Saudi Gazette, Friday, June 23, 2017
is a writer with Fountain
Ink magazine based in Mumbai.
w w w . s a u d i g a z e t t e . c o m . s a
WhatsApp, crowds and power in India
NE evening last month,
a WhatsApp message
urged villagers in the In-
dian state of Jharkhand to
watch out for a group of men wear-
ing black clothes, prowling across
villages, kidnapping children. The
rumors traveled across a region that
is home to India’s impoverished
indigenous tribes living on subsis-
tence agriculture and manual labor.
The villagers trusted the authen-
ticity of the WhatsApp message,
which included morbid photographs
of mutilated children, and for-
warded it energetically. That belief
quickly morphed into panic, suspi-
cion of outsiders and the lethal rage
of a crowd seeking violent release.
On May 17, Sheikh Haleem, a
28-year-old businessman from Hal-
dipokhar village in East Singhbhum,
who ran a workshop that fixed old
cars, set out to meet his brother-in-
law in Shobhapur, a village about 10
miles away. He traveled in a small
Tata Indica car with three of his busi-
ness associates: 25-year-old Sheikh
Sajjad, 26-year-old Sheikh Siraj and
35-year-old Sheikh Naeem.
A few miles into the journey,
Haleem and his companions reached
Gadu, a small tribal village. Over-
whelmed by the child-kidnapper
rumors, the villagers had set up a
makeshift check post on the road. An
SUV ahead of Haleem’s car sped con-
temptuously through the check post.
Villagers threw bricks at it. Haleem
sped after the vehicle. Villagers sent
out WhatsApp messages alleging
that child kidnappers had fled toward
Shobhapur village in a Tata Indica car.
Several hundred villagers had sur-
rounded Haleem’s brother-in-law’s
house by the morning. The mob set
Haleem’s car on fire and threatened to
burn down the house unless Haleem
and his companions were handed over.
The policemen watched until the
mob was done and carried Naeem
to a nearby hospital, where he died.
Police found the broken and burned
bodies of Sajjad and Siraj in a neigh-
boring village later in the day. Hal-
eem’s corpse was found the day after.
Within hours of Naeem’s mur-
der, three more men — the broth-
ers Vikas and Gautam Varma, and
their friend Gangesh Gupta — were
killed by another mob agitated by
rumors of child kidnappers. Two of
them had been trying to buy some
land to set up a business. “One event
set off the other event,” R. K. Mal-
lick, a senior police officer, said.
The allure of WhatsApp, the mo-
bile messaging application owned by
Facebook, is that it is free, simple to
use and encrypted end-to-end. Re-
searchers have found that 66 percent
of the 180 million internet users in
urban India and 85 percent of rural
Indians regularly use the internet
for access to social media. India has
about 300 million smartphones now,
a significant portion being very cheap
and made in China. About 200 mil-
lion of WhatsApp’s one billion users
are in India, making the country the
app’s biggest market.
On New Year’s Eve, 14 billion
messages were exchanged on What-
sApp in India, according to data re-
leased by the service. WhatsApp rolled
out the video-calling feature for India
in November 2016. Indians have made
over 50 million minutes of video calls
every day using WhatsApp since then,
more calls than from any other country.
The gifts of free usage and ano-
nymity have made WhatsApp the
most popular tool to spread both
outlandish stories and politically
motivated rumors. On an ordinary
Indian morning, messages on the app
can include the rumor of a popular
mango drink being laced with HIV-
positive blood, the United Nations
Educational Scientific and Cultural
Organization’s rating of Narendra
Modi as the best prime minister in
the world or Julian Assange describ-
ing him as an incorruptible leader.
WhatsApp forwards are deftly
tailored toward target audiences.
Last year, the Indian middle class
debated for weeks whether new
2000 rupee bills introduced by the
Indian government after demoneti-
zation featured a chip that could be
used to track the bills. There was no
chip, but the rumor lived for a while.
Nationalist rage, often with sec-
tarian overtones, dominates the world
of India’s WhatsApp messages. One
of the most popular WhatsApp hoax-
es of this year featured the purported
beheading of two Indian soldiers by
Pakistani soldiers with a chain saw
and a knife. India’s national song
played in the background.
Pankaj Jain, who runs Hoax
Slayer, a website that debunks fake
viral stories on social media, found
it to be a Mexican gang war mur-
der video. “Almost 80 percent of the
misinformation comes from right-
wing groups and just spreads like
wildfire,” Jain said.
Another popular WhatsApp
message blamed the writer Arund-
hati Roy’s Christian heritage for
her critical writings about Indian
politics. The proof was believed to
lie in Roy’s shrewd ploy to hide her
Christian self by not using her full
name: Suzanna Arundhati Roy.
During the three years of Modi’s
government, there has been a dis-
tinct rise in majoritarian politics
and an attendant increase in preju-
dice and violence against minorities
and dissenters. WhatsApp has been
turned into the primary messenger
of prejudice, delivering relentless
virtual fuel to keep the embers of
modern hatreds alive.
There has been no national tabula-
tion of the number of crimes in India
after rumors spread through What-
sApp, but several major incidents
have been reported across the country.
An old video of a mob assault was cir-
culated on WhatsApp as a major riot
unfolded in Muzaffarnagar, a small
town in Uttar Pradesh in August 2013.
More than 40 Hindus and Muslims
were killed, several Muslim women
were raped, and about 40,000 Mus-
lims were forced out of their homes
and lived in refugee camps in nearby
towns and villages.
On June 4, 2014, a week after the
inauguration of Narendra Modi as
prime minister of India, Mohsin Sadiq
Sheikh, a 24-year-old information
technology professional, was return-
ing to his apartment in the western
Indian city of Pune. He was beaten to
death by members of a radical Hindu
outfit, who went on a rampage after
derogatory pictures of two of their
icons — Shivaji, a medieval king, and
Bal Thackeray, the Hindu nationalist
strongman from Mumbai — were up-
loaded on social media and forwarded
through WhatsApp. Sheikh’s killers
didn’t know him, but his short beard
made him visibly Muslim.
On Sept. 28, 2015, WhatsApp
played a role in spreading the rumor
that Mohammad Akhlaq, an ironsmith
in Bishara village in Uttar Pradesh,
had killed a cow and eaten beef. Pic-
tures of the meat and body parts of ani-
mals were shared on WhatsApp, and a
mob of his neighbors dragged Akhlaq
from his house and lynched him on his
street. Several similar cases have been
reported throughout 2016 and 2017.
Why have India’s impoverished
and powerless minorities become the
subjects of virtual and real-life rage?
“Small numbers represent a tiny ob-
stacle between majority and total-
ity or total purity,” Arjun Appadurai,
the Indian sociologist, wrote in “Fear
of Small Numbers.” “In a sense, the
smaller the number and the weaker the
minority, the deeper the rage about its
capacity to make a majority feel like a
mere majority rather than like a whole
and uncontested ethnos.” The mob is
majoritarian, and it has WhatsApp.
The New York Times
The gifts of free usage and anonymity have made
WhatsApp the most popular tool to spread both outlandish
stories and politically motivated rumors. On an ordinary
Indian morning, messages on the app can include the
rumor of a popular mango drink being laced with HIV-
positive blood, the United Nations Educational Scientific
and Cultural Organization’s rating of Narendra Modi as
the best prime minister in the world or Julian Assange
describing him as an incorruptible leader.
RECEIVED a beautiful message that the
administration of a school in the US sent to
parents a few weeks before exams informing
them that their children’s exams are to soon start
and that the administration appreciates the parents’
keenness to see their children successful.
The message reminded parents that among
their children there are ar tists who do not need to
understand mathematics, there are entrepreneurs
who do not care about history and literature,
there are musicians who do not care about their
chemistry grades and athletes whose physical
fitness is more impor tant than physics. The
message added that if your child gets a high
score, then this is great. However, if he or she
does not, then the school hopes parents will not
deprive them of their self-confidence and dignity.
We should be aware that we are different, that
there are individual differences between us and
that our children are not alike; they have different
personalities, talents and potential. Twins differ
from each other in different ways despite being
exposed to the same education and growing up in
the same environment. When are we going to stop
blaming and underestimating our children and
comparing them to others?
Let us imagine the impact of negative words on
children and on their confidence and pride. Comparing
them to others demolishes their personalities. This
not only destroys children but also destroys parents.
Parents who compare their children with others
always suffer. They always wonder why their children
fail and the children of others succeed. They feel they
have met their children’s needs and wonder where
they went wrong, as their children do not live up to
their expectations. In this way, the cycle of self-abuse
and self-denial continues to include everyone. In the
end, negative feelings of frustration, depression,
despair, jealousy and envy bring misery and mental
and physical diseases.
I remembered a joke in this context in which
a parent urged his son to study and told him
that Napoleon was an excellent student. His son
replied, “I know father, Napoleon was also an
emperor when he was your age.”
It is necessary for parents to accept the
differences in their children and not to compare
them with others. It is natural that the sons of
others are smar ter and more successful than our
children because God is the Giver, and He gave
me wisdom to test the extent of my ability to
raise good children and not to compare them with
others, something that only leads to unhappiness,
sorrow, depression and despair.
ASED on studies relating to the workplace
in the Middle East and Nor th Africa (MENA)
region, 80 percent of workers believe that
Ramadan leads to a boost in their morale
in the workplace, 44.5 percent said that their
productivity was unaffected in the holy month, while
55 percent mentioned that Ramadan did not lead to
impor tant decisions or meetings being cancelled or
postponed to after the month.
The situation over here, however, is different. As
soon as Ramadan begins, the laziness begins. Workers
go to work late and their productivity decreases as a
result of them fasting. Even the workday decreases
from 8 to 5 hours. Some workers in Ramadan stay up
late all night and do not sleep except for a few hours
after the Fajr prayer. They then wake up exhausted
and use Ramadan as an excuse to not work properly.
This is exactly what came out of a study that stated
74.7 percent of respondents find that productivity
in Ramadan is very low, while 46.4 percent of them
strongly agreed with the statement. Some of them
think that this common belief might be the result of
less working hours in Ramadan. This might be the case
but many workers become busy doing other things
such as shopping and praying etc.
Ramadan is the month of work and achieving
something. Some workers consider Ramadan as a great
opportunity for working and gaining more money. They
even believe that Ramadan is a unique opportunity to
achieve more. It is a month that comes only once a year
and so we should try our best to overcome whatever
obstacles we face to make Ramadan a month of
productivity instead of idleness.
Ramadan is an extraordinary chance for those
who know exactly how to spend it correctly, those who
discover the great amount of energy they have. They
can work, pray and do many other tasks while fasting.
Without Ramadan, we would not realize what we as
humans are capable of. We should be cheerful during
this holy month and aim at developing our abilities to
increase our productivity throughout the whole year.
Suhail bin Hasan Qadi
HAVE always said that if Saudization was introduced
to the teaching staff in universities then the outcomes
would be very harmful. I do not underestimate anyone
here. However, universities are where multiculturalism
and multinationalism should exist. This is because diversity
is the secret behind enlightening the minds of students.
Diversity teaches our students to learn effectively and
to communicate positively with other cultures. Some
universities abroad do not accept a student to study for
a postgraduate degree unless that student is culturally
well rounded. Therefore, Saudi universities need to take
this into consideration. There is only a limited number of
teaching staff who are truly knowledgeable.
On the other hand, I would like to express my
admiration to a beautiful opinion article written by Dr.
Hazim Darwish Zaqzouq titled a “Citizen, a Barber and
a Doctor.” In his article he writes that a barber or a
makeup artist working in beauty salons earn much more
than a doctor who works night and day. The doctor
who works long hours and attends night shifts gets
only SR15 to SR180 for each patient. As a result, his
monthly income would be around SR7,000 to SR30,000.
Zaqzouq adds that there is no minimum price for
medical insurance, and services in hospitals and private
clinics. He then calls for a law that would clarify the
minimum price of medical insurance and services. This is
necessary to ensure doctors get their rights.
If we were to add the demands of the Ministry of
Labor and Social Development, as well as the Ministry
of Health, to Saudization as mentioned previously then
the results would be totally miserable. I recommend the
Council of Cooperative Health Insurance and the Council
of Competition as well as any other responsible agency to
understand this and look deeply at the situation.
Productivity in Ramadan
Ramadan is an extraordinary chance for those who know exactly how to
spend it correctly, those who discover the great amount of energy they have.
They can work, pray and do many other tasks while fasting.
Comparing one’s children is unkind
Let us imagine the impact of
negative words on children and
on their confidence and pride.
Comparing them to others
demolishes their personalities.
Some universities abroad do not
accept a student to study for a
postgraduate degree unless that
student is culturally well rounded.
Therefore, Saudi universities need to
take this into consideration.