, i’m sure they do cost money! Many articles in well known encyclopedias are pretty insensitive in their portrayls of Sotuh Asians. Hinduism is all about caste, cows and subjugation of women, India is a poor poor country blah di blah trust me I would rather have a Pakistani write about my community rather than some American-rent-a-scholar. As for the links, this was just the tip of the iceberg, i’ve seen most of the nastiness firsthand, i;ve been called a “pseudo-secular half breed” by Hindu Rajputs and a RSS “chuddiwalla” by the Muslims!

  5. Vikrant — on 30th March, 2006 at 10:12 am  

    Sid,

    I’m not saying that i dont have a POV. Yes I do. But it does not reflect in my contributions to wikipedia. As for the “swamp” that was just piss taking.

  6. Jay Singh — on 30th March, 2006 at 10:21 am  

    Vikrant I am very impressed by your maturity in this article.

  7. Siddhartha Singh Muslim — on 30th March, 2006 at 10:29 am  

    I know you were dude. I was just pulling your legs. South Asians arguing jingoistically? What to do, we are like that, only.

  8. Reformist Muslim — on 30th March, 2006 at 10:59 am  

    One of the ironies of this is that it to take one example, it is the same historiography which leads to contrasting positions.

    E.g the traditionalist view that Jinnah wanted Pakistan leads to him being hero-worshipped in Pakistan as the father of the nation and demonised in India as a secessionist. Meanwhile revisionist historiography suggests he was using Pakistan as a bargaining chip for greater Muslim autonomy.

    Similarly Aurangzeb is either a Muslim hero or a Radical fundamentalist who weakened India allowing the British to take over.

    I’m thinking that both sides should read a little bit about Akbar.

  9. j0nz — on 30th March, 2006 at 11:00 am  

    Me impressed to.

    I know you hate when people mention your age, but for 16 you’re very astute. When I was 16 I was politically niave, almost bordering on… liberal conervative! :)

    So I believe we have PP’s very first poster that supports the Conservatives! Yay!

  10. Siddhartha Singh Muslim — on 30th March, 2006 at 11:03 am  

    Vikipedia? Indian!

  11. j0nz — on 30th March, 2006 at 11:19 am  

    Prince Charles? Not Indian! .. Ears too big. — African!

    Some other characters at Vikipedia

    I thought it was particularly hilarious when he said, Jesus? … Indian! lol

  12. Vikrant — on 30th March, 2006 at 11:50 am  

    err thankee Jay, Jonz ‘n Sid

    latest drivel on wikipedia:
    There is no need whatsoever to include the Ghandi terrorist in a picture with Jinnah, Ghandi is not the founding father of Pakistan and is a man responsible for riots and influencing them by emotional blackmail (ie starvation), The terrorist was always locked into prison by the British and this should give you an indication of Ghandis intolarable charachter. Jinnah on the otherhand was a seperate individual with different rational and morals, he was never once in prisoned, and he led a DEMOCRATIC move that was peaceful. There is no need to have Jinnah in a picture with Ghandi as there is with Churchill and Hitler on the Churchill webpage, churchill stood for peace and democracy likek jinnah, Ghandi like Hitler stood for Facism and violence.

    Link here

    lol

  13. raz — on 30th March, 2006 at 12:02 pm  

    that was me

    jk :)

    PS you just got your first comment on your blog – don’t say i’m not good to you :)

  14. Suyog — on 30th March, 2006 at 1:12 pm  

    Thankfully the topic is now locked on wiki – and I think there is nothing wrong in what ppl from both sides are doing actually.

    Afterall its a free medium (wikipedia) – this is bound to happen.

    Suyog

  15. Vikrant — on 30th March, 2006 at 1:25 pm  

    Sure there is nothing wrong in ppl from both sides writing an article in co-ordination with each other, but Indians and Pakistanis are indulging in tit-for-tat unilateral POV editing. Thats not to say that South Asians are the only ppl doing it, (check Israelis and Arabs) but nevertheless the scope and magnitude of misinformation propogated in South Asian articles is enormous.

  16. Sunny — on 30th March, 2006 at 4:12 pm  

    Heh, I thought the article was hilarious too. I never knew that bubbling underneath Wikipedia would be the Indo-Pak jingoism, but now that you look at it, its not surprising is it…

  17. Ashish Gupta — on 30th March, 2006 at 6:01 pm  

    Well researched article.

    However, I do not buy that mess is solely South-Asian Wikipedian’s doing. All hot topic, including President Bush, Iraq War, Holocast, etc. are under constant POV edits. Where there is any controversy in world (Israel-Palestine) there is POV. Just that we have more of Indian and Pakistanis on Wiki (due to their population, US immigration, and internet access) POVizes the Indo-Pak centric topic.

    Also, it may not be true that South-Asians aren’t getting the NPOV idea. It is just that NPOV is itself POV for some. There are multiple versions of truth. NPOV doesn’t imply that we equally say Holocast was good as well as bad.

    Me too Wikiholic

  18. Don — on 30th March, 2006 at 7:13 pm  

    Vikrant,

    Good article. At this rate, by the time you apply to uni. you will have a damn fine portfolio.

  19. Lover, not figher — on 31st March, 2006 at 12:44 am  

    If only we could fight all disputes in wikipedia!

  20. foxy — on 31st March, 2006 at 2:53 am  

    Jonz said…

    ….When I was 16 I was politically niave, almost bordering on… liberal conervative! :)

    Look at you now Jonz, all grown up, looking very smart in your jack boots and black shirt, if only your mama could see you now!!!

    Foxy

  21. Nanda Kishore — on 31st March, 2006 at 4:39 am  

    Hmmm…doesn’t surprise, does it?

    Pakistanis cannot stomach that there might have been a darker side to their heroes like Aurangzeb…

    Pray tell me why Aurangzeb should be a hero for anyone? How come he’s a hero to Pakistanis?

    Oh, btw, I’m an Indian (born Hindu).

  22. Vikrant Singh — on 31st March, 2006 at 8:27 pm  

    This is just in. Pakistan has BLOCKED wikipedia!!!

    http://digg.com/links/Pakistan_goes_People_s_Republic_of_China_on_Wikipedia

  23. Zak — on 3rd April, 2006 at 2:37 pm  

    This is not peculiar to Pak-indo disputes..go read a post on the 1973 Arab Israeli war and tell me if thats NPOV? Or A lot of Muslim references..the problem is wiki too often ends up a place of who shouts the loudest ..and not who shouts the best.

  24. Sunny — on 3rd April, 2006 at 9:26 pm  

    True true…. all good points made folks. India-Pak are not the only rivalry going but given the huge amounts of them on the internet I’m sure they pose a bigger problem… now and in the future.

    And Pak has not blocked wikipedia, it was just a temporary thing :p

  25. Shob — on 19th April, 2006 at 11:27 pm  

    I’ve recently discovered this site and I LOVE IT!
    regarding the current article…I’m just glad I’m Bengali :D (damn…i dont know whether I should have said that here, theres probably someone typing up some lame bengali-fish jokes : S )

  26. Sunny — on 20th April, 2006 at 2:40 am  

    Heh, don’t worry Bengalis are more than welcome! They don’t get into any India v Pakistan online arguments, so we prefer them ;)

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