The past half decade has been incendiary to say the least. With the advent of social media in everyone’s lives, our world has seen a rise in commentary from all quarters over topics ranging from the colour of a dress to the nature of our very governments and the laws they pass. Nothing is above the scrutiny of the masses online and this leads to inflamed passions that burn our eyes through pixels. With the entire world’s update stored in your pocket, it is tempting not to chime in about what’s going down at any moment, in any part of the world.
The past two months have been a harrowing time in India as the CAA NRC protests gripped the nation. The last time people were so up in arms over governance was in 2011 when Arvind Kejriwal led the Lokpal movement along with Anna Hazare. Back then it was the perfect time and setting for a protest against crony capitalism and corruption in Government. It’s easy to band together as a populace when the enemy isn’t a person or a party but a concept. But this time, it was different. This time, the battle lines were drawn between the population. Pro CAA, Anti CAA.
The Citizenship Amendment Act is too complicated for me to explain accurately and there’s enough and more literature to educate yourself with. The reaction to Amit Shah’s “Chronology Samajhiye” initiative was not well received even by some of their own supporters on the Right side of the political spectrum! Combined with the NRC, it was a poor piece of legislation that put at risk the legality of millions of Muslims in India whether already citizens or not. This was the perfect storm for people on both sides of the political spectrum to hash it out on Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, TV Debate rooms, College Campuses, Streets and Monuments!
Political activism and opposition to Government bills isn’t anything new. But the vitriol with which people argued and tried to one-up each other on social media was a sad sight. In times likes these, people, regardless of their educational level or societal status take things extremely personally. It reminded me of the 2016 US Presidential Elections which divided the most powerful country on earth across political lines like never before. Election season has always been a contentious affair in India but never before was the arguing so vicious and rarely did disagreements result in riots and disproportionate police action. At least in the last ten years!
Like everyone, my timeline was a battleground 24*7. People who have been batch-mates, close friends, acquaintances, heck, relatives were sparring non stop. Accusations of being fascists or collaborators of anti-national elements were flying around like cruise missiles. It was very easy to get drawn in and I almost feel victim a couple of times. People leaving WhatsApp groups, brothers chiding brothers for not attending protests, insults being flung across office canteens. It was a tempestuous time in our national conversation after a long time! I know people who booked ten tickets for Deepika’s new movie just out of spite against the Government’s heavy handed tactics and people being forced to delete their social media posts by relatives to avoid escalations!
But this leads to one of the most contentious questions of the Information age. Is it worth losing friends over politics? Shall we forget all good memories and fun times together because a bunch of power hungry career politicians with agendas manipulate our latent rage to achieve their ends? Shall we abandon nuance and common sense in the pursuit of petty point scoring? These issues are definitely worth our time and in some cases, efforts. But are they really the hills we want to die on? What happens when we purge our timelines and digital lives of people who disagree with us?
Echo chambers have led to majoritarian regimes rising throughout the world. The only antidote to this chaos is having some perspective and not letting our passions get the better of ourselves. Today is CAA tomorrow it will be something else, I assure you. What then? Will you keep purging, arguing and insulting? Let’s keep the internet outrage over Hardik Pandya and Jesse Lingard’s bullshit shall we? Trust me, the guys in power don’t care about us as much as you think they do. Politicians are the original fuckbois and falling on them and expecting them to catch you is as foolish as one can get.
So let’s all calm down, call it a truce and criticize the policies instead of each other.