I did not follow the JNU news for a long time, because I have almost entirely stopped consuming any news. First, I feel very depressed after reading it and tend to focus only on the negatives; second, I don’t like how news is covered sensationalizing all the negative and hardly ever covering the good things happening on a smaller level (although, it’s very possible that I tend to only read the negative and completely bypass the positive).
Being a JNUite myself, I couldn’t refrain from wanting to know what’s happening for too long. And like I anticipated, I was filled with depressing thoughts and fear of what might happen. I still have friends staying in the campus. Let’s face it, we’ve got a problem if students are categorically singled out and charged with something as serious as sedition.Celebrating Afzal Guru as a hero is stupid, but picking up a student who wasn’t around just because he is not from ABVP is stupider. Add to the circus the lack of proof of whether the event actually even happened in JNU. First FTII, now JNU. It’s a massive problem when the state tries to interfere with education system and vilifies students. We should all be worried of this trend.
The bigger problem for me is the complete lack of dialogue and discussion. People are calling each other commies, congies, bhaktards and what not. It’s almost scary to try to fit any opposing opinions in such blanket categories. And the negative news mongering leads people to use words such as these for slandering without even knowing what they actually mean. Are you calling anyone holding a liberal view a communist? Or should you call the saffron brigade anti-national for wanting to send Indian citizens to Pakistan for expressing an opinion different from their ow? I am from JNU and I love it, but I am against the somewhat rampant “parasite culture” on campus where some students stay on campus forever enjoying the benefits meant for students without really studying or adding anything to the research repository. Will I be termed as a Bhaktard then now that I am against one aspect of the “commie” campus life? See? The problem with blanket categorizing?
I saw Shahela Rashid’s speech yesterday and was filled with pride to see students from my alma mater hold such ideals and express them fearlessly. I was almost envious of such conviction and courage. I have strong opinions, but not strong enough to yank me out of a comfortable life I have built and have always been in favor of for myself. And then I read the hateful comments, so vicious as if people were trying to beat her up with words. I don’t understand how one could read such sane and logical words as anti-national. And then I regretted having read the news at all, because that hatred filled me with fear. You cannot have a dialogue if the other person is not willing to listen and learn. If for the other person, just knowing that you have a different opinion is enough to want to kill you. If the other person is so pro-violence that all they need is to use words that ignite public fury and make people want to kill each other. I mean what can you say if your frame of reference for everything is Pakistan. Any dissent and your answer is, “Go to Pakistan. You want freedom, there you won’t even be able to talk”. What if people just don’t want development and only want to compare with what is worse and be content with the status quo.
I fear that people will want to hit me if I even tell them I am from JNU. Apparently, we are a weird democracy. Or may be a democracy transitioning into something else. Because if you disagree or use your constitutional right of freedom of expression, you should get the hell out.
Yesterday, husband and I were having a very interesting chat. He is an optimist. And I have started seeing sense in his point of view because ultimately, what’s most important to me on a personal level is peace of mind. He believes we people have more in common than not and on a macro level, the situation is generally not as bad as we think it is. I am beginning to see his point. I don’t need to know people’s views on politics and religion to get on with my day-to-day life. It’s not even a factor. In fact, I’d rather not know them at all. I get along really well with our domestic help, our security guard, our istriwallah, the neighbor. And what connects us is not our political differences but something far more simple: as people living together in society and our common interest in mundane things like how fresh the fish is today, or what was that yelling coming from the neighbor’s house. May be it’s not so bad after all. Otherwise, wouldn’t it have been impossible to communicate? And surprisingly, we communicate well enough, sometimes, even without a common language.
Social media has made it really easy for us to just yell out because there’s a platform. You are not required to dig deeper, understand points of view, cross-check, analyze. Reporting negative news is easy. Just take pictures and tell things exactly as you “see” them. It’s a vicious circle. The news we are fed is based entirely on TRPs and then Facebook makes it convenient to add to the madness without taking any serious effort on our part. Because it’s news right? How can it be wrong? That’s the thing though; reporting has come down to capturing what you see without any analysis. It is sad that the good and simple things happening in JNU were never reported. But you see, they are not interesting enough. Good doesn’t hold an appeal. But violence, anger, hatred, fires, rapes sell fast.
I feel inadequate sometimes when I have no clue about what people are discussing, thanks to not reading the news. But I am beginning to wonder if it is indeed good for me to revel in my ignorance. What are your thoughts people. Do you feel helpless and scared and disappointed on consuming news? Have you ever felt like staying away from news? Or do you engage in periodic news fasts?