Bikram Vohra on Attack on Dalits in Gujarat

Dalits in Gujarat protest over attacks

Is mobile phone the new symbol and conveyor of national conscience?

Dalits in Gujarat protest over attacks
Dalits in Gujarat erecting road blocks to protest over attacks

Has the ubiquitous mobile phone become the symbol and the conveyor of the national conscience? Made us less involved, turned us into mute and silent witnesses to injustice, while paradoxically flinging searing indictments of criminal acts by the minute through its little eye. With over 700 million private eyes on you, the odds of getting away are pathetic.

Think of it. Twenty years ago when you needed a reel to load your camera, were Dalits beaten by self-styled gau sevaksand other vigilantes?

Did people throw little puppies off roofs or burn them alive? Were little girls and babies raped with such morbid regularity and the offenders let off and the police so venal and corrupt as we see them today?

Were our politicians as ugly and gross and stupid and vile or were they sanitised by distance and a lack of evidence in reference to their audio-visual pronouncements? Nor was the news 24/7 and constantly drummed in your face.

It is a thought. We could have been worse in the generation gone by and it never got reported or digitally framed in vivid video and there were no hundred TV channels feeding their monstrously hungry machines the fruit of the poisoned tree. So we lived in a bubble of ignorance, blissful that we all knew our aukath and the socio-economic hierarchy sort of bumbled along as the maee baap syndrome kicked it. Noblesse oblige softening the harsh edge of exploitation. Karma was a b*tch, but one accepted it.

But here is another thought. What if it is the mobile phone and the SMS and the almost total invasion of privacy that is the hi-octane fuel in the madness we see around us? Thanks to technology’s breakneck speed of development combined with the need to be needed by everyone of us, the 15 minutes of fame has now been whittled to a few seconds of infamy. We are feeding the frenzy. The media gives what they think the public wants, jaded appetites want more blood and gore, cameras whirr, sound bites gnash and the obscenity magnifies.

It is too facile to state that it is the two years of BJP rule and the awakening of Hindutva that is causing this fissure and its many cracks. It was there before, except we didn’t see it. Our photographers were too busy changing the flashbulbs and loading reels. We didn’t have a public armed with instant replays. We missed it all…or did we?

A perfect metaphor for the craziness which prevails is the young man in Satara, Maharashtra who earlier this week tried to sit on the back of crocodile that had strayed into the village. Those around him cheerfully shot the effort.