Sinister narratives more dangerous than accidental fake news
October 6, 2018
‘Fake news’ and ‘fake narratives’ are such oft-repeated terms today that their meanings have almost lost relevance. The phenomenon of fake news that should have ideally been an aberration in a country that is as secular and democratic as India has become the norm. While fake news can still be attributed to human error in an age where information is available easily and the pressure of meeting strict deadlines leaves journalists with little time to verify the veracity of information, fake narratives are threatening the very existence of India.
Narratives are not set in a day. These are concerted attempts by sections of Indian intelligentsia that wants to spread a particular school of thought — often at the expense of free thinking, which they claim to be torchbearers of. And it is unfortunate that the systematic brainwashing starts rights from schools as children are impressionable and vulnerable. It starts with telling the theory of Aryan invasion. Though discredited by many competing historians, the idea that the syncretic culture of India emanated from central Asian people who came from elsewhere is still taught in Indian schools.
The influence of this line of thought flows over to modern history, which states that it was the arrival of the Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, that introduced Indians to the vast possibilities of navigation. The fact that Indian culture had even before the arrival of da Gama spread to regions as far and wide as Australia, Africa and West Asia and the centrality played by the Indian Ocean in determining India’s place in the world is conveniently overlooked in all the school textbooks.
Another instance where history was designed to suit the narrative set in place by the British was terming the 1857 war of independence as a mere mutiny. While the failure of the soldiers to emerge victorious is chronicled, the importance of the event as the first instance when the people of India gathered together to fight for their beliefs is lost even on some of the great historians. What is termed an act of rebellion was actually the awakening of Indian minds to the dangers posed by the British to Indian economy and culture. It is often argued here that nationalism as a feeling had not taken root in the Indian subcontinent and it would be far-fetched to call it the first war of Indian independence. There cannot be a more flawed argument than this.
Contrary to popular belief, what happened in 1857 was not due to the single issue of the British forcing Indian soldiers to bite cartridges laced with cow or pig fat. It was the final trigger to the years of exploitation faced by Indians at the hands of the British East India Company. The burden of heavy taxes, the rising inequality in society, the annexation of territories and the attack on Indian culture had been giving rise to resentment amongst Indians, which culminated in their coming together to claim their country back from the foreign power. The very fact that the rebellion forced the British to dissolve the East India Company and the Government of India Act, 1858, was passed bringing India directly under the British rule points to the impact of the rebellion. Though the British had understood that 1857 would remain a watershed year for India questioning the legitimacy of British rule, it seems history was written only to please the masters. While it is accepted that history is written from the perspective of victors, it is rather unfortunate that in India even today, history is written from the perspective of bootlickers who are enslaved to the Western ideals, who refuse to see their country for all its glory.
For the generations that were taught only to eulogise a foreign culture, it comes as no surprise that the logical flaws in what is presented as news often go unquestioned. It was in the year 2016 that the magnitude of psychological damage done by those who pride themselves in being the fourth pillar of democracy became evident. Many in the mainstream media interpreted the slaying of the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani by the Indian armed forces as the killing of a hero! In the days that followed, there was a deliberate attempt to incite violence in Kashmir and change the narrative to make the Indian state an enemy of its own people. Little would anybody have thought that a day would come when India will not be fighting an external war but an internal one waged by invisible enemies who happen to be citizens of the country.
Two years after the death of Wani, India was again faced with a unique situation in Kashmir. The heinous rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl was politicised and the narrative set by the mainstream media was deliberately steered to the religious identities of the perpetrators. At a time when the nation should have united to condemn the brutality of what happened, it was used to spread communal hatred. The so-called liberals who live under the highly delusional view that they stand for human rights that day ensured that the last of humanity was slaughtered. The unfulfilled hopes and dreams in the eyes of the eight-year-old will continue to haunt the nation for years to come for denying her justice and using a tragedy to serve vested interests.
Even more unfortunate was the realisation that the anger and anguish seen on the streets were selective. Three months after the dreadful incident when a similar atrocity was perpetrated in Madhya Pradesh where a young girl was raped and killed by a person belonging to the minority, all that the news channels and newspapers had to say was “there was an increase in rape cases in BJP-ruled states”. The fact that human lives can matter so little to people who fight for human rights only when there is a camera rolling in front of them is perhaps the saddest reality of the present times.
It is believed that liberalism as a philosophy has its core in the ideal of equality. It urges people to question the wrongs and set a narrative in a place where everyone is treated as equal. Yet in India, liberalism has acquired an entirely different connotation. It has become a means to stop people from questioning the ideals thrust upon by the colonisers and a tool to deepen the existing inequalities in society.
The culture of elitism brought about by those who come from this school of thought has alienated all Indians who understand the ground realities and real meaning of nationalism. It will not be wrong to argue that, in India, the liberals are liberals only in their illiberalism that scuttles the birth of new ideas and thought processes. The spread of fake narratives is an ideological and psychological warfare waged by the ‘liberally illiberals’ against the nation and it is a danger that the country needs to wake up to at the earliest.