Campuses in Delhi are massive hubs of debates, discussions and opinions. For a student coming from Mumbai, it is a fascinating experience. One such debate was about the increasing violence against rationalists and liberals.
The death of Gauri Lankesh shook everyone. The period will be marked as the time when the entire media fraternity came together with one voice. Now, amongst other things the discussion was about people like Ramchandra Guha, who is quite famous and yet voices out his opinions against the government. How safe are people like Guha, who are so robustly in the public domain?
I am of the opinion that the people who’d be attacked or would probably come in the harm’s way are the lesser known people like Gauri Lankesh. No one would risk hurting the comparatively known liberals.
Anyway, the article isn’t about the killings and the fear associated with it. After the discussion, I read a piece by Guha, which was called, “The Hindutva Hate Mail” where he had made a collection of abuses that people threw at him on e-mail. This is a much older piece when the social media hadn’t kicked in as yet; thus, hate ‘mail’.
I started to relate to that article; paragraph after paragraph, word after word. The amount of hatred spewed on social media is tremendous. You write something criticising the government; the next thing you know is, your wall or the comment section is filled with long messages of hate and abuse.
The rhetoric is more or less the same, ‘Modi is the only Messiah of the living people of Hindustan’. Now, there is a considerable difference in the abuses which Guha faced and the ones which we see today, on social media on every other post. The group of tolerant civilians has gone down drastically.
Everything has to be addressed, every statement needs to have a counter statement today, and every discussion has to end with personal bashing. This is not restricted only to the right wing. Even the left is accused of being less tolerant towards the ‘stupid’ right as they like to call it. We on social media are forced into believing things.
We are constantly bombarded with information that creates strong perceptions for or against something or someone. The only difference, and probably a massive one is that some political right wing people tend to believe these ‘things’ on social media more than the people with liberal ideas.
This bombardment of information, and many times the wrong one pushes this group of people more towards the right, and thus the hate comes in extensively. Intolerance, dissent, freedom of expression, etc.; these are just fancy terms. These people have a romantic affair with the RSS-BJP!
It isn’t as simple as it looks. There’s a huge team of people with mobile phones and free internet, ready to attack any idea that goes against the narrative of the government. They will copy-paste the same message over and over again on multiple posts until people start believing it. Ever wondered why the top comment on every news post on Facebook does have to be a pro-BJP one?
Reportedly, people are paid to like the comments so that, that particular comment is displayed at the top. And usually, the top comment garnishes more attention than the post, itself. Many of my friends and I face this problem of abuses from unknown people on social media. Some are asking us to go abroad to our neighbouring country; some are so bad that I can’t mention them here.
They paint everyone with the same colour, Muslims are called names like ‘mullah’, etc. I have a very different set of religious beliefs. Thus these abuses don’t affect me much. But, some people are fundamentally attached to their beliefs, which makes all the more difficult for them to deal with these abuses.
The BJP has been bagging on this formula for quite some time now. And they have been successful at polarising the opinion. The information flow which is supposed to be multi-dimensional on social media has subconsciously become unidirectional with a limited few acting as gatekeepers.
It is an alarming situation that many of us face all throughout the day. The culture of defaming people on social media is perpetrating in the system very fast. People talk about each other in a very insensitive way, and it’s not just about the psychology of the people. We apparently are being played.
The right-wing forces want the Hindus to believe that the Muslims are an immediate threat to their existence in the country, and while they try making Muslims think that they are cornered in the society. The question that arises is why is the BJP playing it so defensively? Why are they not allowing an alternative voice to gain space in the society?
Why are they so selective about what’s right for the country and what’s not? Why are rationalists like Lankesh murdered? (Although I do not directly blame the RSS-BJP for this.) Even after having won a lot of states in the previous year, why are they still politically vulnerable?
I think the BJP is getting uncomfortable with the upcoming elections and there’s fear of losing some states before 2019 general elections.
One cannot perfectly predict the future, but cheap social media tactics are going to increase tenfold as the election season approaches.
An Egyptian friend of mine asked me that how India is one even after so much diversity in culture. This looks like a cliché’ question, but she had a fair point because Egypt has a very monotonous culture, yet the problems and violence that the country is facing are tremendous. Very frankly I didn’t have an answer to her question.
I guess we are structured that way from generations. We have learnt to live along with different kinds of people, and the ‘secularity’ which our scholars like to define now and then is hereditary.
I really hope that this “Go back to Pakistan” trend ends. But making hopeful statements isn’t a wise thing to do!