Trust from the Heart. Make Compassion and Love the Basis of our National Narrative

One of the most reprehensible crimes happened in our country a few months back. A child was raped and killed by someone in Kashmir.

Published: 28th April 2018 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 12th May 2018 02:13 PM   |  A+A-

One of the most reprehensible crimes happened in our country a few months back. A child was raped and killed by someone in Kashmir. The news hit national headlines when legislators who are supposed to uphold the rule of law took to streets to protect the accused. It was unprecedented in the history of the country. The fact that the accused and the victim belonged to two different faiths made the matter worse. Soon, national media—both conventional and the new generation social media—were filled by screaming, howling trolls abusing each other. 

They dug out horrid details of rapes from the past. The stories were chosen from places where their rival political parties ruled or where the faith of the victim and the accused were different. Most of the stories thus dug out and paraded with a relish were exaggerated or fake. Soon the alleged rape of an eight-year-old, that should have shaken the conscience of any civilised society, became an opportunity to shame political opponents and a shouting match in television studios.

 Each side competed in indulging in ‘whatabouttery’ of the worst order. Social media was flooded with messages spreading hatred and fear. Entire communities were painted as rapists, revered religious symbols were caricatured with images of violent sex. The opposite side hit back calling the others terrorists and painting everyone who did not agree to its strategy, as traitors. We once again proved to the world that in our vocabulary, debate means abuse. If things continue to worsen, soon debate may mean riots and even civil war.

We are slowly sinking into a cesspit of hatred and fear. From a confident multicultural society, we are transforming to a paranoid and xenophobic one. Our lack of confidence is making us vulnerable to be infected by a disease called hatred. Earlier it only affected a few as the editorial controls of old media ensured the unadulterated hatred and fake news do not reach the masses. The new media knows no such control. It has given this virus a free run and the infection is at the threshold of exploding into a pandemic. 

It is imperative that we identify how the virus spreads. This propagated outbreak usually infects the victims through WhatsApp forwards, Facebook posts and tweets. Sometimes, the victims are asymptomatic carriers, in the incubation period. One easy way to identify whether we are in incubation period is to recall the occasion when our housing society decided a family having a different food habit, different dress or different language should not be allowed to live as our neighbours. If we had felt bad about it and kept quiet, we can be assured that we are in the first stage.

If we felt happy about the neighbour of different faith not being invited for our housing society function, we have moved to the next stage called prodromal period—when we start displaying malaise. Other symptoms manifest as stopping our children from playing with  ‘those children’ and tackle their curiosity for this ban by either a rebuke or by feeding their innocent minds with notions of purity and impurity. We also start relishing that obnoxious WhatsApp forward sent by that respectable uncle in our family group. We are allowing our children too to be infected. We are giving a message that it is a virtue to hate others. If not checked at this stage, the infection moves to the next phase.

When we do not tell our childhood friend that he should stop forwarding copy pasted messages from the propaganda cell of whichever political or religious group he is the blind follower of, we have moved to the next stage—the acute period. When we start admiring our religious or political leader who spews venom on people of different faith, when we develop puppy-like devotion to such manipulators, and start rabidly attacking anyone daring to even mildly criticise our hero, we have reached the peak stage. 
From here, the infection will start tearing apart the social fabric of our society. To move to the street and to ignite a riot is a natural progression. At this stage, we will be ready to die and kill at the beck and call of our manipulator.  

Countries like Syria, Afghanistan or Nazi Germany ignored the first symptoms of this infection and paid a bloody price. Left untreated, this virus is capable of destroying whole civilisations.  We already have paid a horrible price by falling for hate narrative once. We commenced our tryst with destiny by stepping on the blood of a million Indians killed in religious riots and wading through the tears of 15 million displaced people. 

The easiest thing for India to do at that time was to succumb to hate and fear. We could have easily gone the Pakistan way, but we did not. Instead we built our country by speaking an inclusive language, reassuring the weaker sections of the society and making compassion and love the basis of our national narrative. Now, it seems we are determined to throw away the narrative. If we do not stop, we may end up as a state that would rival a Syria or Pakistan. 

Next time, we get that disgusting hate forward, please press the delete button and block the person after informing him or her. We need no advice from some propaganda wing-made WhatsApp forward to judge our neighbour, friend, colleague or classmate. We just need to trust our hearts.

India Matters


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