FROM THE MARGINS

COLOURING OPINIONS, CREATING BARRIERS

Among the worst ill-effects of technology, perhaps the deadliest is its unprecedented potential in distorting opinions. Today many of us just pass on messages and videos from our cell phones, laptops, tablets and desktops etc without even blinking an eye. We have stopped meeting people in real and prefer to talk over the phone, emails or text messages. What’s deadlier is that, we have become mere consumers of information and never bother to question the authencity of it. It is this aspect of technology which is exploited the most by communal forces to develop sectarianism amongst communities and spread hatred. The recent incidents of NE exodus from cities like Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad is a clear testimony of this fact.


To start with, a Manipuri youth was attacked in Pune by certain ‘miscreants’ on the basis of a certain video MMS being circulated. Later it was clarified that the MMS has been doctored. But the damage had already been done. Soon after it an environment of panic spread among the North-east people living not only in Pune but also cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad. And today we see a mass hysteria over the issue. Everyone is busy with their own agendas. Politicians are busy trying to take mileage out of it, media houses are creating sensationalism and many of us (including me) are busy re-tweeting ‘information’ and ‘pictures’. But amidst all this drama, one thing is for sure that the truth has gone for a toss and an environment of hatred is soon spreading like wildfire.

Let’s take the Bangalore incident as an example. It is true that thousands are fleeing. Even the railways announced that more than 4500 tickets were sold in a single day. We also have video clippings of jam packed trains towards Guwahati as evidence. I came to know about the incident a brother from Udaipur, informing me about the incidents in Bangalore. He also did not forget to advise me to be careful in Delhi. I immediately tried contacting one of my friends in Bangalore, asking if the rumors were true. My friend, of course had no much of a clue about it as he lived in a protected educational premises. But he did mention that he had heard about the same too and some of the students of the private colleges were fleeing. The rest of the story is open for us to see.

Now certain questions emerge; were the threats genuine? If they were not, who were the ones responsible behind it? Walter Fernandez, the director of North East Research Centre, in a mail writes that “It is the fundamentalist group Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena – have been sending SMS messages and writing on the facebook that the Muslims are planning a massive attack on them after ID and that they should leave Bangalore. They spread rumours that there have already been many attacks and gave a mobile number to contact in case of attacks or fear. One civil society person contacted that number and asked the person who claimed to be head of the Sena for details on the attacks. He said that he did not have any details but had only heard of attacks. That is where we stand. Another rumor spread that seven people had died in Nelasandra and three more in Koramangala etc. on the outskirts of Bangalore. Inquiries showed that they were false rumours. Persons who visited the railway station tell us that around 100 persons belonging to this or some other similar outfit are standing at the station with lathis on the pretext of protecting people from the NE. All of it seems to be part of a well worked out plan to cause panic through false rumours”. Many of the Muslim organizations have clarified that none of them will incite any violent attacks on any person in the month of Ramadan or after it. While a delegation of NE students unions have also met with the Karnataka CM who have pledged full support.

Whatever be the issue, the underlying truth is the sad fact that the communal forces have been able to transport the anger from a state issue to a central level. Be it the saffron forces supposedly protecting the NE people (trying hard to gain goodwill) or the fanatic making hate speeches inciting a mass violence in Mumbai. I do blame them but more than them, I blame us, ourselves who have stopped questioning. Today our faith and trust amongst each other has become so weak that it takes a single facebook message, tweet or a MMS to make us hungry for each other’s bloods. Or else we would have understood that an immigrant from NE, working in an IT company as a manager or as a mere cook has nothing to do with the conflict in Assam.

In such a scenario, there is a desperate need to question information, analyze intentions and above all try to build a culture of peace, trust and tolerance amongst religions and cultures. There are reports that in Pune the locals and muslim brothers have stepped out and assured the people from North-east about their safety and security. Thus many have decided to stay on. The same needs to be done in the other cities too. Efforts should be made to contain it rather than fuelling it.

Opinions expressed are personal. And the pictures are used are just for representation purpose and I dont have cooyright to it.

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