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Of all the extremities prevalent in our mortal existence, the one that always ends up whimsically catapulted to the highest degree of histrionic behaviour amongst humans is when a political belief, an ideology of nationalism and welfare state, or better so, a religious faith is contested, questioned, and put in the dock.
This imprudence, as it may seem to some, alone fragments our societal and political strata into segments we today widely know, or rather claim to know of, as the lefts, the rights, the centrists et al. The history of their advent, however, dates back to late 17th Century during the French Revolution. A considerable segment, however, still choose to be undeterred by the continuous frenzy around them and are conveniently apolitical, and rightly so.
A very common occurrence in today’s era of political and religious megalomania where the sheer audacity of people (of any faith bearing any ideology) not subscribing to your views knows no bounds, it is an all-out, no-holds-barred contestation.
Rise of Troll Culture
More so with the advent of social media, which is inherently voyeuristic and guarantees full privacy of one’s identity at no extra costs. Trolls, as they say. The faceless. The identity-less. And most certainly, the shameless.
From policies of Nehru to the masterstrokes of Modi, from ‘Love Jihad’ to the rightful claimant of the NEET’s first rank, from actress Deepika Padukone’s unexpected visit to the Jawaharlal Nehru University to the Chinese intrusion into Indian territory, from CAA/NRC agitation to the ongoing farmer’s protests, any expression made under the sun is today met with enormously passionate commentaries by the keypad warriors, which by the way lacks all civility and decency by any stretch of the imagination.
With a widespread culture of threats, abuses surpassing all the limits of civil discourse, it increasingly seems like more of an embedded DNA issue in individuals rather than just a mere educational or societal one at that. It stems from ignorance, a wilful one at that.
It is the political governance and the ideas which the regime injects slowly and steadily over time and the constant practice of which consequently becomes your identity, your one point agenda without you realising it.
It is deeply entrenched in the ideas of what seems particularly right or wrong, which again is based on the collective biases of dogmatism and bigotry. Absoluteness and authoritarianism are the key characteristics of such hyper-stimulated reactions. The scale, unfortunately, weighs both sides.
More ardently, however, on the right side of the political spectrum, which professes ideas such as authority, monarchy, tradition, culture, duty and, of course, ‘nationalism,’ which in itself is a highly misconstrued concept today if someone was to consider the actions of a sizeable number of our own citizenry under its garb, at least by the present standards of morality. Both, at the individual and state levels.
Historical Distortions Aided by Social Media
While the view isn’t really picture perfect when it comes to the ideas Left (or most commonly referred to as pseudo-liberals) stands for, it still has to go quite a long way to desecrate itself to such a low where the politics of Right is currently operating at.
Basis empirical evidence stemming from some extensive analysis of the evolution of Indian society and its complexities post the British era, the multiplicity of narratives coupled with the constant successful attempts at alterations and distortions effected in historical texts by the current regime over this decade, suiting their religious and political ambitions have only resulted in widening the gaps.
A lot of such distortions have been possible due to the onset of social platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook, where fake news, altered history, misquotes, twisted facts and figures are a very normal and daily affair.
It passes freely with all the mind’s acceptance without a single contestation and verification, thereby turning it into an incontestable belief within some time. Not surprisingly, therefore, the graduates & the PhDs of WhatsApp University are ready with their ammunition of fallacies at the drop of a hat.
Most regrettably, the majority of such ‘degree holders’ aren’t even remotely aware that they’ve never, in fact, held the real baton of patriotism and nationalism in the very first place, that they’ve so proudly boasted about since eternity. Their stance remains immutable even after all the efforts on the contrary.
A number of cases and incidents have come to light in the recent past where leave aside celebrities and people of some significance, even common people have been pulled up, trolled, booked for putting forth straightforward, unadulterated views on public platforms in the forms of dissent and uncomfortable questions or plain criticism. All of which is, by the way, guaranteed by the Constitution of this nation.
Yes, the ‘Freedom of Expression’ comes with some sanctity and reservations, which most ideally should be respected and adhered to. But even the violation of it doesn’t merit the argument of threatening, abusing, or shaming anyone.
Also, the moral code of conduct here shouldn’t ever vary with changing governments. A random person/group is very well within their rights to disagree with anything being said on any issue by another random person/s.
They may also find their adversary’s approach towards their confrontations repugnant and cannibalistic but that still cannot be the reason to call anyone names and put anyone under a shower of abuses. This is where we do not want the discourse to go. Because once we reach the abyss, it will be mucky for everybody. We would all gasp for breath and there would be no way to reach the surface ever.
Calling Out Fragile Belief Systems
And to mitigate the risk of being one dimensional here, it is equally deplorable and condemnable when a French cartoonist is murdered for showing cartoons of Prophet Mohammad in a school class.
Islam isn’t that small a faith to be threatened by a mere inconsequential cartoon is something that still has to be realised in a true sense.
Whether it’s a critical commentary on a political figure or a religious one, a regime or its executives, from students aged as young as 12 to senior citizens aged over 70, people across spectrums continue to face the wrath of conservatives and reactionaries emphasising on hierarchy and tradition – core ideas of the right-wing politics.
One of the glaring incidents of such intolerance and slut-shaming that was recently witnessed was that of one Niharika Singh, an ex-media consultant of the AYUSH Ministry, Government Of India, who since long has been a vocal and acerbic critic of the BJP government at the Centre, a stance she was well within her fundamental rights to pursue.
For her personal remarks on the government and on a religious figure basis her own understanding of historical perspective while being the fierce feminist that she evidently is, she was literally called out and trolled across all the right-wing media sections for this supposed ‘blasphemy’.
From death and rape threats to constant abuses and slut-shaming, she was subjected to immense mental trauma. It became impossibly hard to believe at one point that we’re the same nation that so fervently worships Goddess Durga, Goddess Kali, Goddess Laxmi, Goddess Saraswati, and so on.
The submission, therefore, is humble yet stern. The sheer paranoia with which people react to any form of critique towards their ideology/religion shows just how fragile their belief system really is.
If one person’s Facebook post or a WhatsApp forward is enough to wound your faith so much that you come to abandon all the values of tolerance, respect, and non-violence that your ideological faith claims to champion, is your faith even true is what needs to be asked and answered.