I was aware that I would receive some amount of criticism for my last post on the Swartz suicide given that I am criticized for pretty much anything that I write these days but I was surprised to hear some vicious criticism from some unexpected sources, namely Nandita Saika, a media and tech lawyer who maintains an interesting blog on Indian copyright law which you can access over here, in case you haven’t yet already heard of it.
On her twitter handle, Nandita writes “Nandita Saikia @nsaikia: “Just read Prashant Reddy over at @SpicyIP on 'IP ideologies and the Swartz suicide' and am disgusted beyond all measure”
While Twitter does encourage, if not institutionalize brevity, I would have expected somebody like Nandita, whom I do not remember meeting, to explain why she was condemning me on a public platform – without engaging in a constructive dialogue. For those of you who have followed the comments section on my last post, you will see that there have been several disagreements with my initial views by Swaraj and others and I have had an interesting discussion with them to get to the root of the matter and I think all parties, me included are more educated by the same.
But given that Nandita has chosen to condemn me on a public forum, without the minimum courtesies, I would like to present an unsolicited defence. I made three brief points in my last post:
(i) That nobody knew the reason for Swartz’s suicide – was it the prosecution or was it the depression that he had blogged about himself back in 2007?
(ii) I explained the background context of his prosecution and added some points to Swaraj’s earlier post on the issue and quoted some very reliable sources for the same;
(iii) I warned against using Swartz’s suicide as a tool in the IP debate, since we didn’t know what caused his suicide and it just feels wrong to use the untimely death of a young man as a political tool.
The only difference between my post and other posts like Swaraj’s post was that I didn’t display too much emotion. There is a reason for that – I have very strong views against suicides – the very first funeral that I went for in my life was for a friend who committed suicide – to see the despair in the parents and the friends who felt they didn’t do enough was heart-breaking, to say the least. I’m not one of those people who believe that we have total control over our life but I do believe that the decision to take our own lives is certainly within our control.
I didn’t want to moralize on Swartz’s suicide and I am still not going to moralize on his suicide because as much as I may be against it, I have no idea what was going on in his head before he took his life. Which is why I chose my last line in the previous post, very carefully: “We must mourn but we must not forget that there is no glory in death by suicide.” I think young people out there, especially in the Indian education system need to be told that there is always somebody to talk to about your problems and that suicide is not the solution to anything. The message should be one of encouraging young people to reach out for help in times of trouble instead of getting into a blame game. Unfortunately almost everything I have read about this suicide, contains only a message of vengeance targeted at those perceived to be responsible for this unfortunate suicide.