By Aditya Aamir
Finally, after messages on Whatsapp triggered one too many mob lynching, the government has bitten the bullet, asking the messaging app to prevent the circulation of false texts and provocative videos. Facebook–owned Whatsapp wouldn’t do anything on its own, that’s for sure, but Whatsapp’s biggest market is India and Mark Zuckerberg can’t risk a stomach-ache to go with the headaches he courted in the United States and Europe.
Having said that, it’s the Modi government’s hand that has been forced. For some pervert reason the government appeared in no hurry to take this step earlier. Whatsapp texts and fake videos of “child-lifters on the loose” have so far claimed the lives of at least eight innocents, lynched by killer mobs spurred by messages on Whatsapp.
This, when sections of the media and BJP spokespersons were laying out the narrative that motivated Maoists were fanning Dalit unrest in the country. #DalitLivesMatter trended in 2017. So did #IndiaShutDown. Both surfaced after alleged Maoist activist GN Saibaba was arrested in March that year. The Dalit professor of Delhi University was recently sentenced to life behind bars. But, while the sentencing is a judicial decision, those in the dock are the Modi government and the ruling BJP.
#IndiaShutDown and #DalitLivesMatter had Pakistan-links. As also hashtags that surfaced after the Burhan Wani encounter-killing. At the time, authorities in J&K shut down the Internet in the Valley. Did that help? No, not by a long shot. The chore to spread the ‘Wani-word’ was taken over by the Islamic warriors of Pakistan.
In 2017, @miaNaMateenPti, a follower of Pakistani politician Imran Khan, tweeted under #DalitLivesMatter that a nine-year-old Dalit boy was “denied water” and he “drowned to death in a well”. @miaNaMateenPti picked up the news from an Indian newspaper. Similarly, @HarisKNiaziPti, another Imran Khan supporter, tweeted under #IndiaShutDown that “since 1993 to 2017, India has been killing Maoists and the UN was watching.”
The question arises after the Wani killing how could Kashmiri Muslims get the message if there was no Internet in Kashmir Valley? It did not matter. The world was watching and misleading the world on the largest democracy in the world was half the battle won. The larger Pakistani goal has always been to undermine India at the global level, “internationalize” Kashmir.
Now, with a Jordanian sympathizer heading the United Nations human rights body, Pakistan’s agenda is succeeding to an extent: First, the UNHCR report on human rights violations in Kashmir, allegedly by the Indian Army. Then, the same UN rights body coming out in support of GN Saibaba with a damning anti-India statement.
Pakistan acts and speaks as if it’s an extension of the Opposition in India, whether it be on Kashmir, Dalit or Maoists. And the Opposition in India seems not to care. The ‘mahagathbandan’ could do without Pakistan’s notoriety, and a perceived alliance with that country.
For Pakistani commentators to hold forth on the “state of the Dalit in India” and the “Maoist-rebellion in central India” is not new. They keep harping on the “101 rebellions” in India – from the “Kashmir uprising” to “northeast extremism”; from “Tamil separatism” to the “Maoist rebellion”; the “oppression of the Dalit” to the “bigotry of Manuwadi”. These are topics never far from the tips of Pakistani pens, and Pakistani tongues.
And to help, Whatsapp and Social Media make it easy to create and widen divisions in society, polarize and demarcate the electorate. The provocation can come from within, and from outside. It defies logic why the Modi government and the BJP allowed the cow vigilante and killer-mobs to beat to death alleged “cow-lifters” and suspected “child-lifters”? Don’t they see it does harm to their image? Could not the government take steps to curb the lawlessness? What was stopping the government?
In all mob lynching, it is the poor who get slaughtered, the “migrant labourer” and the “nomadic.” A man gets off a bus with four others and asks a child a question and the five are beaten to death by a mob in Dhule. The video circulated is so “disturbing”, it curdles the blood: The folding steel chair descending repeatedly on the head of one of the victims. Horrific! Another five are beaten to an inch of their lives in Malegoan and the police have a trying time rescuing them from the mob.
In Malegaon, the two-year-old suspected of being “lifted” by the five was the son of one of the five! It’s crazy, this mobocracy! Thanks to Whatsapp, the mobs are everywhere. A couple of “Biharis” working on a construction site in Tamil Nadu get called “child lifters” and are beaten mercilessly by a mob. In all these cases it’s Whatsapp which spread a rumour to feed a lie: “Child-lifters are coming your way, kill!”
In Tripura, in Assam, in Jharkhand, in Gujarat – any number of places. Whatsapp groups have been giving “specifics”; and that in “local languages” of those specific areas. It just happens that there are over 200 million Whatsapp users in India, and Whatsapp, it is said, is the “favourite of the ill-informed and the uneducated as opposed to the illiterate.” If Twitter is to abuse, and Facebook to nuance the abuse, then Whatsapp is to spread rumours and lies, create mayhem and kill!
The Supreme Court has put the onus to stop lynching on the states. Does that mean the Union government can sit back and watch cattle-traders/nomads/migrant labours get lynched? Isn’t it the duty of any government to put the fear of the law – if not that of the devil or god – in the common citizen? If Pakistani “tweets” can sully the image of the government abroad, does not lynching of alleged “cow and child lifters” do the same?
Why can’t Modi tweet against the mobocracy? Why hasn’t he? Modi replies to a Virat Kohli retweet; he also tweets his condemnation of the Afghanistan blast, but when will he tweet the “order” to put a halt to lynching? Why did his government delay asking Whatsapp to take action? The Modi government’s whataboutery seemed to have no end. A word from a Prime Minister, in this case a Pradhan Sevak, carries weight. Otherwise, why have a Prime Minister?
Well, the message has finally gone to Whatsapp. The government has conveyed its “deep disapproval” and Whatsapp has been asked to “take immediate action”; that it “cannot evade accountability and responsibility”. #AllLivesMatter should prevail at all costs. (IPA Service)