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8

Saudi Gazette, Friday, June 23, 2017

Perspectives

Alia Allana

is a writer with Fountain

Ink magazine based in Mumbai.

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LOCAL VIEWPOINTS

LOCAL VIEWPOINTS

WhatsApp, crowds and power in India

O

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.

Arouba al-Muneef

I

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.

Ibrahim Muhammad

Badawood

B

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

I

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.

Consequences of

Saudization

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.

ALIA

ALLANA