Rumour mongering

Rumour-mongering with strong communal overtones has become a potential weapon in the hands of mischief-makers. A number of attacks on members of the dalit community in Uttar Pradesh can be attributed directly to mischievous rumour-mongering. Provocative rumours were spread in Kolkata on Thursday after the police chased away BJP workers from Lalbazar. To confuse and mislead the common man, rumours about the identity of the policemen deployed for peace-keeping were spread, as if the police force is deployed on their members’ communal identity. The politically conscious people of Kolkata could not be influenced by such propaganda. They easily saw through the game. But the mischief-making potential of rumour-mongering cannot be under-estimated and must be taken seriously. In the coming days there may be more determined efforts to spread such propaganda, obviously to reap electoral dividends.
It is now incumbent on political parties, non-political organizations and peace-loving and honest citizens to remain ever vigilant against this type of motivated propaganda. The social media is yet another instrument in the hands of mischief-makers to spread monstrous and horrendous lies to stir up communal passions. No law can stop this mischief. Only a conscious citizenry can. In every society there are some gullible people who will readily swallow even the most absurd lies and spread such lies in good faith. One such piece of vicious and morbid propaganda would have the people believe that Nehru and Jinnah were blood relations.
Hitler’s propaganda minister Josef Goebbels used to say that if you have to tell lies, then tell the most monstrous lies and repeat them thousands of times; then the people will believe them and the lie will become a truth. Unfortunately, some people still believe in Goebbels’ dictum. They are ever prepared to divide, destabilize and destroy a harmonious society to gain their narrow political ends. Of late, some rumour-mongers in social media were asked to disclose the ‘sources’ of their wild rumours. In many cases the ‘sources’ cited by them were found either not to exist or not to contain the passages purportedly quoted from them.  Few recipients of such virulent propaganda have either the time or the inclination or the means to verify the sources. So the purveyors of lies get away with impunity.
In a democratic society there should be no bar on dissemination of information and ideas, no bar on an animated debate on any social or political question. But no democratic society can accept the right to spread harmful and divisive ideas and claim democratic freedom to do so. Unfortunately, our political parties are more occupied with thoughts of winning elections rather than with thoughts on educating the people on democratic values and rights.

Monday, 29 May, 2017