California Observer

Opinion: Longing for Anonymity

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In June 2009, Ashutosh Kaushik did something “stupid and risky” that he says he regrets. He was young and famous when he was arrested in Mumbai for driving a motorbike under the influence of alcohol. He was detained for a day and paid a fine. His driver’s license was also suspended.

In a nation of more than a billion people, this kind of crime and punishment sounds like it regularly occurs without anyone noticing. But Ashutosh Kaushik was not just anyone.

He won on two Indian reality shows, MTV Roadies and Bigg Boss. He was famous and a celebrity.

Over 12 years later, Ashutosh Kaushik has had roles in a few Hindi films, including Zila Ghaziabad and Shortcut Romeo. He is also now married. But he tells BBC that a foolish and reckless thing he committed when he was young and enamored by his fame continues to affect his life and career even now.

“I got everything I wanted so early in life,” he said. “I was inexperienced and made a mistake and I was punished for it. But I’m 42 now, and I feel I’m still paying the price.”

“I have lost out on work,” he added. “I’ve been rejected for marriage several times, and every time I move, my new neighbors look at me strangely.”

Ashutosh Kaushik was subjected to the harsh light of fame. 

He says he would like the story, photos, and videos of his drunken motorbike ride in 2009 removed from those sites, even without asking for cash damages.

“When a court sentences an accused, it’s for a ‘term,’” he said. “So the digital punishment should also have a time limit.”

He has also gone on to request an Indian high court to recognize “the right to be forgotten,” which is already recognized in some countries, including the European Union. It is the right to ask that personal information posted about you be removed online. Many companies would just say they post what’s publicly available.

This right is not recognized in India nor in the US. 

“But it’s hard to hear the phrase and not wonder about some foolish thing almost any of us have done while young, or not so young, and would like to forget, and by which we would not want our lives to be judged,” writes opinion columnist Scott Simon.

When he was young, Ashutosh Kaushik longed to be famous. Now, he longs for anonymity.

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