It might seem like a meticulously defined method that this government has acted upon, but in reality, it is a series of haphazard decisions gone wrong time and again. The only way we can get to the other side intact is to sit down and talk to each other, without sticks, knives and guns in our hands and by stopping to believe everything we see or hear on the internet. The internet was a boon once; it is now only a bane on a macro level. You think you control your usage, but you only think that. It is not how it is. You are not a user. You are used.
If the recent outburst of riots and protests around the country seems a little out of place to you, like a sudden eruption of political conundrum, then you were not really paying attention to the details. You were actually forced to not pay attention to the details; it was all a part of the plan, rather this whole charade, or so it seems. The current state of social and political affairs resembles a blasted pressure cooker that was left simmering on the stove for far too long and now the damage is not the normal setting, it is way worse than what it was when it all started, obviously.
During the emergency, the media and the press were silenced and it was brutal. The reign of Indira Gandhi made sure of it, but still there were voices who despite saying nothing, said everything (Indian Express). There was still an outlet left for the people to show that they are unhappy and this should not be happening. There is absolutely no need for me to outline the horrors of the emergency. An advantage, for the lack of a better word, was that the internet for general public use was available only after 15th August 1995.
The current circumstances are hard to even understand, let alone to grasp or digest. Former Prime Minister, Mr. Manmohan Singh clearly defines whatever is wrong with the entire country in one sentence. He says, ‘The social fabric of the country is torn in the name of development.’ There is nothing sudden. It has never been sudden. The problem lies in the fact that there is a gap in the understanding of citizenry and the actual reality. We have left behind the age of information; it is the age of data and things are different now. But for some reason, majorly due to lack of education and resources, a larger part of the society still thinks and reacts as if it is the age of information. If anything, it is the age of disinformation, at the very least.
This gap is going to cost us the battle that we, the younger generations, are so religiously (pun intended) fighting. To understand the overall scenario, it is important to know and comprehend the social space where a community or a nation thrives and communicates. The social space is what we call the public sphere in general terms but the advent of social media has already corrupted it up to a larger than imaginable extent.
The trouble started with the recognition of religious boundaries and ‘cultural chasm’ that the government so diligently worked upon. It was their only motive, it seems. To awaken the Hindu feeling of Nationalism, the sleeping Hindu-Rashtra proves to be a classic example of what we call a ‘White Man’s Burden’, except, here instead of the white man, it is the brown guys with a saffron cloth around their necks.
By late 2018 or early 2019, a lot of emphasis was being put on the digital means of social interaction and there was a lot of persuasion from every direction to make the $5 trillion economy a cashless economy. It did not matter whether a village had toilets or water for their crops, it was made sure that everyone had a smartphone; tabs and laptops were distributed, the internet was made easily available, all thanks to Jio and Mr. Ambani. It was all a part of the bigger plan that is being played on us right now. Before the lockdown, the whole country was protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Bill and the National Register of Citizens. They were protesting out on the streets, on NHs, in Universities, and even on global platforms. And then the lockdown occurred. Obviously, COVID hit us hard, but lockdown was the real ‘southpaw’ move nobody saw coming and boom, the nation went down.
By this time, the socially thriving and revolting lives were cramped into spaces that a majority were not accustomed to and the adjustment forced us to establish a digital discourse to further social interaction and community bonding. No doubt that the tragedy that ensued this sudden announcement of the lockdown was devastating and it left a larger population hurtling helter-skelter.
The first symptoms of an autocratic model appear in the arrests and warrants issued against those who were posting about shortage of oxygen in various districts and manhandling of the COVID-hit patients. Not at all surprising, these were later followed by statements issued by the state government of Uttar Pradesh that zero deaths were reported due to lack of oxygen during the COVID period. Yes, the government of Uttar Pradesh said in a statement that there were zero deaths due to lack of oxygen during the corona period!
These symptoms distinctly point towards the first instances of hijacking of the digital social space by the government. With the forcefully extended lockdowns and substantial lack of resources to back its decisions, the government itself went into a frenzy. It was sitting on a leaking powder keg of politics and religion and seeing no other option, it started distributing the unstable and combustible explosive (read - the blatant lies of a successful and global economy) amongst its whopping number of supporters. Rather than distributing, the so-and-so and foot soldiers assumed power from a mere sight of the powder-keg which no one knew was leaking. They assumed power because they believed the lies, they were being fed. They believed it (religious narrative) is something they share interests in with the government, and when the government can do it, why can’t they? It (nation-wide riots) was inevitable. The power these supporters derived was imaginary and had no strong backing, but the proxy silence of the government turned it into a solid support. What were they hoping for to happen? Were they looking for an answer in their silence? Or were they really hoping that this too shall pass? Whatever it was, it didn’t work for them, nor did it work for anyone else.
Here we are today. All that is left of us is a nation, burning and damaging itself because a lot of clueless and ill-competent people don’t know what to do with the leakage they profoundly picked, taking it to be the ‘amrit’ to survive the apocalypse that would ensure their arrival to the land of Ram.
This turmoil in the streets and by lanes is not sudden. It is not something out of the blue. It is actually what happens to a pressure cooker when it is left simmering for a long, long time. It finally blows up and leaves a mess behind it. The only difference in this case would be that the mess will be too arduous.
With the ferocious might the people in power started taking away power from the people, but it was too late. It is late now. It is exactly what Aatish Taseer wrote in his Divider-in-Chief article for TIME magazine. The BJP-led government has been riding a tiger of Hindutva and they can neither slow it down nor can they get off it. Now, the tiger has grown bigger and hungrier with time and the looming economic crisis, unemployment crisis, trade crisis, climate crisis has only worsened the situation for ALL OF US.
It might seem like a meticulously defined method that this government has acted upon, but in reality, it is a series of haphazard decisions gone wrong time and again. The only way we can get to the other side intact is to sit down and talk to each other, without sticks, knives and guns in our hands and by stopping to believe everything we see or hear on the internet. The internet was a boon once; it is now only a bane on a macro level. You think you control your usage, but you only think that. It is not how it is. You are not a user. You are used. But you already know that, maybe you want to sit and talk about it to yourself or your family again.
The takeaway from this would be to understand that the age of the internet is not the age of information anymore, it is the age of disinformation or even misinformation! It is the age of data and data is not information. Data might seem just random numbers in a lot of excel sheets to you but it is more than that. Data is you, your eating habits, your watching habits, your buying habits, your sleep cycle, your working habits, and even your posting and surfing habits. You are data; and YOU make sense to machines, if that’s not true the other way around.
- Prakhar Garg