They freely spread false news or information with, as far as I can tell, the express purpose of maliciously propagating, reinforcing stereotypes of certain groups, dehumanizing them and thereby justifying the way they treat them.
The above Facebook post is but just one such blatant example. If you have been on social media for long and have participated in exchanges with fellow Nepali users, you will have encountered numerous such examples.
The first time I saw the above image being attributed to an incident in the Southern Plains of Nepal, Madhes, was way back in December 2016 on Twitter. So, I was surprised to come across it again earlier this month. Knowing full well that the image does NOT represent what the user says it does, I posted a comment challenging him.
More than a week has passed since my comment but there has been no response. While most comments denigrate Madhesis instead of challenging him, there are some like mine, like the one highlighted in blue above and the ones in this screenshot. A user, Addsubtract Multiply Divide, shared the fact that this post is “fake news” a number of times, one of which appears in the screenshot, but NONE of them appear to have had any effect.
As you can see in the header image, the post has had 1K reactions to it. It has been shared almost 2700 times and has received 324 comments! Without even reading every single comment in every single share, sad to say but, I am pretty confident that the majority of the comments probably denigrate the Madhesis, the indigenous people of the Southern Plains. 🙁 The reason for that is pretty straight forward.
We have leaders in the country who, not unlike in the United States of American right now, rule the population using the rhetoric of division! Political leaders and even high ranking government officials routinely belittle, denigrate, demonize, vilify different people of the country and paint them in a bad light, including the Madhesis.
We have a media in the country which, very biased against the Janajatis, adivasis and Madhesis, does the same routinely to sow discord among — and distrust between — different people and ratchet up support for their political agenda of exclusion. Our journalists are not naive and “insensitive”, as per a friend’s characterization, but rather, I argued, they are malicious and are on that campaign to legitimize and perpetuate the monopoly of the high caste Hindus in the power structure, and elsewhere, and to maintain their most privileged status.
(Click here and here for examples of media bias against the Madhesis and here for an example of a petty editor-in-chief of a major media house in Kathmandu who blocked me for challenging their publications.)
Is it any wonder then that average Ram, Shyam and Ganashyams do what they do to — and about — fellow users on Social Media, or to — and about — people belonging to certain groups, with impunity?! Is it any wonder then that they create and spread fake news or information about them to propagate and reinforce stereotypes?!
As for the source of the image, it’s a July 24, 2016 tweet about kids in Bangladesh being punished for stealing food.
But when the same image got passed around as Dalit kids being punished in India, Odisha News Insight produced this article pointing out the mistake.
And, sadly, following in the footsteps of Indians, as the Nepali people have a tendency to do, social media users picked it up and made it theirs! (Of course, it’s #BackOffIndia only when everyone appears to be doing it and when it appears to be “cool.” 😀 )
In December 2016, when I came across the malicious tweet ascribing the image to abused Dalit children in Madhes, I tweeted a correction, which included a screenshot of the above article. (Incidentally, the Editor-in-chief tagged in the tweet below is no other than the petty one I made a reference to earlier.)
— Dorje Gurung (@Dorje_sDooing) December 9, 2016
Far from accepting the mistake, apologizing, and removing the offending tweet, the guy went on to defend his action.
— Dorje Gurung (@Dorje_sDooing) December 10, 2016
(Click here to see @rasansar’s tweet and more of his justification for fabricating the story instead of apologizing or removing the offensive tweet.)
You can try to hold people in Nepal accountable to their words and actions but you can’t make them! They just won’t, it seems!
Almost exactly a year since first being tweeted, the image is picked up by Bhattarai and is able to again pass it off as something that the Madhesis perpetrated on Dalit children, in Nepal!
This is sowing social discord, deliberately. This is creating animosity between people, deliberately!
But Bhattarai, Shrestha and others like them — among the 2K plus who shared and 1K who reacted to Bhattarai’s post, and a total of over 300 that retweeted and liked Shrestha’s tweet — will probably justify their actions by saying that they are “patriots,” that they are “nationalists” concerned and worried about their Sundar, Santa, Bishal (beautiful, peaceful, grand) Nepal, and doing what they must to keep the country from disintegrating or being taken over by foreign powers…blah blah blah.
How much hatred must you have for a people to fabricate, share and ask others to share such blatantly malicious stories about them though? How much?
Or, I don’t think so but, are these just cases of simple, ignorant brainwashed minds?
What do you think?