Map row marks Wiki Conference in Mumbai

MUMBAI - Depicting national boundaries in a map is always a sensitive issue, especially in countries that have disputes with neighbouring countries. Even in India it is not uncommon for publications to be fined and publishers jailed for wrongly depicting the nation’s map.


Nithin Belle

Published: Sun 20 Nov 2011, 12:32 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 12:18 AM

But how do the authorities deal with the issue in the virtual world and how do online editors tackle the contentious subject? Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, had a taste of the fury that print editors face when they carry a wrong map in their publications, when he addressed the first WikiConference in India, at the Bombay University on Friday.

Dozens of angry Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) activists demonstrated outside the Fort campus, protesting against the wrong representation of maps of Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh on Wikipedia.

But Wales told the gathering that maps and other content on Wikipedia represent the ideas of its readers and editors and it was difficult to control such content on the open platform. The Wikipedia founder, who arrived in Mumbai early in the morning, and left within a few hours, pointed out that Wikipedia had three million contributors.

Describing the Mumbai event as the biggest Wiki conference, Wales noted that the number of contributors in Indian languages was low. He also announced the institution of a ‘Wikipidean’ of the year award to encourage contributions in local languages. The three-day conference has been organised by the US-based Wikipedia Foundation, which sees India as a major market. Wikipedia – which hosts more than 20 million encyclopedia articles in 282 languages – is available in 20 Indian languages is the fifth most visited site in the country.

The India chapter of Wikimedia supports and promotes projects within the country. The chapter, however, has no editorial control over content on Wikipedia or other related projects and does not have access to the servers hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation in the US. According to a spokesperson of the India chapter, there are over 3,200 maps of India hosted on Wikimedia websites. “A multitude of users from across the world numbering in the hundreds of thousands, use, upload, generate and create material on Wikimedia websites every single day,” adds the spokesperson. “Similarly, maps of India are uploaded and generated by such a multitude.”

In India, Wikipedians and Wikimedians mainly use maps that correspond to the national government’s depictions of the territorial boundaries of the country.

But the BJYM protestors sought police action against Wikipedia. According to Amit Satam, Mumbai president of the party, the police should have initiated action against Wales and the president of the India chapter of Wikimedia for depicting Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh in different colours, indicating they were not part of India, which is a criminal offence.

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