The scourge of fake news, mob lynchings and being Kashmiri in India

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Abid Ahmad Shah:

India is the union and confluence of various states and union territories with people belonging to varied landscapes, 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 fore the exchanges between the masses down the 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 media in the world nation states. 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 too. The internet craze has taken the people by storm and addiction runs on a massive scale.

Today, the news in buzz becomes rapidly rampant and circulates at the skyrocket speed due to 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 the 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 and fabricated 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. This ultimately harms the balance of the society and creeps the psyche of the victims.

Fake news is the new buzzword of the current times which has created an unhealthy atmosphere and given impetus to the anti-democratic forces 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 India and snatched the precious lives of the innocent persons who have become victims of these unruly mobs which run amuck without any fear of law and its principles.

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 rule of law which has brought disrepute to India, the world over in general and 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 the democracy but also tantamount to the murder of democracy.

India which is said to be the largest democracy in the world is, unfortunately, metamorphosing into the state of mobocracy. The recent killing of the innocent victims at the behest of lynching mobs through the brutal beating of rods, sticks, and bricks is a tragic phase of our democratic slump. It was the tool of messenger which created the fake news and a wrong narrative of child-lifters in one part of the country, leading to the bloodbath of the 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 is a next gory chapter of brutalism in the name of vigilantism, which invited ire of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. According to the news reports, the mob came with rods, sticks, etc. and attacked Akbar Khan, subsequently paving a forever scar of pain on his near and dear ones.

The recent near lynching attempt of an old Muslim man under the wrong information of slaughter is a blot for 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 slaughterers. Meanwhile, U.P. 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 people 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. adds a taunt of Pakistani narrative and militant name from the people of mainland India about the same fellow. Who has given the people the right to call the names of Kashmiri’s with such utterances? It is the media with a biased attitude that has constructed such very fake-cum-false narratives about the people of Kashmir and engulfed the psyche of the people who are seen with a needle of suspicion everywhere and elsewhere they go. Not only this, even Muslims in mainland India have a narrow perspective of the Kashmiri people and their attitude is the marker and reflection of that stance.

Last year, when a video over social media appeared, wherein an old man of district Anantnag perhaps was seen saying that he along with another Kashmiri fellow were hurled invectives and abuses upon while traveling in some part of the country and people had called them as Atankwadi (terrorists) being Kashmiris.

Having personally been in New Delhi from 2011 to 2014 as a student, I have observed the situation on a macroscopic scale. If reports are to be believed, the Kashmiri students who were beginners initially at Jamia Millia Islamia were denied accommodation even in Muslim areas of Okhla. But, with the passage of time, the situation has changed a lot. Having personally contested hosted elections at JMI university, I lost by a margin of few votes. Elections were conducted at the time when all the Kashmiri hostel students were gone to the home and only a few were there. Half of the students spanning across the states of India supported me and others were in favor of the opponents. The reason, a sort of hatred towards us generated and doctored by the fake and yellow media of India.

Even, at a prestigious university in New Delhi where I was doing my project work, an ABVP-sympathiser and research scholar used to spew venom towards me. Although others loved and respected, the unique character verbally and attitudinally attacked me. The same person cracked civil services one day and brought sweets to the lab. I frankly speaking did not eat his sweets, because inmost was bruised by his taunts previously and conscience was refusing to do so.

Not only this, but People of North-East are also taunted everywhere, even in Delhi metros, with names. The attack on Kashmiri students last year in Haryana who were studying in Haryana’s central university by goons after returning from the prayers has time and again raised a question about the safety and security of the valley students studying in different parts of the country. Even, People from Bihar are seen with a narrow and a different perspective. How sad and pathetic? While traveling in a DTC bus in New Delhi way back in 2011, a woman hurled invectives on a person, calling him Bihari with ensuing taunts, who remained as a mute spectator at the scene. This can be called as the oral lynching of the people’s conscience of other parts of the country.

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

The government needs to rope in a strong law to neutralize the menace of mobocracy and lynchings in India. Also, social networking sites need to introspect and double-verify the news, before they forward it to the users. If the same situation persists in near future, India will be under the shade of complete mobocracy with ruling mobs without any fear of law and justice, where rule of law will be sidelined to the margins of the written confines of the document of the Indian constitution, without any practicability of the same in India.

The masses of Jammu and Kashmir need an emphatic dealing in India. Majority of the people are drenched in the layer’s of media narrative about Kashmir and equate it with violence only. Beyond this doctored fake news lies a metanarrative of pains, sufferings, and chokings which they need to know about. Let good sense prevails among the biased Indian media to portray a true picture of our valley. This would be a real overture of justice with our bleeding Kashmir. Our state is today in search of a better dealing, as late Mr. Mufti Mohammad Sayed called as healing touch policy and dialogue between the stakeholders of the Kashmir Imbroglio. This is the only remedy to better the situation at the ground level and a way out.

(The author can be reached at abidjmi121@gmail.com).

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