This country takes a lot of pride in its Indianism. Chants of ‘India is the most diverse country in the world’ are heard year after year in Indian classrooms while ‘chinki’ is apparently an acceptable term to call people from the North-East. We love to hate Pakistan and struggle to stand in the theatres with giant popcorn tubs while the national anthem gloriously plays in the background. It’s almost adorable, until it isn’t.
The largest democracy in the world fails spectacularly at the most basic metric of a healthy democracy- Dissent. The idea that conflicting thoughts and opinions can co-exist in harmony is the very essence of it. I know, the arguments that come here often blame the politics for the vitriol that often surfaces after somebody expresses a harmless opinion. But, it is so commonplace for people to be branded ‘anti-national’ on Twitter for so much as saying that violence is bad on college campuses. A fact that is too obvious to be even stated. Yet, a celebrated cricketer scores brownie humor points mocking a 20-year old trying to study without a threat of violence looming over in a university campus.
Twitter trolling is almost fashionable now and people give the ‘free speech’ argument to validate it. If she is allowed to put a placard up, so is he. Fair enough and I’d take that. My problem isn’t with the tweet, itself. It’s the idea that crass and flat jokes in the name of ‘twitter trolling’ take everybody’s attention instead of solid, thought-provoking arguments that should have driven the issue ahead. No, I am all for humor but somehow an analogy of a run-wielding bat to a fallen soldier is arguably in a very bad taste. Nothing is sacred anymore. Issues spark trolling and not thought. People will point me in the direction of the several hundred editorials in hidden newspaper columns to expose me to a qualitative discourse on the issue. But, I want to question its accessibility. India is moving to a digital platform and dramatically replaying juicy tweets from a sports-quota cricketer gets you more rating points than listening to a great incisive discussion on that topic. Who has the time for all of that? We have honestly arrived at a point where quite a few people form rather misguided opinions with those obnoxiously long and fake Whatsapp forwards, for crying out loud.
We, as a country have to really take a long, hard look at what we are becoming and how we belittle intelligence rather than celebrate it. It is scary to see the quality of news that an average Indian is served everyday into his newsfeed and even at prime time. Polarised opinions with no acceptance for anything remotely different stagnates the growth of a society. It is slightly terrifying to think that having an informed opinion somehow makes a person inferior on social media. Like that 20-year old student who was told that ‘her mind must have been polluted’ because she offered an opinion, to a point where she had to withdraw herself from the protest after various personal threats. Truly, what a time to be alive! The average sensibilities are too sensitive that any different idea threatens your own. How fragile does an idea have to be for one to be so fiercely protective about it,even at the cost of basic decency?
The attack on dissent using crass tweets as a tool is a big threat to all that we hold sacred in a free-thinking, democratic nation like ours. Jai Hind.