Ragu is a seventeen-year-old boy, who had lived in extreme poverty. His mother had worked at our place as a domestic help, some time back. Her husband had died due to excessive alcohol consumption, and her finances were not enough to support two children who were going to school. Ragu wanted to help his mother for the family so that financial strains could be reduced, to do so, he quit school.
His mother did not want him to do that, but she was helpless as she was illiterate and bound by many shackles of society. However, under a deserving scheme of ensuring the post of the First Graduate from a family and due to affirmative action (aka reservation, perhaps the most vilified word by certain sections of society) by the Government of India, he was able to go to college.
Shyam is also a seventeen-year-old boy, who lived in relative comfort, studying in a good CBSE school. He spent hours preparing for JEE, attending coaching, getting extra materials and so on. However, unfortunately, he failed to crack JEE, perhaps he didn’t clear the cut-off. His friend Rajan, was able to get into IIT, despite having a lesser score. An angry Shyam curses his fate, aided and abetted by the people around him. He makes a generalized statement that, “These quota people manage to take the seats we deserve.” Never mind the fact that Rajan and Shyam were inseparable friends.
My aim is not to talk about reservation, but something that we fail to address sufficiently.
Misinformation refers to false information that is spread, regardless of its intent to mislead. Disinformation refers to deliberately misleading or providing biased information, manipulated narrative or facts. Shyam and many other people like him make assumptions that reservation by itself is a tool with which people “who are less talented come in, solely because of caste.”
Let’s just ignore the statement by itself, (which has no empirical proof and also fails to consider the historical and social grievances that people who were lower castes had to face for centuries) and focus on what is behind the statement. This statement has no factual basis, and is misinformation. When this statement is pedalled to a large section of people solely for “bringing out to notice about perceived injustices some people face because of reservation,” this becomes disinformation.
Disinformation is the first step with which a single life’s value is subsumed into the collective. When we consider Ragu’s case, we end up feeling happy for him, and his individual success. But when we lump an entire set of people under a category, the individual becomes faceless. With the primal instinct of human nature to function effectively as social animals, the individual is relegated to an identity that is not completely their own, and this identity of theirs is attributed to a group.
So when a group of people is targeted to further another group’s cause, the individual in that group is assumed to have all the similar characteristics of the group. This makes it so much easier to actively spew venom over a faceless entity, rather than talking with a person individually for who he or she is. When Shyam considers an entire group of people (‘quota people’) to be wrong, he finds it easier to include his friend Rajan into the group and attack him based on a so-called injustice, rather than looking into Rajan as a person.
Disinformation is a key to ensure social dominance. When propaganda is used effectively, it causes untold damage. Lynching in its various forms: because of eating beef, child kidnapping, letting loose the carnal violence which no individual would dare to do but feels perfectly at home doing it in a bloodthirsty crowd. Beating up Muslims because they don’t say “Jai Shri Ram” (Poor Lord Ram, would be horrified by the use of his name), assaulting the Dalit community due to many reasons that would defy logic (Una, Singampalli, Dharmapuri and so on), all started because of a concerted effort to keep power away from socially backward groups who challenged domination.
All this continues to happen because of the second step, dehumanisation. When a certain group of people isn’t worthy of respect, automatically they become worthless. That reduces the humanity of the group and as a result, be begun to be treated as something less than human. We’ve had provocative statements throughout history, by all social groups. No one group is innocent. We’ve heard statements such as the ‘final solution,’ ‘kill the infidels,’ ‘illegal immigrants are termites’ and many more, all which work on the fact that the particular group being targeted are less than human.
With respect to a global scenario, different groups have been the persecutors and persecuted at different points of history. I am not here to morally condemn any one group, rather I’m pointing out the consequences of disinformation.
The third D is devastation and I’m sure that I don’t need to state the obvious. The next time when anyone makes a generalised statement, pause and think. Because these three Ds can not only ruin entire societies, at the end of the day, they ruin lives. The group is after all, made of individuals.