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How to check lynching: The political class must stand unitedly against it, technology must be harnessed

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kapil sibal

The internet is a technology that empowers. It is also a platform that can disempower. It can build bridges or dismantle them. Through dialogue it can help us search for truth, but it can also perpetuate falsehood through the breakdown of dialogue.

Technology in safe hands is a multiplier for public good; in unsafe hands it can do unimaginable public harm. It can provide a tool for terrorists to execute their demonic designs, for the mafia to peddle drugs, exploit children and profiteer from flesh trade, and provide a platform for every unsocial and destructive activity. It can target individuals, spark communal riots, and give momentum to political and ideological indoctrination.

Now rumour mongering and mob lynching are becoming everyday events. Proliferation of fake news across the internet has become a societal menace.

I realised way back in 2010, after taking over as minister for telecommunications and IT, the enormous harm the platform is capable of. As we browsed through the internet we found content that could inflame passions, encourage societal schisms and cause riots.

I met, sometime in late 2011, representatives of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others and shared my concerns with them. I asked them to figure out a solution, if possible, to deal with such content which have serious implications for societal equanimity. This was interpreted as an assault on freedom of the internet. Such is the power of these platforms that any attempt to prevent victimisation on such platforms is taken as an assault on freedom of speech.

Those were early days. Neither those accessing these platforms nor governments realised the full power of the medium. My fears have been proved right. Since then we have witnessed events that have created panic and breached societal peace.

Way back in 2012, SMSs and rumours on social media platforms led to the exodus of north-easterners from Bengaluru. They were gripped by panic and insecurity. The 2013 riots in Muzaffarnagar were attributed to a fake video circulated on Facebook. Violence against Muslims in Myanmar in 2012 triggered violence in Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Vadodara was in the grip of weeklong riots in October 2014, on account of a morphed image posted on the net.

An angry mob went on a rampage in Pune in June 2014 when morphed images of Shivaji and Hindu gods were shared on Facebook and WhatsApp. Sadiq Sheikh, a Muslim IT professional unconnected with the circulation of such images, was killed by a mob while returning home after offering namaz. Such images shared on platforms in the virtual world results in outbreak of rivalries between communities, genders and religions. In Baduria, West Bengal, an offensive Facebook post led to a clash between two communities in July 2017.

We now know that videos fuelling rumours of child lifting – that led to recent lynchings by mobs in Dhule, Maharashtra – were manipulated. Some of the clippings were from Bengaluru, Karachi and Syria. The platforms on which these images run riot are now being asked to find solutions.

The Supreme Court hopes and expects the government to introduce anti-lynching legislation. The New York Times is quiet. I guess they realise, as they should have earlier, that no freedoms are absolute; that victims and societal peace need to be protected; that freedom to use such platforms to perpetrate crimes, to defame, abuse, lynch and kill is a deeply flawed concept.

The problem is that an anti-lynching legislation is not a solution to this menace. Laws are no deterrents when mindsets are polluted, with silent support from those who encourage the culture of hate. In the last four years we have seen how this culture has seeded, mushroomed and spread; how the aloof silent majority watches members of the Muslim minority and Dalits lynched in public.

Image result for social media misuse lynching

We have also witnessed investigators protect the accused and accuse the victims. If investigating agencies collaborate with lynch mobs, then culpability will fall squarely at the doorstep of the state. No legislation will help prevent such complicity. To ask platforms to intervene is no solution either, because the nature of the medium does not allow for pre-censorship. If not these platforms, there are other means to spread rumours.

Such platforms, of course, must endeavour to develop technologies which upon discovery of such content eliminate it. Technology must immediately douse the spreading fire. Limiting forwards of photos, videos and messages to five chats in India and removal of the quick forward button next to media messages by WhatsApp is a welcome step.

We need a three-pronged strategy. First, the political class must speak in one voice and announce zero tolerance against those who use and attempt to use such platforms for inciting violence. For that, polarisation of society for electoral gains must stop.

Second, the Election Commission may consider making hate speech an electoral offence. Third, anonymity must not be allowed to be used as a shield when morphed images or rumour mongering spreads hate. Social media platforms must with alacrity disclose the identity of the source spreading venom. The law must get at the source and visit the persons identified with deterrent punishment.

Target those who use the medium for inciting violence and those who take the law into their own hands. The government will be ill advised to target the medium. Instead, rumour mongering and hate speech must be targeted to protect free speech.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

Courtesy: This article is published in the TOI on July 26, 2018.

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Obituary – MoS Railway Angadi will be remembered for warm gesture, smile

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Suresh Angadi,

New Delhi, Sep 23 : Minister of State for Railways Suresh Angadi, who passed away on Wednesday evening at a hospital here where he was being treated for Covid-19 will always be known for a big smile and warm gestures by his colleagues and friends.

Angadi was made the Minister of State for Railways in May last year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Soon after his appointment as MoS for Railways, he knew that he has to meet the expectations of PM Modi to improve the train services.

During the inaugural run of second Vande Bharat Express train between New Delhi to Katra on October 4 last year, just two months after the abrogation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, he travelled in train with media persons to give a message that the government is standing with the people of J&K for the overall development of the region.

There were around 80 media persons along including the camerapersons to cover the inaugural run of the Vande Bharat Express.

During the trip, Angadi kept on interacting with the media about the plans of the Railway Ministry to bring development in erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

He gave interviews for four consecutive hours without any break and assured that he answered all the tough questions posed to him.

Speaking to IANS on the same trip, Angadi had said, the Indian Railways, which has witnessed delays in completion of several important projects, was aiming to finish all of them by 2022, on the occasion of 75th Independence Day.

He had also said that the national transporter sees the option of allowing private operators to run trains as an opportunity to provide world class services.

Angadi had said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed that all the pending projects and works be completed by 2022. We are focusing on completing pending works, like doubling and tripling of tracks, electrification, installation of CCTVs and signalling system upgrade.”

“New projects will be taken up only after completing them,” Angadi said.

He also favoured giving trains to private operators, and cited the example of private TV channels and said, “The entry of private players will generate more jobs and investment opportunities. In the long run, a lot of development will follow due to the competition.”

In countries like China trains run at 400 kmph. But in India trains were not running even at 160 kmph, he said.

“To compete with the world, we have to opt for investment from many sources. When a private company or people comes and invests in railways, it will create opportunities to develop economy,” he had said.

The railways had last year proposed to corporatise Rae Bareli Modern Rail Coach factory in UP.

On opposition of the Congress and other parties to corporatisation and privatisation of railways’ manufacturing units, the Minister said, “The Congress never thought about development. It has always opposed development.”

“We have not got to think of the Congress, but development and competition, and let the economy grow and create employment opportunities,” Angadi said.

Citing examples, he had said, the national highways remained undeveloped till the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government took it up and today even foreign countries were appreciating them.

Angadi in the railway ministry was also known as one of the most punctual minister. He always came to the ministry on time and ensured that the press briefing started on time.

Angadi represented Belagavi constituency of Karnataka in Lok Sabha.

He first won from the seat in 2004 and remained undefeated from the seat till 2019.

He was also known as a media man, who always remained responsive to the queries of media even late in night.

Following the news of gis death, Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said, “Deeply anguished at the unfortunate demise of Suresh Angadiji. He was like my brother. Words fall short to describe his commitment and dedication towards the people. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this hour of need. Om Shanti.”

Angadi Angadi admitted at AIIMS on September 11 after testing positive for Covid-19. He breathed his last on Wednesday evening.

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It was all about being ruthless: MI skipper Rohit Sharma

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Rohit Sharma

Abu Dhabi, Sep 24 : Rohit Sharma, on Wednesday, returned to his usual, elegant self with a masterful innings to lead Mumbai Indians to a 49-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Rohit scored 80 off 54 as MI scored 195/5. In reply, KKR managed to score 146/9.

Interestingly, this marked MI’s first ever victory in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), having lost all of their matches in 2014 when a part of the group stage was played in the UAE.

“It was only two players from the 2014 squad. It was all about how we executed our plans today, we never let it go. We were in good position throughout the game but it was all about being ruthless, getting as many (runs) as possible. We knew the wicket was good and dew was coming down,” said Rohit in the post-match presentation ceremony in which he was declared Player of the Match.

As the KKR bowlers fumbled with their line and length and gave Rohit short deliveries, the MI captain replied with his trade mark pull shots to deposit the ball over the boundary.

“I back myself to play (the pull shots), love playing it and practiced it quite a bit. Pretty glad it came out well, they were all good (laughs), can’t pick one. I haven’t played a lot of cricket in the last six months time and was looking to spend some time in the middle; it didn’t come out well in the first innings but glad to have done it tonight,” he said.

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Changing alliances set the tone for Bihar Polls

The BJP’s Bihar unit President Sanjay Jaiswal says the NDA has jumped into the poll fray with full force. The BJP-led NDA parties were contesting on the sole plank of development.

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Patna, Sep 23 : Political parties in Bihar are busy chalking out strategies for the Assembly elections which are likely to be held in October-November this year though the Election Commission (EC) has not yet announced the poll dates.

In many cases, parties which were friends during the last elections will now be seen as opponents while foes in the last polls have joined hands.

In the last assembly elections, the BJP and the Janata Dal (United) fought against each other but in this election they are together in the NDA-fold.

The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is likely to remain in the NDA this time as well but the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) which was with the NDA during the last elections has severed ties with it. Former Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha’s party RLSP is now part of the Opposition Grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan) for the forthcoming election.

However, the RLSP and the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) are said to be upset as the seat-sharing formula in the Grand Alliance has not yet been decided.

Former MP Pappu Yadav has also announced to contest this year’s election through the Jan Adhikar Party (Loktantrik). Yadav has not yet aligned with any opposition party.

The BJP is enthused with the JDU coming back to the NDA. The importance of the Bihar elections for the BJP can be gauged from the fact that its National President J.P. Nadda has already reached Patna and is busy reviewing preparations for the polls.

The Left which contested the last elections alone is likely to join the Grand Alliance this time. There have been several rounds of talks between the Left and the RJD on contesting the elections together.

RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwari said the Opposition grand alliance should expand its outreach. Negotiations were on with many other parties, he added. Asked about the resentment over the seat-sharing formula, he said candidates who could guarantee a win were being selected.

The BJP’s Bihar unit President Sanjay Jaiswal says the NDA has jumped into the poll fray with full force. The BJP-led NDA parties were contesting on the sole plank of development.

In the last Bihar assembly elections, the JDU, the RJD and the Congress had contested together under the Grand Alliance and formed the government with absolute majority. Later, however the JDU broke away from the alliance and formed the government in Bihar by joining hands with the BJP.

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