Imagine lying ripped apart, slashed, broken, bleeding, knowing you will never see your loved ones, your kids, your parents, your family, ever again.
Imagine telling your family you will be home soon. Imagine never making it. Imagine being descended upon by a crowd of people baying for your blood. Imagine wondering why. Imagine trying to escape, to protest, to deny, to explain, to say that you have not done anything wrong. Imagine begging for your life. Imagine being torn apart by your own countrymen. Imagine. Imagine lying ripped apart, slashed, broken, bleeding, knowing you will never see your loved ones, your children, your parents, your family, ever again. Because you have become victim of a mindless lynch mob. One that heard a rumour on WhatsApp.
A very powerful, instant networking tool has come into the hands of people who are not responsible and mature enough to use it. But, don’t rush to the conclusion that this maturity is not available to the vernacular, Hindi-speaking communities. As Indians we may perhaps, collectively lack this maturity.
Rumour mongering is an ancient pastime. And everyone engages in it regardless of culture, nationality or station in life. The rich and the poor, the urban folk and those rural, the old and the young, all love to gossip and talk. They love to be the first conveyors of news, the more volatile the gossip and the story, the better. Most of the rumours are harmless and like viruses they die out. The danger is when WhatsApp leads to physical networking. Flash mobs. Crowds.
Flash mobs are not accidental. Rumours maybe. Flash mobs take organising and a oneness of purpose, however devious it be. What is the benefit that any political party can draw from such violent flash mobs? Apparently, not much, but when you look deeper, you realise that there is one very distinct purpose – the rumour, the gathering and the violence thereafter serve. They provide instant gratification.
With nothing to do, nothing to look forward to, no hope for the future, lots of pent up anger, suddenly these people have a purpose. An enemy materialises. And like lightening they fall on him.
Cut to Germany 1936.
A man called Adolf Hitler stood in a beer bar in Berlin, ranting about the poor shape of the German economy, the unemployment, the huge war indemnity debt and the crushed German pride. Most of the people didn’t pay attention to him. Months later the same Hitler stood in the same bar. This time he said that the German problem was nothing else but the greedy profiteering Jew. And that the Jew needed to be eliminated. He offered The Final Solution. Suddenly the entire beer bar erupted into instant applause. They now had a clear enemy they could identify. The rest is rotten history. What it did to Germany, indeed the whole world is there to see. Do you see similarities? Most of us do. Some prefer to play blind.
The government has made promises and done nothing to realise them. The unemployed and the under-employed sit and twiddle thumbs all day. They have nothing to do and are trigger happy, willing to direct their anger at the closest target.
An angry electorate is not a good thing. But if you find that angry electorate an enemy to direct their negative energy upon, there is gratification and release. There is someone to blame for everything. And an instant sense of camaraderie, however, misguided blossoms. The voter is still angry- but not with you. Not with the government anymore. He is angry at ‘other’ communities, at those who are better off, the list is long. His discontentment fed and fired by these social networking tools, resulting in acute violence, as soon as the opportunity is created.
Like a giant community orgasm, a lynch mob has a collective release. Job done. The promise of the next big one keeps the fire going. This is what is happening to India. A dangerous pattern has been seen. What this will do later on to the fabric of the country is anybody’s guess.
This is the dark side of the butterfly effect. Mindless forwards and repeatedly too, begin to stir the winds dangerously. When educated people, rich people, successful people also press ‘send’ on their WhatsApps, they endorse the venomous nonsense they are spreading.
Countless people have died at the hands of such rumour fuelled mobs. The central government has directed the states and union territories to take action to prevent incidents of mob lynching fuelled by rumours of child lifting circulating on social media. Too little too late, one might say.
In response to the government’s directive, the US-based social media platform, WhatsApp said that fake news, misinformation, and hoaxes can be kept in check by the government, civil society and technology companies all working together. WhatsApp said that it can only prevent spam messages. Since it cannot see the content of the messages, which are private, it cannot block users. The facility of blocking abusers of the platform is only based on the reports of users. A lot can be said about the responsibility of the platform in question. After all, it’s interest cannot only be in making money from it’s rapidly growing user base. But, that is a question for another time.
Why did the people go and kill the couple in Tamil Nadu or the techie in Bangalore? Ridden and burdened by poverty, hopelessness, frustration, unconnected people went and killed unknown people.
What can be more frightening and disturbing? The under privileged have lived in forced economic isolation for long now, their lives have become pressure chambers of stress waiting to vent themselves. This yields to outbursts of violence, much like the venting holes near volcanic pressure zones. Crafty politicians are harvesting this when they should be working on alleviating this scourge.
The question to ask now, is how has this atmosphere of fear and hate been perpetrated. Who has perpetuated this mood in the country? The time is now. To wrest our country back.