Some Questions to Ask Next Time You See a Controversial Outburst in India

Photo by Navneet Shanu

India is increasingly getting polarized. We have a pro-government clan and an anti-government clan. Both are equally stubborn in their own thoughts and action, believing with all their heart that the other is up to no good.

It has become impossible to be objective without offending someone. I hesitate before sharing a piece of good news about the country because the anti-government clan will attack me. It’s the same when you criticize the country because the pro-government clan will get offended.

As Indians, we have sadly lost the ability to differentiate between politics and the well-being of the nation. We are unable to take an objective stance or take a step back to consider ourselves as “one” instead of separate entities and are instead getting into petty fights and finger-pointing. Our national anthem talks beautifully of unity but the truth is we are increasingly becoming divided as the years go by. For a free thinker who cares only for the well-being of the country and not any political party, for someone who wants to see her nation prosper and become a global powerhouse in all aspects, the manner in which India is behaving currently is a huge disappointment.

The riots, hate, and division hardly boost the growth of the country. These elements throw us back financially and emotionally if at all they do something. So why are poeple engaging in them? Where is this polarization coming from? There are a few culprits here:

  1. News Channels: No, I am not talking about only some channels. All are equally biased.
  2. Social Media: The Modi clan supports the leader loyally; the non-Modi clan trolls the leader loyally. There is no middle ground.
  3. Social Messengers: The WhatsApp University is relatively well-known. I need not elaborate on that.

When you subject yourself to a continuous flow of negative news from all three sources listed above, the frustration is imminent. The ground reality might be something else. Internet might be flooded with news of riots, outbursts, hysteria, and violence. However, in real life, you might be sitting in the comfort of your home, enjoying the peaceful surroundings, having a cordial relationship with your neighbors from all communities celebrating each other’s festivals with equal fervor. I have had people ask me if there’s an ongoing war in India, with people rioting 24×7. The fact is the media tends to highlight only the bad, not the good. So a person watching Indian news channels from abroad will end up thinking the country is a perpetual war zone with people getting beaten up or murdered every other second. This is quite extreme from reality. But it is an extreme that cannot be stopped. I happened to read this today in the Open magazine and I can’t agree more.

“The Noise Is Not The Conversation”

What can a citizen do in such situations? Each time you see a piece of polarizing news blasted across media, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Why do some incidents make it to the news, whereas others, like the Assam floods, do not get much coverage?
  • Why do we get only one-sided POVs from some social activists? They tend to hide the other side. What’s their agenda?  
  • Why do we have debates on sensitive topics? And why are panelists who are well-known for making polarizing comments invited to such debates?

Always search for the other side, and not blindly follow what the media shows you. This mantra should be mainly applied when they are highlighting hatred or negativity. When you ask “why” to everything that’s happening, you will realize it’s all a game. A game where we are being played around like puppets. A game to spread hatred and disharmony, to cause division. Why? There might be political and personal reasons behind it. The motivation can also be business-oriented – negative news sells. We can never be 100% sure of the intention behind something, but that shouldn’t stop us from doubting and questioning someone’s agenda behind highlighting hatred – even if it’s coming from our favorite social activist or news channel.

The next step a citizen can take is to stop sharing hatred-inducing posts. We get tempted to share such posts because of the shock factor. I know I certainly do. But I had to step back and think, “Am I improving the situation by sharing this?” When we share polarizing news akin to “look what this person said about Islam/Hinduism” we are not promoting peace. We unknowingly encourage agitation and unrest as no person reads such posts with compassionate eyes.

I picture hatred as this greedy monster kept alive by our own dedicated, unwavering attention. We keep feeding this monster and recharging it with our own infinite supply of hatred. It then turns into an uncontainable being beyond our control. Maybe the only way to tame this monster is by ignoring it. We have given the monster so much attention till now, and it hasn’t worked. So maybe it’s time to do the opposite – ignore when someone is trying to divide us with hateful news or posts. Ignore when someone is trying to agitate you with spiteful comments. It is a long stretch because, as Indians, we are sensitive to a lot of things. But ignorance, sometimes, indeed can be bliss. If we learn to ignore the hatred and don’t give it enough attention, who knows, the greedy monster, with its excessive anger and polarization, might eventually die a slow, painful death.