An Indian view on history, current affairs and politics

February 26, 2017

Social Media Khaps

If Calvin the comic character could affix a halo to the back of his head and say this ‘the season to be jolly’, then many of us who are getting ink on our fingers should proclaim that tis the season to be politically pithy. We raise banners and call ourselves nationalists without knowing what our MPs and MLAs are doing in our area. We claim ourselves politically astute because our values tend to match with those of political parties (I have no idea how that happens). We again, care for our country and want a certain political party to come to power without knowing what their manifesto holds or contains. Politically active, you say? To social media, we claim about being so. For the sake of our country, not too many of us are.

With a paroxysm of banners and posters proclaiming and promising various things, the genteel and regular citizen at the voting booth would have noticed who every person standing for power is trying to woo. Insults and witticisms are traded like money in a souk. Behind the bluster and sibilant mutterings, it is not only the leaders taking polarizing stands, but the citizens too are ready to lampoon and disgrace their own kind for speaking the truth.

The genesis of this argument comes from a conversation I had with a few friends of mine. They were supporters of a certain political party and were proudly speaking of the kind of change which it wishes to bring, with certain things relating to the right to recall and the right to reject MPs/MLAs to increase their accountability. After all, who among us wants pepper spray in the parliament?

The conversation obviously moved towards famous punching bags. The current prime minister and prime ministerial hopefuls were some of the things touched upon. Yet, a statement made by them was sweeping in nature and would irritate someone who is abreast of current affairs. Khap Panchayats should not be banned were the exact words which all of them seemed to agree to. This very statement was made by some leaders and a week later, there was a clarification which said that they can be allowed to exist (because it is technically an all-male gathering with no legal sanctity, according to one of their leaders), but if they interfere with the functioning of law and order, then they should be punished. I chose to not speak a word and changed the conversation. All of us were hopeful for change for the country in more ways than one, with which the conversation ended and I went my way, they theirs.

But I felt uncomfortable in that conversation. Clearly because these gatherings have sentenced many people to death and rank first when it comes to gender insensitivity. But there was a sinister reality dawning on me. If these Khaps exist and their raison d’être is justified, then similar khaps exist in metro areas. No, they don’t have a say in marriages being made or dissolved, but they love shooting down people with something to say especially if it’s the truth. Where can you find them, you ask? Just say you like a certain party or prime ministerial candidate and watch. Your social media news feed will be filled with more vitriol than that in a school’s science laboratory. I’m sure Mr Chetan Bhagat has a few words to say to that.

You become their target when you believe in an ideology and you are attacked when you side a candidate. If you support Kejriwal, you are supposedly an AAPtard, if you support NaMo, you’re apparently called a bhakt or a part of the NaMo army, or if you support a namby-pamby gentleman who has attended only 43% in his 5 year term where the national average is 76%, has asked no question when the national average is 300, then choice expletives and cuss words are reserved for you.

The only country which engages in such blatant stereotyping of people basis their political allegiance instead of hearing out their stance is USA. Apparently, one opinion decides whether you’re a democrat or republican. Why is it, that in a country like ours which is known to be tolerant of all view points, we are quick in typecasting people on them believing/stating a single opinion/fact?

I find it difficult to comprehend why we’ve become trigger happy in fighting a silly war on social media where all our arguments begin with the truth, reach the boundaries of reason, and then strip itself of any logic whatsoever and run stark naked in the form of personal insults and attacks. At this point, the person in the group who has no affiliation politically grabs a beer, places his feet on the nearest table and asks for the IPL score and a cigarette.

Our sense of appreciation has eroded and is there for all to see.

How many know that Arvind Kejriwal set up a helpline for corruption as CM of Delhi and began various probes into shady dealings and financial irregularities? How many people are aware that AAP volunteers were doing rounds of government hospitals in Delhi at unearthly hours to check and report requirement of medical equipment? How many know that he ordered an infrastructural audit of all government schools in Delhi? Do any of you know Soni Sori’s manifesto and her statement of “I have released a manifesto on a stamp paper and not a leaflet. People should use it against me and get my resignation if I fail to fulfill what I promise and stand for”?

In the same vein, I doubt people knowing much about Gujarat, especially when the agricultural GDP grew at 9.8% when the national rate was 2.5% for the past 10 years. The World Bank believes that Gujarat has an excellent road infrastructure and this is based on an analysis of about 40,000 km long state roads, including 16,000 km of state highways and 20,000 km of district main roads. In the global prosperity index, Gujarat ranks 15 out of 142 countries and is said to be better than many developed countries. No-one seems to talk about the Gujarat International Finance Tec City (GIFT city) in construction, or the PDS or the solar advancements of that state.

These are just some examples. The INC helped create the freeway, a sea link in Mumbai, create and inaugurate the T2 International airport in Mumbai and helped kick-start a monorail service in the city. Milind Deora in his constituency takes college kids every year to visit the parliament to ask questions to top leaders and if possible attend the Lok Sabha when it is in session. I was lucky enough to ask questions to Mr P Chidambaram and Mr Shashi Tharoor on the demographic dividend of the country and India’s foreign policy.

Best yet, the only political party to speak of gay rights were not the mainstream parties, but the CPI(M), who also want 100% nuclear self-reliance, a roll-back on the N-deal, and spending 6% of GDP on education.

Criticism is good, but we shouldn’t let it cloud us from seeing the good things which has already happened. Which member of the social media khap vigilante group would ever highlight these good things to help us make an informed choice? BJP requires a Julian Assagne picture to give NaMo a clean chit, AAP and INC use pictures of Atal Bihari Vajpayee to say why Modi’s reign is wrong or why they’re in the right.

If Shakespeare could say that ‘The Evil that men do lives after them and the good is oft interred with them’, then let it not be that ‘The Evil that men do lives on forever and the good is ne’er seen.’ Let not the same be said for those who speak the truth or try to do so.

AUTHOR: Girish Muralidhar.

Girish describes himself as Half engineer, truth-seeker, football analyst, constructive critic and patriotic Indian. Fond of record digging and taking subtle pot-shots at all politicians. His Twitter hashtag is @girishm1990