The Eleventh Edition of Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai Litfest
Monday, November 16th to Sunday, November 22nd 2020

Virtual Festival
Real Books

Live on YouTube, Facebook,
Twitter & Instagram

Debate : National Security Is More Important Than Individual Privacy

Special Events
  • Thursday, 14th Nov
  • 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
  • Tata Theatre - NCPA

For: Baijayant Panda, Hindol Sengupta

Against: Ashutosh, Shashi Tharoor

Chair: Sidharth Bhatia

It’s the easiest scenario to imagine: the State has learnt of a terrorist attack. It knows where to look but it doesn’t know who specifically to look at. The easiest answer is to monitor everyone within the neighbourhood/ community for clues of their identity. But doing so means monitoring citizens who are in no way connected with this specific group.

Modern technology has exacerbated the problem on both sides. Instant communication means that it is easier to instigate attacks, to spread disinformation faster and wider. But monitoring software has also developed exponentially and can track communications of not just an entire population but of any individual using popular search and social media sites.

In an opaque system, anyone, no matter our irrelevance to terrorism or any illegal activity, could be subject to investigation or even arrest simply because some data mining program, that was spying on us in the first place, considered us to be terrorists or criminals based on our internet habits

Let’s revisit the terrorist attack scenario, but this time as a citizen in danger of losing your life, and the lives of your loved ones, if the attack is not foiled. Would you not hold the state responsible for ensuring your safety? Or demand that the State use every means possible to prevent the attack. The role of the State, of the Government and all its agencies is to protect its citizens from harm and to preserve their right to life. Their failure to do so is an abrogation of their fundamental responsibility, and would justify castigation.

The war on terror is an ongoing one. The enemy will utilise every tool available to collect data and information. The State has to be revanchist, or lose ground to destabilising fear even if it means using non-transparent surveillance to infiltrate terrorist, or criminal, groups to protect its citizens

It’s a tough call: does the safety of its citizens’, and the potential loss of life, warrant the right to invade those same citizens privacy?


  • Jay Panda

  • Hindol Sengupta

  • Ashutosh

  • Shashi Tharoor

  • Sidharth Bhatia