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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 35 August 18, 2018

Narratives of Fake News, Lynchings and Mobocracy in India

Thursday 16 August 2018

by Abid Ahmad Shah

India is a country of people belonging to varied regions, religions, sects, communities, castes; etc. From the past times till date, the multiculturalism and plural ethos of this country has set a strong precedent to the world about this land of diversity. This country is the country of its natives, be it Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, Buddhists, etc. No one can escape its identity at the same time. This belongs to as much to one and sundry.

Gone are the days when there was narrow communication in the world due to a number of varied factors and barriers. However, it was the medium of communication which brought to the fore the exchanges between the masses down human history. Down the phases of passing times, communication surged to a remarkable extent and with the arrival of new scientific inventions and discoveries and paraphernalia, day in and day out, the channels of communication widened the world over and narrowed the communication gap with a renewed sway after the inroads of the media in the world of nation-states. The media is considered to be the third eye and fourth pillar of a democracy. The recent century has seen a surge in the ascendency of media in general and social media in particular, like, facebook, whatsapp, instagram, orkut, etc. Today, there are millions of users of the social networking sites in the world and in India as well.

Today, the news in a buzz becomes rapidly rampant and circulates at the skyrocket speed due to the increased delivery over mass media platforms. News that originates in one part of the globe spreads like wildfire and it is the common man who is the sole player in the whole process. The post-truth era has even added a new framework of news analysis. However, one cannot blindly believe in what one reads, hears or has a say about. Reality- check is must for the same. Nowadays, the increase in the news platforms has seen such an upswing that it becomes a problematic affair for the common man to differentiate between reality and virtuality, that is, real news and fake news. A single fake news generated and forwarded by a single foe of humanity destroys the whole fabric of the society and leads to ultimate social disorder and chaos.

Fake news is the new buzzword of the current times which has created an unhealthy atmosphere and given impetus to the anti-democratic and anti-human forces to run amuck and create fake and false narratives on the social networking sites or thereto so on and so forth about the people, which cause ultimately lynching of the people under the guise of wrong information and mere suspicion in India. This has wreaked havoc in the country and snatched the precious lives of the innocent persons who have become victims of these unruly mobs.

This problem of lynch mobs is not only a law and order problem of the current times, but a major challenge to the democratic credentials of the rule of law which has brought disrepute to India the world over in general and the constitutional provisions in particular. Article 21 guarantees right to life to every tom, dick and harry of India. To snatch the life of a common Indian citizen through the vehicle of mobocracy is not only a violation of democracy, but also tantamount to the murder of democracy.

India, which is the largest democracy in the world, is unfortunately metamorphosing into mobocracy. The recent killings of innocent victims at the behest of lynching mobs through brutal beating with rods, sticks and bricks is a tragic phase in our democratic slump. It was the tool of the messenger which created the fake news and a wrong narrative of child-lifters in one part of the country, leading to the bloodbath of innocent victims and added a bad and an unholy chapter to the historical chronicles of the times in India. Muslims are also the soft targets of these goons under the facade of beef- mania. The overt and covert attempts of the cow vigilantes have already snatched the life of a number of Muslims, be it Ikhlaq of Dadri, or someone else. The recent lynching of Akbar Khan, a Muslim in Alwar, Rajasthan by cow vigilantes has opened another gory chapter of brutalism in the name of vigilantism, which invited the ire of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. The near-lynching attempt of a Muslim man under the wrong information of cow-slaughter is a blot on our composite culture-laden Jammu and Kashmir, particularly those who have no regard of the old aged persons and cannot differentiate between cattle-herders and slaugh-terers. Meanwhile, the UP Chief Minister has recently in an interview to a national channel said that there must be respect for the religious sentiments so far as faith is concerned.

The weird mob mentality of the masses and wrong and fake narratives about the people add fuel to the fire. In India, a single encounter of the people with a Kashmiri person be it a student, researcher, job-aspirant, intellectual, tourist, patient etc. leads to the taunt of a Pakistani narrative and militant name from citizens of mainland India about the same fellow. Who has given the people the right to call names to Kashmiris with such utterances? It is the media with a biased attitude that has constructed such fake-cum-false narratives about the people of Kashmir and treated people from that part with suspicion wherever they go. Last year, a video over social media appeared, wherein an old man of district Anantnag was seen saying that he along with another Kashmiri fellow were subjected to invectives and abuses while travelling in some part of the country and people had called them atankwadi (terrorists) being Kashmiris. Not only this, the people of the North-East are also taunted everywhere, even in Delhi metros, with names. The attack by goons in Haryana last year on Kashmiri students who were studying in the State’s Central University has time and again raised the question about the safety and security of the Valley students studying in various regions of mainland India. Even, people from Bihar are seen from a narrow and different perspective. How sad and pathetic! While travelling in a DTC bus in New Delhi way back in 2011, a woman hurled invectives on a person, calling him Bihari with ensuing taunts, even as the latter remained a mute spectator. This can be called as the oral lynching of the conscience of people from other parts of the country.

Cutting a long story short, the problem of lynching has to cease, once and for all in India. The role of the government is mandatory and primary and that of the people secondary. Without the intervention of a strong law or a strong ordinance, the problem will continue to persist and loom largely in the land of Sufis, sages, saints, seculars and what not and haunt the memories of people in the days to come.

The government needs to frame effective laws to neutralise the menace of mobocracy and lynchings in India. Also, social networking sites need to introspect and doubly-verify the news, before they forward it to the users. If the same situation persists in the near future, India will be under the grip of complete mobocracy with mobs operating without any fear of law and justice, where the rule of law will be sidelined to the margins of the written Constitution, without any value in the country.

The author has done M.Sc. in Bio-Chemistry and B.Ed. from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and also qualified in CTET from CBSE. Earlier he worked as a project trainee at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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