Saturday, 27 February 2016

The Judge, the Jury and the Executioner

Movies - Bollywood -whether you like it or not has been an integral part of our society. Do movies influence the cultural ethos of society, or does the societal behaviour cast influence on movies? The answer to this question is not akin to unidirectional flowing river. This river flows in all directions. That discussion is for some other time. But one can find certain pattern in the movies that catch the nerves of people and become instant hit. Movies like Shehenshah, or Sunny Deol's late 80s films like Ghayal, Ghatak, or even for that matter RDB or (this sentence cannot be foreclosed without mentioning) the South Indian mass movies are the ones I am talking about. People/Family/Hero wronged by the system/rich fellows take law in their hands. Loudest cheers go to the ones where the protagonist kills the antagonist  doing all kinds of physics defying stunts. Keeping all the antics apart the phenomenon we are talking about is called as mob justice.

I would not have been worried if this was only restricted to reel life, but mob justice is a hard reality in real life too. To top this, mob justice is not seen by many people as a crime or something which is morally wrong. There have been numerous instances where people have taken law into their own hands where they deemed injustice has been meted out. At the least level, we all have, in our life time, seen a robber being beaten black and blue by the "mob". It does not look ominous to us at that time but it is just a tip of the ice berg. In mid 2015, mob breaks into prison and beats an 'alleged' rapist to death, the episode of Dadri lynching, lawyers (cannot emphasize the extent of irony in this) beating the 'alleged' anti-nationals in the court premises are certain examples. I have just quoted recent examples, but free India has seen many such 'mob justice' incidents.

I would be wrong to say that such incidents are restricted to India. Mob justice or what is euphemistically called vigilante justice is quite prevalent in developed part of the earth too. There are many cases where individuals or groups have taken upon themselves to stop rising crime rate in their cities! No doubt vigilante comic characters are so popular in USA.

There is a view that lack of competence in the law enforcement agencies is one of the reasons for this vigilantism. But in real life two wrongs do not make right. The basic principle of natural justice is that the accused has the right to be heard by a bona fide judge. This principle is tossed into the air in case of mob justice. In spite of the gravity of crime, law has to take its course. Gandhiji always stressed that good 'means' is as important as good 'end'. Unfortunately, this has been losing its relevance in the fast forward modern world.

While as they say every cloud has a silver lining, Indian legal system set an example few years ago. The trial of Ajmal Kasab is the case in point. The culpability of Kasab was beyond doubt, but he was given a fair trial which went for a over an year.

In a nut shell, the legal system including the enforcement agencies have to prove their competence to restore faith of public in the system but at the same time the society at large has to understand that failure in the implementation itself does not mean the system is wrong. The public should use their collective power to improve the implementation rather commit a crime to prevent another crime.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Ugly Face of Social Media

Social Media has been quite a revolution in recent times. It has given voice to the unheard section of society. A person stranded in a foreign land tweets to the MEA and instantly she gets required assistance from the govt. There have been examples of families getting reunited via Facebook. Instances like these tell us the impact of social media in common man's life. But as with every invention, this invention also comes with riders. In fact, very dangerous riders.

The idea of Social media is very novel. Its impact has been very notable. But again, this very quality has made it a hot commodity. A commodity that can be easily manipulated. It has become one of the major tools in the hands of media pundits, management gurus, who use them to their desired end. Twitter and Facebook, with their immense membership, have been the main actors in this manipulative game. Tweets are artificially promoted, while some are promoted with all the transparency, some are artificially made to trend. Twitter is full of fake, dummy profiles, which are used to send the same tweet with required hashtag (#), to make it trend and hence catch the attention of public in general. This is predominantly seen during a movie or a product launch.

While, the above misuse is deceptive but not harmful per se. But this is not the end, but just the beginning. Lets see how this takes a harmful shape. Fareed Zakaria, host at CNN, wrote an article in Washington Post on how he was trolled in internet. In the article he comes with an interesting proposition - "group polarization". Anybody familiar with internet trolling can easily identify with this phenomenon. This group polarization has taken very dangerous turn in recent times and in some cases has manifested fatally in real world.

Even political elements have not stayed back in capturing this media for ulterior motives. "Internet Armies" have been created by the political establishments. They, very intelligently, seep content in to the social networking sites favouring them and in worst cases the contents are targeted at political opponents. While, such efforts from politicians are not new and not unique to social media, but social media has taken the vile to very high level. Social media has been abundant with misinformation campaigns, wrong data are fed as facts and many gullible social media users fall prey to these tactics. With large following in these social media sites, the misinformation spreads, literally, like a wild fire. Unhindered flow of misinformation has certainly given rise to 'more' intolerance, and this is not unique to India, if one has followed Donald Trump's campaign can associate with this.

Social Media has many many advantages and has made flow of information very easy and lightning quick. But it is slowly but surely showing its ugly side. While it is next to impossible to regulate the data that is being transmitted, one way out could be making the users more knowledgeable and aware of the ills of social media. The more we neglect this, more powerful it will become.