Approximately a year ago, I was sitting in my hostel, wondering how to drag a slow Saturday evening. I was in my final year of engineering and had a good amount of time to spare. I considered myself an informed citizen as I used to regularly watch NDTV and read The Hindu newspaper on a daily basis. That sounds like a lethal combination now, but I did trust their reportage before I started using Twitter.
I was not mature enough to distinguish between ‘left’ and ‘right’ in politics. I must also confess that I was almost convinced that Narendra Modi was a monster emanating from Gujarat who got away from the clutches of law after murdering thousands of Muslims (all credit to the consistent media coverage regarding to the issue) and he didn’t deserve to be PM. We used to have some debates on the issue in hostel. A friend who lived in the next room believed that Modi was a great candidate for PM, while I felt someone with a ‘cleaner record’ was suitable. I had somehow come to this conclusion without going deep into the issue, because I was unaware of the devious ways in which media could be manipulated. My prejudice drawn from TV reporters and newspapers made me raise my eyebrows whenever he made pro-Modi arguments.
For me, the Hindutva bandwagon seemed to be a divisive force largely due to the Babri Masjid demolition. However, I was totally unaware of the hidden divisive agenda of the Congress and Left parties which was sold as an ideal i.e. secularism. That was mainly because; my trusted media houses never highlighted their shortcomings while the word ‘Hindutva’ was attached with a negative connotation by default.
All these notions existed before I logged into my barely functional Twitter account. Initially, I restricted myself to tweeting quotes and replying to some random people I knew. Slowly I understood the concept of following strangers on Twitter and voicing out ‘opinions’ in 140 characters or less along with hash-tags. As the number of free hours increased and tensions of placement subsided, I found myself spending more time on Twitter. This time around I shared links with some opinions and random people started replying to these. I was pissed off by these replies in the beginning because those opinions were contrary to my own. The first instance of surprise came when somebody ridiculed ‘The Hindu’ as a leftist newspaper. Slowly, I started to see the opinions of the ‘right’ wing or the saffron party supporters and their legitimate arguments.
I realized that I was not aware of the historic blunder by Rajiv Gandhi’s government in the Shah Bano case. I was unaware that the Congress government was also equally responsible for inadequate measures to protect the masjid. No media house investigated the progress of court cases related to other riots that had happened under the nose of ‘secular’ governments. Only the Gujarat cases were receiving international attention. This seemed unfair. Didn’t other riot victims deserve justice? I was unaware of the brutality of Sikh riots in Delhi. I sense some sort of agenda behind the filtered news and one sided story that was being sold to people on a daily basis. I smelled twisted articulation when I read news articles where we are repeatedly told ‘terror has no religion’ but recent attacks on churches are always by ‘Hindutva elements’ (even before investigations).
By the end of September 2013, the Narendra Modi campaign had taken off and many discussions began on my Twitter feed. This time around the stark differences between the right and left showed up on my mobile screen. This time around I searched in the internet to see if those arguments were true or not.
I also felt that I had to see what Narendra Modi had spoken in the past about ‘development’ and how serious he was about it. I started to search some videos on the internet and finally ended up watching this Narendra Modi speech at the Hindustan Times leadership summit. I found this fellow to be an impressive orator and an innovative thinker. I felt that India could actually progress with the approach he outlined in that speech.
Later, I read up on the independent SIT that probed the Gujarat riots and its findings. The argument of ‘lack of trust’ in the nation’s highest court’s verdict among leftist media seemed to be dubious. I was also appalled to see that no such attacks were made on perpetrators of Sikh riots for a sustained period of time. The hollow arguments of Modi haters became more obvious as days passed.
Some of the vague comments and multiple faux pas by Rahul Gandhi became a rage on Twitter. In fact the entire hostel block shared the video of Rahul Gandhi’s interview and laughed in glee at his naïve demeanour and incoherent answers. Most of us dubbed it as a comedy show. The choice had become almost obvious by then. The Congress leader had proven his lack of clarity regarding several issues in his interviews and speeches. Twitter was vociferous on these shortcomings though the mainstream media was milder in its critique. And slowly, I started to critically analyze the programs and articles of my erstwhile trusted sources of news.
In addition to the larger argument between ‘right’ and ‘left’, one cannot ignore the way in which rise and fall of standards in AAP created huge ripples on Twitter. It oscillated from sheer optimism to utter disappointment due to the way they conducted politics. Other issues like public anger over mysterious death of DK Ravi made sure that politicians heard the sentiments of the public through sources other than mainstream media.
The presence of alternate views and sources of news on Twitter had indeed raised my level of awareness. I believe there would be many people who might share a story similar to mine. The quality of debates we had at college on politics was enhanced by our exposure to views on Twitter. In the end we all travelled home and made sure that our vote was cast and our voice heard through the ballot box. I hope that this platform remains vibrant and makes sure people’s voices are heard and the inaccurate/ biased reporting is exposed to the public.