By Invitation

The 20 brave men and the TV-breaking patriots

Those of us who refuse to surrender our intelligence need to re-learn ways to resist this tsunami of fake news, disinformation and injustice

The 20 brave men and the TV-breaking patriots

People in authority say that actually what we know is going on is not going on, but they won’t tell you exactly what is going on. PTI

Natasha Badhwar

Twenty Indian soldiers were clubbed to death and 76 injured by the Chinese army in Ladakh’s Galwan valley last week, but in a statement at the all-party meeting to discuss the violence on the India-China border, Prime Minister Modi’s concluding remarks were, “No one has intruded and nor is anyone intruding, nor has any post been captured by someone.”

In a statement released on the website of the Chinese Embassy in India, China has claimed that the entire Galwan valley has always been on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control and it is Indian border troops who have infiltrated it by building roads and bridges. The Galwan valley and river are named after the Ladakhi explorer, Ghulam Rasool Galwan. There is no Chinese name for the area.

Resident Welfare Association WhatsApp groups reacted to the news of the brutalisation of Indian soldiers by the Chinese army with calls to throw out Chinese goods from homes and document the destruction of them. They didn’t specify if we were allowed to use Chinese-manufactured smartphones for this. In a viral video from Gujarat, grown men are seen jumping on a flat-screen television set that had been thrown off a balcony. In another multi-cam shoot edited with dramatic music, two adolescent girls first destroy their smartphones with hammers and then throw them off the roof of a high-rise building. The offensive phones are filmed from the ground, falling from the sky in slow motion.

I watched both videos with the fascination of one who has never seen the inner parts of ubiquitous electronic goods. A white chart paper like screen emerged from inside the TV set. For a while, I was distracted from the existential headache that begins to come on when you know what is going on, but people in authority say that actually what we know is going on is not going on, but they won’t tell you exactly what is going on.

If the Prime Minister says nothing happened, then how come some soldiers are dead, many injured and some just released from Chinese captivity? If the truth is a lie, and lies are to be accepted as truth, then why are we not characters in a dystopian novel? Or a history book? Clearly we need a sturdier imagination than the one that worked for us so far.

The Delhi Police has been busy filing chargesheets that illustrate their theories of who was responsible for the communal violence in north-east Delhi in late February in which nearly 60 people died, hundreds were injured and many homes, establishments and mosques were gutted. Like the Chinese incursion into Indian territory in the last month, there is fresh evidence of how events unfolded in Delhi, both in terms of documentation as well as testimonies of witnesses and victims. There are multiple photos and videos that identify shooters aiming at peaceful protesters, mobs vandalising mosques and violence by the police, yet none of them are named in the chargesheets filed by the Delhi Police.

The conspiracy theories, that are also being amplified by television channels, frame students, protesters, Muslim activists and even people like DS Bindra, the Sikh philanthropist who sold his flat to finance the daily langar at Shaheen Bagh, the most prominent anti-CAA protest site organised by Muslim women.

Safoora Zargar, an MPhil student of Jamia Millia University who was media coordinator of the Jamia Co-ordination Committee, has been accused of a ‘conspiracy to block a road’, arrested and booked under UAPA. Zargar is pregnant and yet she has been denied bail repeatedly, despite the additional threat of the Covid-19 infection that is raging through Indian jails right now.

In short, democractic protests have been labelled a threat to national security, victims have been framed as perpetrators and perpetrators are left off the hook. What story can the families of fallen soldiers tell themselves? How can wrongly framed citizens be rescued from the state that owes them protection?

In an age when propaganda passes off as news, and evil comes camouflaged as the saviour, it is easy to become victims of fatigue and confusion. Those of us who refuse to surrender our intelligence need to re-learn ways to resist this tsunami of fake news, disinformation and injustice. Our outrage needs a new language to make itself be heard and understood. Our activism needs a new blueprint to counter the collapse of what we had always understood as common sense morality.

We need to gather our tools, speak up, speak in unison and offer a strategic pushback. Let this Sunday that marks the middle of the year 2020 be a new beginning.

— Writer is an author & filmmaker natasha.badhwar@gmail.com

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