I’m not into blogging since 2009 now. In between I had written only one post in 2014 on the eve of general elections. Thus my last two posts were at the gap of 5 years each, incidentally on the eve of general elections of 2009 and 2014 respectively. So this year now again at the eve of general elections I’m writing this post to maintain my record.
Firstly a lot has changed in India in these last five years and sadly for worse. Social media has a big role to play in it. This change is the outcome of how politics has shaped in these five years. The ruling party BJP changed rules of the game in 2013 when they started their massive campaign for 2014 general elections. Before 2013, social media was much more pleasant and TV media was much less nasty. WhatsApp was mostly limited to family pics and jokes. And then came the BJP and its campaign. All these social media mediums were full of political messages. Full of political propaganda. Full of Fake news and full of hate.
People in India were not used to the phenomenon of fake news then. A lot of misinformation was spread on social media as part of campaign, which people took for genuine information. The flood of fake news has not stopped since then and in fact 2013 can be called beginning of fake news revolution in India. I for one feel very strongly about fake news. I hate any kind of propaganda and misinformation. On example I would like to quote is the famous “Modi saved 15000 Gujaratis in a day in Uttarakhand floods of 2013” This “news” was videly shared on social media. This “news” played a major role in shaping Modi’s popularity outside Gujarat.Millions of people who heard this “news” and made positive opinion of Modi, could never know that it was a fake news !
The new government was sworn in May 2014. By then the social media was firmly a political battlefield. Each and Everything was politicized. How the PM Modi is standing, earlier PMs didn’t stand like that. At what position Modi ji is standing among world leaders, earlier PMs used to stand in the side. These clicks were all random clicks, by choosing different pics one could just prove opposite point, but the propaganda ran unabated. During a TV debate in around 2016, a ruling party member said “Now Indian PM is respected around the world, earlier Indian PM when travelled abroad they weren’t even allowed to meet their counterparts for 10-15 days” It was blatant falsehood. But the anchor didn’t contradict it and said “Its fine but we are discussing something else here” !!We started receiving daily messages on whatsapp and facebook that how India is gaining “respect” around the world which was not the case earlier. Modi ji himself said it during his speeches “pichle 2-3 salon se pure vishva me bharat ki jai jai kar ho rahi hai (Whole world is hailing India since last 2-3 years” It was pathetic and laughable thing to be said by a prime minister !
Twitter/Facebook were becoming nightmare by now. Anyone even mildly criticizing the government was brutally abused and trolled on social media. Such things were unheard of earlier. There is a huge troll army propagated by the ruling party and instructed to attack anyone even questioning the government. There is a book named “I am a Troll” by journalist Swati Chaturvedi exploring this troll Army of the ruling party.Rape and death threats on social media had become common. And now the most outrageous part, the Prime Minister of India on twitter follows some of the most abusive trolls on twitter. He is the Only major leader across the world to follow abusive trolls. Why he does it? Of course to show solidarity with them. This was a new low.
And then came the legendary “National-Anti National” Thing. Based on certain (tasteless) slogans raised by unknown persons during an event at prestigious JNU, the entire university was tagged anti national. The central govt was expected to respond with more maturity but it didn’t. Surely those who raised slogans should be identified and action should be taken as per the law, but as on date on even a charge sheet is filed against anyone in that case. Central govt only saw political mileage in this issue. Recently defense minister of India said that enemies of the nation are at JNU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What? Enemies of nation was 6 km from where defense minister of India is sitting and she cannot do anything about it? It was outrageous for a person sitting in such a responsible position to malign a university just for political mileage for her party. All propriety has been set aside, only political mileage matters.
This didn’t stop at JNU, nowadays anyone questioning the government is rottenly called anti national and advised to go to Pakistan. Prime minister of India, during an election rally in Gujarat (during 2017) alleged that a former PM, former VP and former Army chief were indulged in a conspiracy with Pakistan to make BJP loose Gujarat election. What an outrageous thing to be said by prime minister ! but he did it and he keeps uttering such things time and again and no one can counter him, guess why? Because prime minister never takes questions. He has never ever held a press conference (first Indian PM to do it) and the few interviews which he has given are to select friendly channels with no counter questions allowed and tricky questions were not to be asked.
Coming to “news” channels, a medium destroyed in last 4-5 years. Now certain news channels are amazingly and openly partisan. They keep attacking opposition parties on daily basis with one excuse or the other. They keep praising ruling party and the PM always and never even attempt to question or criticize it. If there is any news which reflects poorly on ruling regime then its given a twist or simply blacked out !!!! There are no words to describe status of TV media in india today. Even newspapers (specially) hindi newspapers are no better. Recently there was a “news” in a prominan Hindi newspaper that “experts are of the opinion that of Modi doesn’t become PM again in 2019, the rupee will slide below Rs 75 a dollar”. This is laughable, no expert talks like that, they give technical reasons. Obviously name of expert was not given in the news. Most of the media is now compromised beyond imagination.
One new phenomenon is being spread is that there are lots of anti-nationals in india. “Liberals” are being painted as anti nationals. Even people who didn’t knew meaning of “liberal” five years back are saying liberals are to be blamed for everything. Another grudge is against “intellectuals” the authors, artists, scientists, economists who question present govt or even try to fact check (mostly inaccurate) claims by BJP and its leaders are dubbed anti india and trolled and abused badly. A new term “Tukde Tukde Gang” has been coined for anyone who questions BJP or Modi. Questioning BJP or Government is being linked to questioning India itself ! BJP in last 20 years made “Secular” a bad word. But present BJP regime made “liberal” and “intellectual” also bad words (for their supporters) in mere 5 years. JNU is just a mascot, people are now made to believe there are many in india who hate india, who hate Hindus. This is simply pathetic. Many people influenced by social media propaganda, now believe that those who dont support Modi are anti nationals and anti India. A lot has changed in India. and lately there is attempts.
Present government has been in campaign mode 24 x 7 since last 5 tears. Worse part is, Even foreign policy of India, its economic policy and almost everything it does is focused on domestic messaging and influencing voters. If an inidan minister plans a meeting with Pakistan counterpart at a world event, it is cancelled after outrage on twitter ! Even army operations such as “surgical strike” are openly politicized by the govt and PM himself. There is lot of criticism of Indian govt in foreign media , but the government doesn’t bother, only domestic messaging to voters matter, nothing else.
Another thing I wish to highlight is that of Kashmir. The situation in Kashmir has been such that the Central govt has to play hard and soft ball depending upon the situation. Kashmir was relatively peaceful in previous decade before 2014.However things are on a boil in Kashmir since last 4-5 years. Kashmiris are often resentful towards India. Present government has unfortunately made Kashmir a part of its politics in rest of India. On whatsapp groups and social media, messages keep coming on how the macho central govt is teaching Kashmiris a lesson. The tone of the messages is tasteless such as “I will bear Rs 500/litre price for petrol but Kashmiris need to be thrashed” Now the centre just can’t adopt middle path in Kashmir for fear of loosing votes of its core voters. It is a huge mistake to make the army action in Kashmir a part of politics in rest of India, but sadly it is happening today.
One part about which I am really concerned that even economic indicators such as GDP growth figures are politicized and manipulated. Indian economic statistics used to be credible, scientific and comparable with the best in the world, now the latest GDP figures released by the govt are said to be fudged as they don’t commensurate with other economy parameters such as export growth, corporate profits etc. Now some of the ideologically inclined economists are supporting govt data while most of the reputed and global economists openly doubt and question data. Recently 109 reputed economists have expressed concern about integrity of Indian data. Such things never happened earlier.
Another thing which I want to highlight is staggering intellectual dishonesty of the present government. The economic data is manipulated. We have seen how even PM has been economic with the truth during his address to people. Fake news factories are in full swing.Same is happening in TV debates where many of the participants openly and clearly lie and quote these fake news, which is never contested by the anchor. Even official govt reports are influenced by propaganda , sometime back an official home ministry report published a European international border with floodlights implying it to be India-Pak border. Inconvenient reports and data are manipulated or suppressed or not published at all (eg employment record is suppressed by govt). During earlier times, statements made by prime minister or union minister or even party spokesmen used to carry some weight, they talked sense and supposed to be truthful, now only politics matter. All kinds of lies and propaganda are common from people sitting on high constitutional posts. Very very sad indeed.
As I write this blog, Prime minister of India is campaigning and in election rallies openly saying only Terrorists and Pakistan want me to lose thus dubbing all opposition as pro-pakistan and anti india. Such things were unthinkable 5 years back and coming from Prime minister’s mouth its just out of the world. The way society has polarized inlast 5 years is amazing and BJP is leaving no stone unturned to further add fuel to flames. Social fabric of india nurtured over decades is already broken and BJP is on mission to tatter it forever. BJP MPs, Ministers, CMs openly incite hatred.
Cow related lynchings and hate crime has risen exponentially in last 5 years and saddest part is that many of the BJP ministers and MPs openly defend the accused. Infamously a BJP union minister welcomed and garlanded lynching accused in Bihar. Whatever thought to be unthinkable, is now happening and being made normalized. Most troubling part is that such bigotry is being normalized with the help of a large chunk of conventional media. Yogi Adityanath ws made CM of UP in an outrageous move. His only achievement was that he was considered muslim baiter and hate monger. So many people now feel open and free to openly utter brazen communal hatred, many people were communal earlier also but now nobody feels that there is anything wrong in openly expressing their hatred. A BJP spokesperson recently threatened a muslim participant on live TV debate” just shut up or else I will change name of your masjid on name of lord Vishnu” Anchors rarely object to things like these. Minority baiting is in fashion now. Recently Govt of India has proposed a law to give Indian citizenship to migrants from neighbour countries based on their religion. Basic ethos of our country is being compromised.
The “Scientific Temper” in India is a victim of what is going on these days. Lots of politicians from ruling party including union ministers keep saying stupid things like “Cow exhales oxygen” or “Darvin was wrong as nobody in ancient india saw creatures evolving”Indian Science Congress , a prestigious gathering of top scientific minds I nindia has been the worst victims. Since 4-5 years now, amid gathering of genuine scientists many “invitees” make laughable claims such that ancient Indians had developed aeroplanes, nuclear weapons and used to do inter-planetary travel ! Many scientists have termed the Indian science congress as a circus now !
Today Political polarization in India has reached extreme. Before 2013 also, people spoke about politics but only occasionally. I myself rarely discussed politics with friends and with family. Now politics is everywhere. Everyone is polarized. Family whatsapp groups are full of political propaganda and messages. on whatsapp groups (more so on non family groups) intense political debates/arguments are common.
Political parties are daily generating and spreading propaganda to their target base and this keeps polarizing people further and further.I, personally have had political debates with close friends in last 4-5 years , with whom I never ever had any political discussion earlier. And with those friends who have opposing views, there is some unsaid uneasiness. Which is not good. Even in families there are political debate, between siblings, between mother-daughter and between all relatives. How this divisive politics has reached homes and families. Political polarization now is at extreme, it was never the case earlier. Everyone is either pro-modi or anti-modi, and both sides have extreme views. There is rarely any middle ground. Even professionals, economists etc moderate their views based on their political standing. God forbid if judiciary or defence establishment is polarized in future !!
It is not that no one is noticing such things, A large number of artists, writers, scientists, economists, film makers etc have expressed the concern over the direction India is taking. But the brazenness of the govt is unbelievable. With the help of pliant media and social media trolls, all such people are abused and declared anti india. All opposition leaders are painted as anti india. As if India was ruled by anti-India elements before 2014 !
This 2019 election, therefore, is not just any other general election, it is an election which will decide whether our India will remain India or not. I request our fellow countrymen to go vote and vote after thoroughly understanding what is happening in the country.