Political Manipulations, Hatred And Fake News – We Never Needed It And Definitely Not Now
I live in Delhi, with my wife and a year old daughter. Most of my friends, professional colleagues and some of my family members are also in Delhi. After April 2021, if I had to describe a day in our lives, it meant never-ending intimations of covid infections, casualties, SoS for medicines, injections, oxygen and hospital admissions. Now the worst part is, you substitute “Delhi” with any other city (and now towns and villages) of the country and the situation was almost alike.
The Covid-19 figures were intensifying from thousands to lakhs and then a few lakhs every day. The world was watching us, and unfortunately, we were breaking our own records (unwarranted) each day. There was depression, sorrow and despair even in the air. There was a subconscious prayer before answering a phone call –“please God, let this not be bad news.”
At that stage, when our country was gasping for air, young kids and healthy professionals were struggling to beat this virus and most of the hospitals had to repurpose every available bed into a corona bed (even ignoring patients suffering from ailments of the heart or cancer) – there were some “humans” who were indulging in black marketing of drugs, hoarding of medicines and oxygen, counterfeiting injections, and in some cases illegal organ transplants. In my head, I pondered with wonder – “What must be their mindset and upbringing which is allowing their souls to be so evil?” – and on a philosophical note – “Are we being punished by the almighty because of deeds like this?” I think most of the readers of this article would share this view and thought.
There were other acts of immorality taking place – as subtle as a serpent and just as damning – the acts of political manipulations, hatred and fake news. The idea of this article is to convey my thoughts on these noble (sarcasm intended) acts.
In April 2021, India also witnessed legislative assembly elections in fours states and one union territory in the same month. There were campaigns, rallies, media controls, social networking trolling, and advertisements everywhere. Of course, the media also ensured that the general debate (bickering, rather) sessions and poll prediction broadcasts were transmitted uninterrupted.
Political parties were blaming each other for the surge in positive cases, inequality and inefficiency in vaccine distributions, violation of covid protocols and for the collapse (strong word – but quite apt) of health infrastructure. It went on and on and on, and as citizens of the country we kept asking ourselves – do we really deserve this? But the citizen’s questions hardly mattered until someone from the Big Brother’s gathered the courage to put it to him. Hence, there were requests for a ‘symbolic’ Haridwar Kumbh (on 17th April) and restrictions on election campaigns (on 16th April) and some states started to put limited lockdowns. Citizens asked – wasn’t it too little and too late, but I guess none in the cabinet had asked this so far.
The election results were announced. Not surprisingly (since I have spent 36 years in this country) and without any sensitivity, there were shameless and unhindered celebrations by the political parties and their supporters. There were trolls, memes, debates, data, assessments, opinions, views, counter views, reactions, predictions, Chanakya neeti, and statistics. All this, when thousands of citizens of our country were losing lives every day. I wonder what went through the minds of those reading or listening to these political manipulations, while they lost somebody they loved. Unconceivable, unthinkable and unimaginable.
There were PILs filed in High Courts and Supreme Court, praying (and begging) for stalling any further elections (panchayat election or any other) as “studies” showed that such polls acted as super-spreaders and poll officers (in some cases teachers were on such duties) were getting increasingly infected. Some reliefs were granted and a High Court also went on to qualify (orally) the Election Commission Officers as ‘murderers’.
The long and short of this discussion is – ideally – we never needed these political manipulations – and realistically – definitely not when covid cases were increasing at an unprecedented pace. Good for the parties who have won elections, good for the parties who gained in any other manner, but the nation today deserves a much improved and sensitive political inspiration. Whether it is bhakts or gulaams or volunteers or followers – please hold your vengeful thoughts for few months. Please, for the sake of millions of families.
There is a celebrity on Twitter and Instagram (I think her Twitter account has been permanently suspended now). When I read/hear/watch her social media updates, I wonder who gave her the license to spread so much hatred. Surely, the Constitution does not envisage such freedom of expression, then why does she flout it almost every day? Who is letting her do this and why? Whatever it may be, it needs to stop and there is also a need to stop the spread of so much hatred on the public and social platform.
In this so called second wave – no family in our country (just an estimate, though I wish this estimate is largely incorrect) can say that none of its members or friends or acquaintances did not get infected by the Covid-19 virus. When such is the catastrophic effect of this wave, do we really need more stress which follows hatred?
In my own personal experience, home isolation in a closed room for 15-17 days, with running fever and uncertainty about your own health – completely changes your life perspective. You bury egos, vengeance, anger and any other ill-thoughts and become slightly more spiritual and eager to help society. I hope that it is not momentary and it stays.
This environment of hatred – political, social, and religious or about some industrialist or class of people, is the last thing India needs right now. Hatred begets hatred, each successive one being more perilous and unwarranted than its predecessor until it envelops everyone. It blinds us all until we find ourselves cursing movie stars and cricketers for doing what they do and blaming our misery on them. It’s been a testing time for each one of us and we need more people like “Sonu Sood” (naming an apolitical celebrity and praising him is still acceptable) who not only do a lot to help impartially but also spread a lot of positivity, love, affection and warmth with their actions and deeds.
Who is more difficult to assess – a habitual, compulsive and characteristic liar or an occasional liar? If you will think slightly carefully about this – you’d say the latter because it will be difficult to ascertain when such a person is lying. Another related question – whom can you trust and more likely than not, the answer will be none.
That’s the story of media houses today – some are completely influenced, some are slightly influenced and some want to be popular so that somebody can approach them to influence. That media house today is not only operating in the tv channels and newspaper apps, it has also reached our WhatsApp messages, Facebook posts and Insta stories. The analogy being drawn is – you can’t find what the truth is and what’s influenced manipulation and you can’t trust anyone.
So, another pillar of freedom of speech and expression has fallen. Journalists are highlighting unverified medical treatments, fake data, manipulated stories, connection of covid infection with religion and caste, and not focussing on real stories – of the plight patients, of challenging ruling parties on their strategies and of difficult questions being asked from some very powerful politicians. I mean, you watch an interview of a supremo and there is absolutely no take away.
You hear the “Rasthra ke naam sambodhan” by anyone and there is nothing transparent or clear in that sambodhan. I am neither trying to create any political view here nor trying to make a mockery of any specific ideology. I am not even trying to say what a sitting chief minister said about “mann ki baat”. I am only trying to seek transparency and accurate data, especially in these testing times. We need it, and only media can get it for us, if they commit to not indulge in fake news for TRPs, only until this pandemic is over.
Can we do something?
Of course, we can, and we ought to. When the head of the family is short of money, in an ideal household, kids break their piggy banks and contribute their share, and when the nation is going through a healthcare crisis:-
- one can go on the field and help (for which people, including me, are scared for their families’ sake and their own sake); if you can’t then maybe:-
- one can help financially to the organisations you trust or people in need around you; if you can’t then maybe:-
- one can connect with people on social networking and help those in need to reach hospitals having bed availability, procure medicine/injection or even food; if you can’t then maybe:-
- just encourage people with positivity and motivation;
But at all times, just keep thanking and encouraging doctors and other healthcare professionals (they deserve more than a Rs.3000/- monthly stipend which some states are giving to final year medical students working in hospitals), wear a proper mask and when you step out of your house, be socially responsible and get yourself tested if you have any Covid-19 symptoms – I am sure you can do this much.
Wishing for better times and safe health for all. We shall overcome this soon.