Dangerous Times

Dangerous Times

It is in conflict zones that journalists are usually killed. Often times, this is because information is a political and tactical tool in conflicts. The managing of information, the planting of information, a rumour let loose here, an incident suppressed there, these are all resources for parties in and to a conflict o turn the situation and narrative to their advantage. In the battle for narrative(s), social media has emerged as a useful tool. It lessens control over information, makes things unpredictable, and its effects are unquantifiable on society, psychology, and politics as a whole. That is why frequent bans on social media in Kashmir are taken recourse to: they are clamped on and they are taken off by the government. Multiple audiences are the target of those employing social media for their purposes. Sometimes, as in the message that Zakir Musa released threatening Hurriyat leaders, it actually suits the government to let social media be: Musa was out of Hizb without the state having to move a muscle! On the other hand, the state may come to rue the lack of control, as has happened, it seems, in the murder of Gauri Lankesh. It is more than likely that Lankesh’s scathing critique of Hindutva, and her Lingayat identity that is currently seeking a place outside Hindu religion, made some right-wing group so enraged and ruffled that Lankesh was murdered. If this is indeed the case, it has certainly embarrassed the Modi led government. But then, even as the opposition Congress had found an opportunity, it suffered a setback when Digvijay Singh re-tweeted a follower’s crude joke. The larger point embedded in these themes is that control over information, , is slipping out of everybody’s hands. In this cacophony and chaos, which is accompanied by an increasing shrillness and harshness in public discourse, the conflict within society, is growing. However, amidst this din, the state’s reflex is to employ its instruments choice. The examples of the previous year’s ban on Kashmir Reader and the recent arrest of photojournalist Kamran Yousuf by the NIA, might suffice to illustrate this point. While journalists in Kashmir are no strangers to the techniques of intimidation, and other perils associated with the vocation of journalism, these trends appear to be gaining ground in India too. The vicious agenda of right-wing forces, the politics of hate and rage, may have spread through social media so wide and deep that any fanatic or bloodthirsty gang can decide to murder a journalist deemed to be offensive. Given these reasons , the aversion to truth and a very low tolerance for alternate voices and spaces for dissent, the primary casualty will be the truth. This constitutes a travesty!

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