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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Misusing social media to spread communalism in the society: Messages on WhatsApp, Facebook inflaming passions, causing riots

If the society is increasingly getting communalised and people belonging to different communities are turning into religious bigots, it should be a cause of alarm.

Across India, 'objectionable' posts on Facebook or circulation of messages on WhatsApp are leading to communal tension and riots.

In small towns, people come out on streets and mob resort to violence after seeing a post. We can no longer say that it is a transition phase for society and that people will get over it.

First, it was Facebook, which was being misused to spread false messages and propaganda. Now, it is Whatsapp that is being flooded with communal messages.

It seems that there are factories to manufacture hate-filled messages, on a regular basis. In fact, messages that are factually incorrect are floated, purposely, part of a conspiracy to turn Hindus and Muslims against each other.

Hate-mongering, morphed images

For example, a mischief maker just takes any photo, puts a few words along with it, using PhotoShop or Paintshop, and uploads it. Soon, the like-minded start liking or sharing it, as if it is a certified intellectual's quote.

Even educated persons who are supposed to be discernible and know the truth, are taken in, and believe it as truth. By consistently posting these messages, the aim is to paint the other group as absolute villain and enemy.

A photo of a person being lynched in neighbouring country is passed off as a scene from a particular place in India, and a particular group is blamed. These images go viral and even if one or two persons see the falsehood, the voices don't matter much.

The impact, reach of WhatsApp

Both fundamentalist Hindus and Muslims are involved in this act. Also, many ordinary people, without verifying or bothering to check the information, believe these messages and forward them. Sharing in WhatsApp, takes the messages to even more people.

The hate in many of these messages is chilling. No longer a person needs newspaper or TV channel to spread his message. He can simply write a few lines and in photo form if it is posted, many seem believe the message. Many might not believe these messages.

Daily propaganda turning people fanatic

However, when you see such messages on a daily basis, your degree of suspicion towards other group increased. So those who were liberal turn into fundamentalist, the slight communal into communal and the communal become ultra-communal, seeing the propaganda day in and day out.

Education should bring enlightenment but sadly a large number of people are getting affected by false propaganda on the social networking websites. While social media has its benefits and guarding freedom of expression is important, it is also imperative that those injecting hate in society, should be dealt with sternly.

How many around to spread message of communal harmony?

The reason is that messages on communal harmony aren't spread. There are no organisations flush with funds to do it with a missionary zeal. But those who are overcome by hate or have an agenda, act with a passion. Hence, communal messages flood the virtual world.

Till a few years ago, it was a small section that used Twitter. Facebook was used more often. However, with smartphones being used to check social media, the situation has turned extremely serious. Facebook is used by teenagers and elders in villages too.

Communalism reaches villages through smart phones

WhatsApp is being misused even more. People form their own groups and become 'admins'. There are people who run dozens of groups and spread hate, not just in cities, but in rural parts of the country.

Whatever happened in Muzaffarnagar earlier this year was a reflection of it. People in villages who were not afflicted by the communal bug also turned communal. The power of WhatsApp can be understood by the way it helped spread of the message of BJP.

The right-wing support ensured that the party got a huge success in Uttar Pradesh (UP). While BJP may term itself moderate, its sister organisations are known for their hardcore right-wing ideology. Members of these organisations are known for their communal diatribe.

It is not that other communities aren't involved in it. There are many Muslims who post objectionable messages and circulate them. Sadly, on both sides, there are less saner voices. We need statesmen, real leaders to tell the youths of nation, to get out of this hate business. It hurts the nation like nothing else.


1. How to deal with communal messages, hate speech and misinformation on social media?

2. Rising Racism: Of online bigots, communal comments and casteist messages on internet

3. Playing flue to buffalow: How to deal with online trolls

4. Abusive messages, comments and this blog

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Beyond Chacha Chaudhary: Legendary cartoonist Pran's comics rooted for secularism and communal harmony too

The news of cartoonist Pran's death in a hospital in Delhi, led to widespread grief and nostalgia--both on the street and on social media.

Those who had grown up reading his comics, paid rich tributes to him, and there were numerous obituaries in newspapers and websites.

Pran, who was born in Kasur town in undivided India, is mostly remembered for his creation of the iconic Indian comic character, Chacha Chaudhary.

But the gifted artist created many more characters which include Billu, Pinki, Shrimati Ji, Channi Chachi, Dabu and Raman amongst others.

For decades Shrimati Ji was published in women's magazine Manorama. There's no doubt that Pran got immense success with Chacha Chaudhary that was published by Diamond Comics. 

I remember that initially I was not a big fan of Chacha Chaudhary because the stories were not long. Most of us got the comics for 25-50 paise from neighbourhood libraries. I expected the story to be a bit longer. Each comic had many short stories that ran into 4-5 pages.

This was unlike Lambu Motu, Rajan Iqbal, Fauladi Singh and other comic strips, which had a long story line running into 45-48 pages. However, I enjoyed reading the naughty Billu and the Pinky, the girl who was always up to some tricks. 

When Secular hadn't  become 'SICKULAR'
However, after the 'villain' Raka was introduced, there were long running stories too in the Chacha Chaudhary series.

When Chacha Chaudhary was launched, there was still a generation which was hooked to Indrajal Comics.

But Chacha Chaudhary went on to enjoy cult following. The character of Sabu, especially, made Chacha Chaudhary more interesting and different from other similar characters.

Diamond comics became the market leader. As far as art, humour and stories are concerned, there are numerous aspects that can be discussed.

However, I would like to reflect on how Pran's comics were always centred on communal harmony and inclusivity.

It was not the era when 'secular' was called 'sickular'. The stories had Muslim, Sikh and Christian characters, quite often.

There would be a Khalifa, a David, a Sardarji or an 'Amjad' in every third or fourth story in most of his comics.

When the new character, Raman, was introduced, the comic-Ham Ek Hain, was a nationwide hit. It was available at all the book stores.

I still remember that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had released this particular issue. Today, many people may not realise the importance of it. 

But the message of secularism through comics can't be underestimated. This was visible in Chacha Chaudhary, as well as other comics of Pran.

There were few other cartoonists who took care to have characters belonging to different regions and religions.

Soon, Diamond Comics lost to the new emerging Raj comics. The strips were now focusing more on crime, violence and superheroes.

The stories often showed triumph of good over evil but the message of social inclusion and harmony wasn't seen thereafter with such passion and intensity in comics of the later era.

Certainly, Pran is immortal. The man, his works, his characters can't be forgotten. 

[Photos courtesy:]

Monday, August 04, 2014

Cracking CPMT: Muslim students in medical entrance exam, top the merit list in UP

When result of the Combined Pre-Medical test (CPMT) was announced recently, it was a pleasant surprise for the Muslim community in the most populous state of the country.

Shams Mohammad Khan topped the examination and secured FIRST place in the merit list. The second rank also went to a Muslim boy, Abu Asim.

A Muslim girl, Alia Zohra, figured at the fourth place in the merit list of the highly competitive examination. Further, Mohammad Arshad achieved seventh rank in the merit list.

The topper, Shams Mohammad Khan, hails from a village in Hardoi district. Abu Asim who secured the 2nd rank belongs to Azamgarh district. He may not take admission in any college in UP as he had already been selected in AIIMS, Bhopal.

Over 1 lakh candidates had appeared in the UP CPMT for admission to state medical and dental colleges that have nearly 2,000 seats.

While Muslim boys and girls have been excelling in examinations in different states across in the county in the last few years, the remarkable performance of Muslim students in UP, especially, in the medical entrance examination, bodes well for the community and the nation.

It requires great deal of hard work to make it to the merit list in medical entrance test. The exam is the gateway for MBBS (and BDS) courses. Fortunately, there has been the emergence of a strong Muslim middle-class in the last two decades in India. And, clearly there is increasing focus is on education.



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Should India support Palestine or Israel: Ten hard facts on India's international stand and foreign policy in the light of its national interests and realpolitik

[This post has been written after Indian government voted in support of Palestine, inviting criticism from pro-Israel ideologues who thought BJP government would change its policy]

1. India is seen as a responsible nation world over, government has to be careful of its standing too while voting at UN or other fora, can't go by wishes of individuals. 

2. On TV debates, right-wing panelists say that 'Arabs never supported India'. So? Who asks to support them? Must ditch 'em, if needed. Who stops!

3. India is already doing business with Israel. We get lot of oil from Arab countries. Millions of Indians live in Gulf and send foreign currency here.
This is never mentioned in TV debates. In fact, there are more Indians (60 lakh) in Arab countries than in USA and Britain together (45 lakh). 

What are the stakes for us to suddenly turn our back on these countries? Of course, if you simply love Israel because it kills Arabs or Palestinians [read Muslims], then let us talk straight, don't beat the bush [strategic interests, yes we know]. On channels you talk of real-politik and sermonise that we must keep our interests supreme, rather than going for 'passion' or becoming 'world guru, then friends, these are real interests.

4. The only difference is that Arab countries don't claim credit and aren't interested much in PR in India. The NRIs in these countries are mostly from South India, and the North Indian-media glosses over it. 

5. Indian Muslims are with national interest. The expectation or support is on humanitarian grounds. Government should strike balance, use diplomacy and see its interests. If needed, stand with any country, who stops the Viraat government? Don't play politics on us, using our names. 

6. During nuclear deal issue also, it was suggested that Indian Muslims wer against it though it was the biggest lie  

7. Then, there is another argument, 'how can we vote along with Pakistan on the same issue'. This is the reflection of the mentality, 'If your enemy is doing the right thing, you should do the wrong thing just because it is your enemy'. So if Pakistan goes on to vote for saving girl child at an international forum, will India oppose it? 

8. Truth is that only one country was against the vote for probe on war crimes. It was USA which patronises Israel. Many other countries who have major disputes among themselves, voted in favour. We are not in a position to be Israel's patron, do we want to look like its lackey, and reduce ourself to such level without any genuine benefit. 

9. Some journos and self-styled ideologues who think they were behind BJP and Modi's victory, feel they know more about national interests than Govt! Surely, Narendra Modi government knows what is in India's interests.

10. But it doesn't mean that your love for Israel, outgrows your love for your own country and the respect of your nation and its standing. Gaza killings are surely not an humanitarian issue for you, but tell us the real strategic reason, you want India to shift its international position?

Right now, the disgusting tweets that show their love for Israel, more than India, are revealing exactly the same: That sections of right-wing are so obssesed with Israel and are anti-Muslim to such an extent, that they are disowning the BJP government which they considered their own till days ago.

[This post has been written after the outrage by many self-styled strategic affairs experts and 'super patriots', who felt that India under Narendra Modi, shouldn't have voted to censure Israel at BRICS and opposed its vote on UNHRC probe for war crimes against Israel]

Read the post on 'Indians support Palestine despite propaganda' HERE
Read the post 'Irony for Israel: The world calls it a Nazi state, even Jews opposing Israel' HERE
Read the post 'Jews suffered genocide, now commit similar atrocities on Palestinians' HERE

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

India supports Palestine at BRICS summit and UN, opinion poll shows Indians too stand against Israel: 75% Indians support Palestine, just 15% for Israel

Of late, we often hear that the public opinion in India is shifting and is now inclined towards Israel.

You don't need to rake your brains to think about those who are behind this new found knowledge about Indian masses & public opinion.

On Monday, a journalist tweeted that within three decades, India has become one of the most pro-Israel nations.

There was nothing to substantiate this insight though. He didn't reveal what made him believe that Indians were no longer pro-Palestine.

Right-wing folks have been trumpeting their admiration for Israel. In India, the unique thing is that the same group also eulogizes Hitler.

Clearly, any state that commits mass murders, brutality and genocide is their ideal, with no moral issues for them. The vocal right-wing supporters can keep claiming that Indians are turning pro-Israel, because propaganda works to an extent.

The BJP victory or the Congress loss doesn't mean that Indian have become pro-Israel or anti-Palestine.

In fact, for a large number of Indians, it may not be an issue to align with one side. For them, it will be of siding with humanity. If any ordinary person sees the images of innocents killed in Gaza, he or she would naturally support the victim. 

Just seven decades ago, we won our independence from an imperial power that also used brutality as a state weapon against the subjects.

However, the propagandists know that if they keep repeating lies, half-lies, assumptions and their beliefs, it will have some impact on others too.

But the biggest shock for the Israel-supporter propagandists in India came on Tuesday.

India voted in support of UN resolution on Gaza, calling for investigation against Israel. Suddenly, there was silence among the pro-Israel Twitterati, as they rued and expressed sadness at the Indian stand.

For them, it was almost unbelievable that a BJP government led by Narendra Modi would continue the traditional Indian policy on Palestine. Self-styled ideologues who think they have brought Narendra Modi-led BJP to power, were upset and said that it was unexpected.

After the Indian vote at UNHRC, a journalist Sadanand Dhume, who lives in  USA, also claimed that mood in India was pro-Israel. Other pro-BJP journalists termed Indian vote as 'monumental blunder'. Indian call for implementation of UN resolution, was criticised by them.

MEANWHILE. In Rio, the Prime Minister also signed the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) censure of Israeli offensive in Gaza. What more? Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj says Indian policy towards Palestine remains unchanged.

And if you want to know about public opinion. Check this opinion poll by Hindustan Times on who should India support in the Middle East conflict. While 75% say Indians should be supporting Palestine, just 15% say that the country should stand by Israel. LINK TO THE POLL

This is the situation when it is well-known that right-wing has a disproportionately big presence on the internet. So there is no sign that Indians have turned pro-Israel, en masse. The propagandists can, of course, chant otherwise.