'Mowgli girl' - that's what they called her. It made for a fun headline, something that would genuinely pique the curiosity of the internet republic. And just like that a girl found inside a wildlife sanctuary was turned into a zoo animal, as countless people swarmed the hospital for one peek. As reports later pointed out, the girl was probably abandoned by her family and that her inability to communicate isn't because 'she was raised by monkeys'. It might have to do with mental and physical disability.
As far as spreading irresponsible rumours and showing sensitivity to a child go, we exemplified our reputation of a country filled with uneducated literates.
I was browsing through my Newsfeed after work, when I first saw a video of an altercation between some Greater Noida locals and Nigerian nationals in the Ansal Plaza vicinity. The 'altercation' as I would later find out was an angry mob's ambush, as they attacked four African nationals and pounded them with metal dust-bins and wooden chairs. What is most disconcerting about the entire episode is how easily people succumbed to mob justice without any fear of getting arrested by the local police.
What gives them such confidence? The other and an even more disconcerting fact about the episode was how easily a rumour about cannibalism was spread, and people didn't think twice before believing it. Several publications didn't have any problem whatsoever in including this 'rumour' in their reports and headlines. I suppose it made the story juicier?
This incident took the masks off several Athithi Devo Bhavah-chanting Indians.
The nationals of a country about 40 places below India in UN's Human Development Index, showed much more maturity in reacting to this extreme situation by asking for a police investigation. While most of our locals demanded that all African nationals be 'thrown out' of the country. How different is that from Trump's xenophobic comment where he generalised all Mexicans as drug dealers, criminals and rapists?
On top of that, to actually have a political leader come out and defend India's racism by saying, "If we're racist then how do we live with South Indians?" Mr Tarun Vijay, who is a Rajya Sabha member and a learned journalist, is an example of today's uneducated literates. Unfortunately, no amount of apologies can make up for such an archaic mindset.
The sad part is that a majority of the modern, city-bred Indian citizens display at least some of Trump's characteristics.
Even if not all of them might adhere to his compulsive lying disorder or outright creepiness, a lot of us don't act like we've spent at least 15 years in an educational institution. I know of several acquaintances on Facebook, who don't try to ascertain the veracity of a story before sharing it on social media. Because it echoes their belief about someone or something. It's only painful when these so-called 'literate' people indulge themselves in words like AAPtards, sickulars and presstitutes, and buy into propaganda without questioning its authenticity.
The deluge of misinformation being circulated through Whatsapp groups is directly proportional to successful political campaigns in India, and around the world.
Whatsapp groups are a recent nuisance, where a scary amount of misinformation is shared on an hourly basis. And these so called 'literate' people do not think twice before forwarding them to the umpteen Whatsapp groups they're a part of. Whether it is the fake 'secret footage' of 'Jayalalithaa' in the hospital or channeling hate towards a soft-drink company claiming that one of the employees mixed HIV-positive blood as 'revenge', it was all so widely shared that even skeptics began to express concern over the pieces of misinformation. Fake news propaganda is one of the sole reasons behind Trump's successful presidential campaign, and is responsible for many such regimes around the world. The problem is these political campaigns are empowered by millions of 'literate' citizens, who exercise no skepticism whatsoever when it comes to sharing information.
We have a Chief Minister, who has unleashed goons on the youngsters of his state in the name of 'Anti-Romeo squads'. And the low-point isn't the fact that these goons get to moral police two consenting adults by beating them up. It is the fact that a lot of our 'literate' society has made its peace with it and is doing nothing to dismantle it. We pride ourselves in protecting the purity of our religious beliefs, and yet no one cares about the several dirty neighbourhoods around the country.
What does it say about our spine as a society, when an MP gets away with assaulting an Airline employee and faces no backlash for it?
We also elected a political leader, who is so entitled that he beat up a member of the Air India crew because he was denied a first-class seat. The shame doesn't end there, he went on to brag about it to a national TV channel that he beat up the person '25 times with his chappal' and then had the audacity to ask 'mera kya kasoor hai?' (What was my fault?). Ravindra Gaikwad is now free to fly, with all airlines lifting their bans on him. Why can't we not be pragmatic and outrage for once? Why do we have to 'tolerate' such hooliganism. How does a 'literate society' put up with such dim-wits?
WATCH: Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad admits that he beat an Air India staff member with slippers,remains defiant pic.twitter.com/1ws5nYptkn— ANI (@ANI_news) March 23, 2017
Our parents' generation have a million things to say about late nights, interacting with people of the opposite sex, but they don't teach their kids something as basic as not littering in public spaces. These are the same literate people who shy away from having 'the talk' with their children, even as they frown over their blossoming sexuality.
It is also the failure of the uneducated literate society, that religious propaganda has peaked more than ever in the past two years.
So you have several self-proclaimed Godmen running legitimate profit-making business empires, and instead of calling them out as fake, we wash their feet with gangaajal. There is an entire demographic who attends these speaking engagements where these Babas spew gyaan about 'kripa kaise aayegi', for which the entry fee is anywhere between Rs 3000-5000. Religious beliefs are on one side, using them to earn money and escalating those beliefs into fanaticism is quite another. One could argue about how these establishments have been emboldened since 2014, and leave it at that.
Our education system is bankrupt with overworked and underpaid teachers. There are also those who don't understand the sanctity of an 'educator'.
A huge reason for this whole generation of uneducated literates is our bankrupt education system. Most students might graduate with a 90% score, but the truth remains that schools don't even teach us to have a civilised argument. Our teachers are underpaid, overworked and private schools have the added pressure of turning educational institutions into profitable cost-centres. Another bitter truth for us to digest is how the teaching profession is still looked down upon. Our best minds might become bankers, rocket-scientists or even teach at IITs or IIMs - but none of them want to go back and teach in schools. And thus we see so many careless 'educators' preaching things like this.
There's a reason why curiosity isn't something that is encouraged in India. Our mind is shut towards new ideas. And that's how we'll remain stuck in this loop of futile dialogue. Factions will continue to speak within their echo chambers. And we'll remain a country filled with bigoted, racist, homophobic and uneducated degree-holders.