How Social Media Turns Thinking Persons Reckless, Careless?

Today’s post is borne out of email exchanges I have had during last few days with an Internet acquaintance. He is from Lucknow and he has been blind-copying his messages to Groups such as Lucknow Management Association, Arkitect India , and Ark Foundation. Until recently He shared articles with links to original sources along with often his own introductory remarks. Like so many others who decried recent hanging of one of the accused in 1992-93 Mumbai bombings [that took place after communal organisations of the majority community fomented mayhem directed at the minority community]; he too was saddened by the State’s misdirected “Honour Revenge”. Soon after that he started sending eMails with Pictures and Video clips that were shared via his WhatsApp messenger. Mostly I deleted them without a thought for reasons that would become obvious later, until I received the following “Photo” in an email from him
The “Text” inserted on top of the photos had my antennae quivering at the prospect of dangers it signalled. In translation it reads,

Had a Muslim done it, he would be branded Anti-National, a Traitor. Who are these? Just tell. This photo is of Hyderabad’s Kishanbaug. Share this widely so that it reaches everybody. What do you have to say?  

This raised several questions.
  • Why would anybody want to do this unless there is an impotent rage against the Indian State or Nation?
  • It suggested a maladroit inference that a tinier minority could get away with “murder”,  whereas largest minority would have faced “music”.
I found this highly mischievous because no sources or timeframe were provided. This message had come from a person who otherwise appeared sober till then and was not given to hyperbole or carelessness. So I decided to bring my concerns to his notice.

1. I made an attempt at Google Image search and found several places on the net where the photo you have shared, purportedly taken at Hyderabad Kishan Bag, appears. Many photos appear without the writing in HINDI on the photo, others have it. Most websites are either Twitter.com or Pininterest.com or Google Plus. No where, it is given:

-Who took the photo?
-Or any News Agency that has also taken it.
-When was it taken?
-Where was it taken?
The results of the Google Image search can be ascertained here:
2. Circulating a photo without ascertaining its authenticity and antecedents is an extremely reckless endeavour fraught with grave consequences. Social media has been used dangerously in the past to spread all kinds of rumours and falsehoods to instigate communities to clash amongst themselves. For more on this see:
and
3. Communal hatred did not ignore Sikhs either. 1984 is a tragic reminder to what happens when parochial passions of “suitably inclined” are stoked. In terms of scale 1984 was larger than 2002, more concentrated temporally, and killings stacked up on only one side -Sikhs. The “killing sport” had participation of reportedly not only Congress cadres but even BJP too.
4. Circulating such photos or videos is to be outright shunned and would be counterproductive. Especially so when one doesn’t know the antecedents of the photo. I hope this matter receives the introspection with sobriety that it deserves. Competitive communalism is in the interests of none even if the intention is to only make a point of “perceived practise of discrimination” based on religious identity of one group versus the other. Virus of Identity politics, including religious identity, has not escaped leaders and sections among Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians or others. We need to guard against all such elements.

The gentleman politely, but I feel blithely, answered, “I Agree, Regards,”. Two other “correspondents” of his too wrote to him as I had done and he in turn shared his replies to them with me. One of them wrote:
Please be careful hence forward. And this also goes true about the other photo of a Sikh person[s] dishonouring the Indian tricolour.
You should give the date. One may defend that it had happened when Khalistani movement was happening.

We belong to the same page, but we must be able to face [with facts] the hardest of all the fanatics of all religions. [Clarifications in bracket added].
I decided to share my comments with both of them and only the other correspondent responded with the following:

Af___ sahab I agree with Sadanand. Photos can be easily altered and changed. Photo shop imaging is common using available programs and photos are being used for inciting tension. Those sent on Whats app are just copies without references. Everything I send is an email with a url, even then I find some news reports give wrong information. I agree we should not exchange any information which can not be verified by the receiving party.  

Todays’ world has become one of instant gratification, and breaking views and news. Social media platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter, Google+ whet appetite for this with instant communication. These are great communication tools in the age of ever shortening attention spans of most people, who have become avid “consumers” of “news”. Desire to make a splash and reach as many souls as quickly as possible makes many trigger happy to forward messages, whose contents agree with their “notions” and “worldview”, without a thought or a pause. How even the seemingly thinking people have begun to succumb to Social Media’s Irresistible charms is what makes me nervous. 
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