Can We Promote Peace in India, Today?
We also need to actively ensure that the misconceptions and hate which is ruling our society and streets is countered with messages of love. We need the truth to be propagated and the message of peace should be more effective.
We are witnessing times when hate against weaker sections of the society and religious minorities is increasing by leaps and bounds. The increase in mob lynching's 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 with beef as an issue and other 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 Dadri accused. Now Mr. Jayant Sinha welcomed the accused of Alimuddin lynching case when they got bail. The incidents are frighteningly increasing as now, the horrid incidents of rape are being given a communal twist. Fake news is being generated with impunity on one side and rape accused are getting social support on the other. It's a matter of shame that in the wake of the Kathua rape incident, the then Ministers from BJP, Chaudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, attended the event organized by Hindu Ekta Manch, which was protesting against the arrests in the case.
In Mandsaur rape, the incident is being given a false twist to demonize a community. The accused belong to the Muslim community. Muslim groups took out a procession demanding severe punishment for the accused. Jyotiraditya Scindia of Congress joined a candlelight procession to demand the death penalty of 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 photoshopped to present Muslims in a 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 later reading, "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 84734 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 further from the truth. NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) does not record the religion in cases of rape. This tweet and the one about Jyotiraditya Scindia was exposed by AltNews, the portal going to the roots of such fake news and is doing a great service to society by serving the truth and exposing the news which is deliberately trying to demonize the religious minorities. One recalls that in the 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 are being beaten. The picture was actually from Pakistan and the crowd was 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 the 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 the page Yogi Adityanath-True Indian posted it on June 1, and was shared massively.
One recalls that in recent times, 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 the demonization 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, 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 accuse just the social media for intensifying this hate? Some control and restraint is needed and fact-checking seems more and more necessary in the times of social media impact and instant gratification. What is also needed is that mechanisms like AltNews should be 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 and streets is countered with messages of love. We need the truth to be propagated and the message of peace should be more effective.
We have activists like Faisal Khan, who through his Khudai Khidmatagar, organises peace marches. Harsh Mander's Paigam-E-Mohabbat (Message of peace) has been doing yeomen service by meeting the families of lynching victims 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 the freedom movement and is very much the part of our Constitution.
Ram Puniyani is Chairman, Centre of Study of Society and Secularism and has written several books including Communal Politics: Facts Versus Myths (Sage, 2003), Deconstructing Terrorist Violence (Sage 2015), Indian Nationalism versus Hindu Nationalism (Pharos 2014) and Caste and Communalism (Olive 2013).