There is a general feeling among the liberal voices that the idea of India which stood for plurality, diversity, secularism and inclusiveness is in danger today at the hands of extremist right-wing organizations and their propaganda tools especially on social media. In yesteryears we were condemned to face violence of left wing extremism; today we are facing the irrational and extremist right wing. The priorities of the country have been overshadowed by right wing extremism. The issues of unemployment, poverty, inequality and poor human development have been sidetracked for popularizing a particular ideology and social media has helped in bringing the trivial on top of the agenda of the ruling elite and their foot-soldiers as if love jihad or gauraksha were the most crucial issues to make or break India! People with a dissenting voice or alternative ideas are not only being described as anti-national, but are being silenced by force, even being killed. Gauri Lankesh, a renowned and courageous journalist, became victim of such a gagging culture.
Misuse of Social Media on increase
Social media has brought people closer and connected and given birth to a big talking chaupal. People with no voice and attention also now have a space and opportunity to speak out and give vent to their ideas. Social media if used properly and ethically may help to educate, enlighten, share and care by communicating and sharing truth and right values with a large number of people. But social media can also pervade untruth, propaganda and rumor. It can also be used for propagating extremist ideology, hate and inciting violence. We have seen enough of this in recent times. Information and propaganda with a political motive are being propagated and the people unquestioningly believe these because they are unable to process this bombardment of information, fabricated facts and manufactured lies. The managers of social media are saying that they would now have a watch on such accounts, flag them and deregister them if they continue to use their platform for these nasty activities. It is to be seen whether they really mean it and they can succeed in weeding out pervert communications.
Liberals have become most vulnerable minority
Liberals have become most vulnerable minority in today’s times who are repeatedly persecuted by right wing extremist propaganda media and their trolls. The recent assassination of journalist Gauri Lankesh and the venom spewed by certain fringe elements on social media against her and rejoicing and celebrating her assassination forces us to think that are we heading to an intolerant and perverted society? Ironically the PM of India Mr.Modi follows one of that person (@Nikhil Dadhich) on twitter! Nikhil Dadhich, 38-year-old Surat-based textile trader gave a shameless and perverted remark, “A bitch died a dog’s death and now all the puppies are wailing in the same tune.” Later after nationwide outrage he claimed that he wrote the tweet in reference to a doggie which had died in his street that day. Pune-based Ashish Mishra, a computer science graduate from IIT Bombay, also followed by Modi, had tweeted shortly after Lankesh’s killing : ’Jaisai Karni, Vaisi Bharni (as you sow, so shall you reap). He was unrepentant saying “I didn’t say anything wrong. She (Lankesh) was with the anti-nationals of JNU, with the azadi gang of Kashmir.” Looking on such opinions, a question comes to our mind what kind of education is imparted in technical institutions which is bereft of minimal understanding of humanity and social dynamics. Your education institute’s brand cannot justify your weird thinking, you are measured by the values and virtues that you cherish and the sum total of your character. Stung by the uproar the tweets sparked, the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) has said the prime minister followed a cross-section of people on Twitter and that his ‘following’ handles did not mean a character certificate for those being followed. The meaning of such simplistic answers is not difficult to understand.
Assault on Indian culture and values
The Indian culture is not that of hate-mongering and venom spewing at the death of any person even if s/he is your enemy. But the so-called custodians of Indian culture on social-media have transgressed all such norms of decency.
The past few years have witnessed the growth of such radical elements in the society. The online trollers have become modern age muscleman (bahubali) of certain political parties who make political dividends by creating a fear psychosis in the minds of liberal intellectuals and those journalists who put tough questions to establishment. The killing of GauriLankesh should be viewed in that wider context where a message is given to the liberal voices that if they raise tough questions or criticize their narrative, then they will meet the same fate as Gauri did. Same thing and same message was tried to be given in the past killings of Dabholkar, GovindPansare and Kalburgi.
In today’s time even protest through non-violent means is crushed. It happened when few groups of Dalits tried to protest against UP CM Adityanath by trying to present him a big soap engraved with Lord Buddha’s image to cleanse his mentality and soul were arrested on their way. In another case those people who showed black flags to UP CM were arrested. It reminds us of the Quote by FiraqGorakhpuri-
‘’The day will come
There will be anger but no protest.
There will be a danger and a toxin
Which the ruler himself will sound’’
An undemocratic narrative is growing
A narrative is being set in the country that those who are not with us are against us, are anti-nationals, anti-Hindus etc. Such things are very dangerous precedent for the working of Indian democracy. When the journalists and intellectuals will be silenced and all the voices of dissent will be throttled, then it will result in a totalitarian, illiberal and autocratic functioning of government. Journalists or intellectuals with different opinions should be promoted rather than being persecuted as they help in rooting the democracy deeper and stronger as well as in promoting new progressive ideas for the society. The beauty of the democracy is that all progressive voices whether they are against the establishment or pro-establishment are promoted and cherished.
The culture of silence and brinkmanship is dangerous
If people of the country do not raise in support of independent media then the day is no longer when quotes of Martin Niemoller will come true for India- ‘’First they came for Socialists, and I did not speak out- Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out- Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out- Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me.’’
Another pattern of mobocracy is being seen in the case of mob-lynching. The violence perpetrated by the so-called ‘gau-rakshaks’ (cow-protectors) in the name of ‘gau-raksha’ (cow-protection) on the minorities and the instant justice given by mob in lynching the person to death resembles to the unruly scene of medieval times when mob used to take laws in its own hand. Such trends are not progressive to India rather they are regressive, backward-looking which will take the country to the dark-age of medieval Europe where all the progressive rational voices were crushed by the anti-rational sections of clergy.
Questions are staring in our eyes and peeping into our hearts
We have to stop ourselves and think that are these things leading us forward or to backward, unruly, uncivilized and barbaric society? The question becomes more serious when such tainted people known for hate speeches, riots and other heinous charges are elevated in the rank and file of the ruling party. People wonder why the Chief Ministers are selected on the basis of their extreme hard line stands against a particular community. People wonder why the PM who is known for tweeting on each and everything takes such a long time to condemn such ghastly acts! This selective silence from the top executive, who is the last hope for all the citizens of the country, not only breaks the self esteem of millions and demoralizes the discerning one, but also embolden these fringe elements who have become more brazen, unscrupulous and brutal. They are not only tearing the hearts of millions of innocent and good citizens, but they are also tearing all the rights given to citizens by their greatest scripture- the constitution of India!
India’s social and cultural fabric should not be a victim of politicking
To sum up, such incidents help certain political groups with vested interests which make political dividends by radicalizing or polarizing the society. But in the long run it destroys the social fabric and creates schisms in the society which is difficult to overcome easily. The constitution of India and the idea of India reflected in it is that of social cohesiveness and not of divisiveness. It promotes freedom of speech and expression and not persecuteit. If society does not analyze itself and gives a strong message to the ruling establishment through constitutional means, then it is writing the story of its doom. The culture of tolerance and universal-brotherhood embedded in India is itself in danger at the hands of these fringe elements who try to rewrite and redefine the history and culture of India. The societies which do not have the courage to examine themselves are condemned to degeneration. And when the educated and economically powerful citizens keep silent on the issues that matter, the writing on the wall is clear- a looming doom on the future of Indian democracy.
Those who saw a bitch in difference of opinion and antinational act in dissent should know that the truth the espouse ins not absolute and the government which they now love came without bloodshed is through the noble democratic process that India has developed over decades. The best thing is that you believe in your ideology, but allow others to espouse their own. John F. Kennedy rightly said, “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” Joshua Liebman further elaborated on this – Tolerance is the positive and cordial effort to understand another’s beliefs, practices, and habits without necessarily sharing or accepting them. Tom Hannah makes a great point for civilization’s progress by saying that tolerance and celebration of individual differences is the fire that fuels lasting love.
When a rational voice is gagged, it does not die; it multiplies
Gauri Lankesh has not died. Socrates did not die neither did Christ. Mahatma Gandhi Lives on. Martin Luther King lives on. Such people physically fade away but their voice keeps reverberating in our hearts and they become invisible torch bearers for the progress of human civilization. They do not die, they fade away. She dared to speak, when we were afraid to speak. In the pantheon of ethical journalism she would always stand out and laugh on foolishness of post truth! When Socrates was prosecuted and forced to take poison, some courtiers mocked on him saying that there comes death for him for speaking against the establishment, Socrates nonchalantly quipped- “who knows, who is going to die and who is going to live.” These prophetic words ring even today. When a rational voice is gagged, it multiplies. Gauri Lankesh has already taken rebirth in many minds! And we should not forget that gagging is a crime, whoever does it wherever and whenever. Great philosopher J.S Mill rightly said, ‘’If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind’’