All myths are not based on ancient scriptures, folklore, stories or fantasies coming down from earlier generations. After the advent of modern communication and information technology, a new industry has come into mainstream socio-political life. This industry does not require much capital, land or vast ranks of labour.
This industry, in its impact, is more dangerous than chemical pollutants or even nuclear weapons. This may sound as highly exaggerated statement. But just look at some of the “manufactured events” which took some lives, disturbed life, mainly in cities and spread hate-based mayhem. A few months ago, the state of Haryana was rocked by the scandals of Baba Ram Rahim. Politicians, senior bureaucrats, even top police officials, media personnel, so-called social celebrities were involved in the obscene bonanza of money, jewelry and of course sexual escapades.
Last week, along with Haryana, five other states were affected by riots, arson, and disruption of life. The issue was the film “Padmaavat” (originally Padmavati). It was believed that by removing “i” from the name of the film, everything will be settled. The honour of Padmini, of Rajputs and their women, will be saved. But as the time came close for the launch of the film, the hell broke loose. Even school buses were targeted.
Two questions before we proceed. Imagine, such riots in the Srinagar Valley and there would have been cries, “shoot them on site”, or use pellets, or even bullets to disperse the mob or tie someone to the police jeep on the bonnet and show to the world that law and order will be maintained at any cost. No such action was voiced, no firm police ‘bandobust’ was organised and the very state governments encouraged the mayhem by openly committing contempt of court. The court had ordered that the film will be screened with the changes made and the state governments will keep law and order. Nothing was done. Was it because the myth was about “Hindu” icon? Or was it because these governments going to some by-polls soon and assembly polls ten months from now? The hidden agenda of the governments, all of the BJP ruled states is to consolidate the Hindu and Rajput vote banks. It does not matter to them if the nation is held at ransom to influence the votes!
Even the identitarian rebellion of the Dalits that rocked Maharashtra on the issue of Bhima Koregaon was a kind of politically motivated. The self-styled “Guruji” Manohar Kulkarni, alias Sambhaji Bhide, and his associate in the cabal, Milind Ekbote, were spreading poisonous hatred in the name of militant Hindutva. So the stage was set for riot at least two weeks before. But the government prefers riots and chaos instead of organised discontent of farmers. This episode effectively put the genuine issues on the shelf.
So let us not be influenced or impressed by the presumed “spontaneity” of the people or the religious, caste or community pride. All this spontaneity and issues of pride can be manipulated. The biggest help to all this chaos comes from the media-mainly electronic media and social media. The media, some sections of it for sure, is either controlled, bought by offering advertisements to the channel owners or by luring senior (and even junior) journalists either by directly paying them or giving them flats, foreign tours or positions of power in some state-supported institutions.
The media then merrily joins the anarchy on streets. Provocative and explosive interviews or fake “intellectual” panel debates, with the leaders of the Karni Sena or some such organisation, or Bajarang Dal or Sanatan Sanstha or some extremist Muslim outfit are arranged. This serves two purposes. One, it obfuscates the basic issues of price rise, particularly of essential commodities including diesel and petrol and cooking gas or even onions or vegetables in general. And such programmes on TV give legitimacy to the anarchy that is rampant. This creates a kind of vacuum in the political space which is then filled by the ruling party and its organisations. In the last five years, the real menace is the social media. The social media can do all the things that mainstream media cannot. It destroys not only mind but also body and social fabric.
A few years ago, the renowned thinker and philosopher Noam Chomsky wrote a book titled, “Manufactured Consent” where he explains how media has become not the Fourth Estate” which challenges the state power, which fights injustice and generates awareness among the people. It becomes the arm of the State, the ruling class, the ruling party and the corporate interests. We are witnessing this on an hourly basis.
There was another book, written more than two decades ago, titled, “Controlling the Human Mind: The Technology of Political Control”, by Nicholas Begich, which gives examples of social institutions, including the police, judiciary, election commission, intelligence outfits and police are deployed as a sort of parallel army. Not to protect people, but to terrorise, to generate fear psychosis and then manipulate mass mind to achieve a certain end.
All these moves played by the intelligence agencies, under the instructions of the government (or foreign agencies)are distorting, destabilising and destroying the democracies and bring about electoral victories and impose a kind of Authoritarian rule. Bertram Gross, the American political sociologist wrote the book titled “Friendly Fascism”, way back in the late seventies. He states that elections do not necessarily bring democratic parties and institutions to power.
Unfortunately, holding elections are regarded as the final expression of democracy. Elections are necessary of course but are not end in themselves. But the mind manipulators have understood how the media and votes can be manipulated. So elections, as well as institutions, are being used for nefarious designs. The global powers have been conspiring “regime changes” in countries they want under their control. India was on their target list for a long time. All the indications in our country today give enough evidence to suspect that the “regime change” that took place in this country is more manipulated than evolved as a political process. With just 31 percent of the votes having secured in 2014 Loksabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes all over the world saying that he has received mandate of all people ( and therefore it is not necessary to take the minuscule opposition seriously). One after another institution is coming under attack— from Planning Commission to Jawaharlal Nehru University and from Film and TV institute to Non-Aligned Movement. From school textbooks (mainly history books) to science research. A huge effort is on to delink modern India from the legacy of the freedom movement. All this clearly appears as a part of a grand design.
To conclude, the mythologies are not innocent, entertaining or revealing social psyche, but have emerged as a new “Post Truth” phenomenon. We must try to see beyond headlines, beyond organised social media, and beyond simplistic or naive political understanding. We must liberate our minds and our societies from this new weapon of mass destruction.