Monday, May 29, 2023

The masked identity

We lived in the age from “The Phantom” by Lee Falk during childhood. It’s a costumed crime-fighter of American adventure, which operates from the fictional African country of Bangalla, and we had to wait for a fortnight to see a few comic strips from our favourite magazine “Prantik”. Later the character has been adapted for TV, film and video. Another American superhero “Batman” wages eternal war on the criminals of Gotham city and with amazing spider-like abilities, Spiderman did spinning around and climbing plenty of obstacles to help others. Incidentally they are all masked super hero of our time. We were often captivated by those fictional characters because of its supernatural abilities.
However, it shall be unlawful for any person with the intent to conceal his identity, wear any mask or hood whereby a face is hidden or covered in any public place but after the Covid catastrophe, masks migrate into the realm of fashion then fugitives and masked thief have their heyday with face mask. We often see faces of an arrested person’s face covered in masks or half covered by handkerchiefs or any other piece of cloth. People began suspecting those headgear wearers and even helmets are used to hide their identity. Basically, a suspect’s face is hidden till the crime is proved.
Nevertheless people seemed to be happy with masked identity. Pictures of people in hoodies in solidarity have been flooding social networking sites. Famous people often find their privacy is invaded by the press. The list is endless from Bollywood’s tinted car window to sun shades; celebrities simply choose to stay private. The people of Gujrat, Rajasthan, and Punjab tie a Turban or Pagri to keep the head cool to escape from the blazing heat and they even use desert scarf to protect eyes during sandstorms. It’s also a traditional Middle Eastern outfit that covers everything from head to toe. Soon you might not have to remove mask to pass through airport security. Facial recognition technology at checkpoints is expected to recognize with half face covered.
There were bizarre, impressive and hilarious funerary asks of the ancient world. The Bhaona masked culture of Majuli is an artistic interpretation introduced by Srimanta Sankardeva in the Sattriya culture. The Special Forces soldiers cover their face to keep their identity private. Wearing surgical-style masks, primarily to prevent the spread of illness, has become a part of social etiquette in Japan. The custom was spurred on by the H1N1 influenza epidemic of 2009.
On the other day when I came across about the masked Aadhaar, while a senior citizen felt concern about data privacy issue of individuals and refused to disclose first 8 of 12 digits in KYC. Masked Aadhaar number implies replacing of first 8 digits of Aadhaar number with some characters like “xxxx-xxxx” while only last 4 digits of the Aadhaar Number are visible. Aadhaar number is personally sensitive information like bank account number, passport number, PAN number, etc., which should be strictly shared only on a need basis for a legitimate use for establishing identity and for legitimate transactions.
The photo, QR code, demographic information and other details are still present with this masked version of Aadhaar and now it’s legally accepted. The central government has asked citizens to only share masked copies of their Aadhaar cards to prevent misuse. Further, unlicensed private entities are like hotels and film halls are not allowed to collect or keep copies of Aadhaar card. It’s an offence under the Aadhaar Act 2016.
Above all masks still matter today because it helps protect against some of the health risks of exposure to air pollution and people do it (mask) with great style like the most iconic Kala Chashma (black shades). Well, that’s on the lines of what that senior citizen had in mind for the masked Aadhaar, but there are a few tweaks one needs to make before it’s right and I too would appreciate it if a mask would protect one’s identity in public.
Kamal Baruah

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