The Cognizant Citizen: Gujarat Migrant Exodus

On the 28th of September, 2018, a disgusting act took the state of Gujarat by surprise. An infant, no more than fifteen months old, was raped in the district of Sabarkantha. Ravindra Sahu, a labourer from Bihar was convicted for the felony on the same day. The heinous crime led to violence against specific communities, forcing them to move out of the state. About fifty thousand people had to board trains to their hometowns, convinced not to return. 

It all started with Sahu’s arrest. Consequently, hate messages encouraging violence against the Hindi workforce of Gujarat spread like wildfire. Xenophobic fake news reached every corner of the state through mediums like Whatsapp. Tension continued to elevate in major cities as more and more cases of abuse surfaced. As of 8th October, about 42 cases had been filed with an arrest tally of around 350. Officials made statements assuring the well-being of these migrants, yet the exodus did not seem to stop. Some reasonably influential people also suggested the mass movement be a consequence of the festive season. Such intelligence might be the reason the situation was controlled so efficiently; as efficiently as ever.

Social Media’s Role:

Adding on to the pile of cases linked with social media’s misuse, this issue emphasizes the influence such platforms have on the society. Facebook, for one, has been in the news more than quite often lately. The anti-Muslim wave in Sri Lanka was fuelled by hate messages that brewed on the website. In the Philippines, the platform has helped solidify authoritarian regime. The company’s name has become an interchangeable term for the internet in Myanmar. The fake news epidemic is intense in the country, strengthening hate crimes against Rohingyas. What had started as a good intentioned socialising website has now become a significant mechanism of world politics and propaganda. 

Zuckerberg at his Congress hearing.

The 2016 Presidential Elections of the United States were allegedly influenced by the Russian government again, using social media. Mark Zuckerberg, in an interview with CNN, quoted, “If you’d told me in 2004, when I was getting started with Facebook, that a big part of my responsibility today would be to help protect the integrity of elections, against interference by other governments, I wouldn’t have really believed that. But we’re here now, and we’re gonna make sure we do a good job at it.”

Dirt Behind the Scenes:

In India, BJP’s unmatched cyber monopoly is known to everyone. They have used it to ridicule rival parties on multiples instances. The opposition is also catching up though, as political propaganda in the country is now stronger than ever. In no way is this limited to the internet—Cobrapost’s recent sting operations exposed 136 media houses, ready to run political agendas for hefty bribes. In this utterly chaotic status quo, every single story is to be taken with a pinch of salt—including this article, as we come back to Gujarat.

INC President, Rahul Gandhi, came out criticizing BJP governance in the state as he related unemployment and poverty with instability. Various North Indian leaders made speeches against PM Modi in UP and Bihar. Priyanka Chaturvedi, Congress spokesperson, alleged, “I directly hold chief minister Vijay Rupani, and prime minister Narendra Modi responsible for this kind of violence.”

Congress MLA, Alpesh Thakor.

On a hypocritical turn of events, Congress MLA, Alpesh Thakor was accused of making hate speeches against North Indians. A video of him propagating violence surfaced on the internet wherein he demanded employers of North Indian labourers be held accountable. Since then, Thakor has retracted his statement and claimed that he was being misconstrued. With Congress backing him up, the narrative has twisted so much that it’s unclear who’s at the wrong end.

For now, it seems like the BJP have successfully diverted all attention from the issue with the unveiling of the Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel statue. On 14th of October, Vijay Rupani visited Lucknow to invite his UP counterpart for the inauguration. He made speeches on the importance of North Indians in Gujarat and blamed Congress for initiating violence. The situation has vented off as of late, but the dirty politics that played out behind the scenes is a blot on our nation’s 

Reality Check:

The devilish crime should have brought us together in solidarity; instead, it led to baseless generalization and layered propaganda. Specific communities were isolated, leaving thousands unemployed—all owing to the sheer lack of unity. Such divisions in the country have hindered growth since its very inception. It’s about time for India to introspect and actually realize its problems. It’s very easy to pseudo-nationalistically deny all issues and call ourselves the greatest in the world but the truth is that about 40% of our people live below the poverty line. Our literacy rate is ranked 124th in the world and on the Human Development Index, we are ranked 130th. The one thing in which we arguably hold the first position is the per capita rate of sexual assaults.

If you are reading this article, you are probably in the top one per cent of the country. Chances are that your feed is continually bombarded with Trump and Kanye. While there is nothing wrong with that, we need to understand that we can’t afford to be oblivious to our own issues anymore. We are the people of India, and whatever happens in this country directly affects us.

~Chintan Gandhi for MTTN   
Artwork by Sreya 

Featured Image by Mayank Kashyap

Sources: The UNIAN, India Today, Indian Express, CNN 

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