To check the spread of rumours, which has led to exodus of north eastern people from certain states, the government banned bulk SMSes and MMSes for 15 days across the country from yesterday.
The decision was taken after reports of widespread circulation of SMSes and MMSes containing inflammatory and misleading information of the Assam violence. This medium was also misused to threaten people of north-eastern origin living in various cities. Several doctored videos, falsely claiming to depict Assam violence were also going around. As a result of this, many North Easterners were fleeing cities fearing some kind of reprisal against them and a general sense of paranoia has overtaken the country.
While the government did need to step in to take some kind of action to tackle the current problem, banning group SMS and MMS is just a small drop in the turbulent ocean.
One remembers a similar ban that had been imposed when the Ayodhya verdict was supposed to come out. While, this may be one way to curtail rumour mongering, unfortunately, there are various other ways in which people can fan the flames of hatred and communal rift given the communication blitzkrieg and innovation of our times.
From landline telephones to Internet and simply by word of mouth, there are several ways in which people can resort to irresponsible spread-the-hate-and-fear campaigns.
Having said that, one has to admit that there is only so much the government can do. Here, the onus lies with people to weigh the situation, speak for peace and think hard about how their words and actions can have an effect on the people around them.
After all, if India claims to be the world’s largest democracy with people responsible enough to vote who they want into power, they can extend this responsibility in other ways too by actually working to defuse a situation rather than inflame it and not be taken in by SMS messages or MMS videos which may not have a grain of truth in them.
Politicians have a huge role to play in this but the people need to show they are not so gullible to be taken in by everything — hate speeches on the dais or false messages.