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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 33 New Delhi August 4, 2018

How do we Promote Peace in India Today?

Tuesday 7 August 2018

by Ram Puniyani

We are passing through times when hate against weaker sections of society and religious minorities is increasing by leaps and bounds. The increase in the mob lynching all over the country on the pretext of child lifting is coming on the back of mob lynching on the pretext cow-beef, public flogging—humiliation of Dalits on the issue of beef and other issues related to their caste humiliation. Mobs seem to be emboldened by the fact that there has been an approval of these acts from the top. Ministers like Mahesh Sharma came to the funeral of the Dadri accused, now Jayant Sinha has welcomed the Alimuddin lynching accused when they got bail. The matters are frighteningly increasing as the horrid incidents of rape are being given a communal twist, fake news is being employed with impunity on one side and rape accused are getting social support on the other. It’s a matter of shame that in the Kathua case the then Ministers from the BJP, Chaudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, attended the event organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch, which was protesting against the arrests in the case.

In the case of the Mandsaur rape, the incident is being given a false twist to demonise a community. The accused belonged to the Muslim community. Muslim groups took out a procession demanding severe punishment to the accused. Jyotiraditya Scindiya of the Congress joined a candle-light procession to demand death penalty to the accused. Social media was used to spread the hateful message as if he was demanding the release of the accused. The pictures of the procession were photo-shopped to present Muslims in bad light. A message was circulated, which said that members of the Muslim community rallied in Mandsaur demanding that the perpetrator of the crime be released because the Quran sanctions rape of non-Muslim women.

The text of the placards in the Mandsaur procession was: “We won’t tolerate attacks on daughters, stop this brutality”. A tweet was circulated: “NCRB report: India is most dangerous for women. Reason: In India, 95 per cent of the rape cases have a Muslim perpetrator. Of the total 84,734 rape cases, 81,000 rapes had a Muslim rapist and 96 per cent of the victims are non-Muslims and with an increase in their population, the number of rapes will also increase.”

Nothing can be farther from the truth. The NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) does not record the religion in cases of rape. This tweet and the one about Jyotiraditya Scindia were exposed by AltNews, the portal going to the roots of such fake news and doing a great service to society by giving the truth and exposing the news which is deliberately trying to demonise the religious minority. One recalls that in case of Muzzafarnagar, the violence was incited by circulating a photo of two young men being beaten by a Muslim looking crowd. It was presented that Hindu youth were being beaten. As such that picture was from Pakistan, the crowd beating two thieves.

Recently in Kairana the Mahagathbandhan candidate, Tabassum Hasan, won the election against the BJP candidate. After winning she stated: “This is the victory of truth and ‘Mahagatbandhan’ (coalition) and defeat of the BJP in the State and Centre. Everyone has come out and supported us. I thank them.” On social media and on TV debates what was presented was that she said: “This is the victory of Allah and defeat of Ram.” This quote was posted on a number of pro-BJP pages on Facebook among which Yogi Adityanath-True Indian posted it on June 1, and was shared massively.

One recalls that in recent times the BJP has deliberately muddied the waters of social media by employing thousands of trolls, as Swati Chaturvedi’s “I am a Troll” tells us. As such the hate propaganda began with demonisation of Muslim kings for breaking Hindu temples in the medieval period, for spreading Islam, for having large families, indulging in polygamy, being terrorists etc. Now it has taken a dangerous turn with people trained in communal ideology and in the use of social media twisting the facts blatantly. There are reports that in the forthcoming elections the BJP is planning to train lakhs of volunteers in the use of social media for electoral gains. The rising hatred is becoming like a monster, propelling itself beyond control.

Can we just accuse the social media for intensifying this hate? Some control and restraint is needed, some fact-check is necessary for this highly impactful media. What is also needed is that mechanisms like AltNews are made more popular to counter these falsehoods. It is heartening to note that Twitter has decided to suspend seven crore fake accounts. We also need to ensure that the misconceptions and hate which is ruling our society, streets need to be countered by the message of love. What we need is that truth is propagated and the message of peace is made more effective.

We have activists like Faisal Khan, who through his Khudai Khidmatagar takes out peace marches. Harsh Mander’s Paigam-E-Mohabbat (Message of Peace) has been doing yeomen service by meeting the families of victims of lynching and creating an atmosphere of amity. Mahant from Ayodhya Yugal Kishore Sharan Shastri, through his less advertised peace marches, is trying to reach sections of society with a message of tolerance and peace. Such efforts need to be upheld and broadened. These are just a few examples of the initiatives in this direction, there are many more which need to be projected to promote and preserve amity in India.

Countering hate and promoting amity became the central message of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who struggled to promote peace, in the highest traditions of his Hinduism. As the fake news is assuming frightening proportions and is doing serious harm to the concept of fraternity inherent in Indian nationalism, we need to retune ourselves to the core value of amity, which was the foundation of freedom movement and is very much a part of our Constitution.

The author, a retired Professor at the IIT-Bombay, is currently associated with the Centre for the Study of Secularism and Society, Mumbai.

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