For India, social media is the new Pakistan
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For India, social media is the new Pakistan

Pink is the new black, Facebook is the new Digg and when it comes to shifting the blame, social media is the new Pakistan for India. It’s hard not to follow what’s happening in India and its North East. But if you are out of touch, like I am, here’s the low-down.

In Assam, clash between Bodos and Muslims has left 50 dead and 400,00displaced. While protesting Assam clashes, violence erupted in Mumbai which left two people dead and many more injured. After that social media and text messages threatening the people of North East origin were disseminated to create panic which resulted in a mass exodus from cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune.

Few doctored videos and images have surfaced on various social media sites. These videos are apparently from 2008 and have originated in a completely different country.

Following which people from North Eastern states who have migrated to cities like Pune, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad have feared and lined up to go back to their home states. The fact that this exodus has happened from some of the most cosmopolitan cities is noteworthy. This has posed a law and order problem in these cities and an overall unrest to the government of India. The situation is completely new. It has used new tools which has spread the message in a matter of minutes. The reaction to this situation by the government of India is anything but new.

First it has put the blame fairly and squarely on the social media sites. Second it has banned the block SMS facility for 15 days. Third it has blamed Pakistan. These three reactions were used by government of India in various crisis situations but not all the three of them for the same situation. NE Exodus is the first time all these three reactions came together.

Don’t shoot the damn messenger

It is now more than established that 40% of the messages originated from Pakistan. Facebook and Youtube has confirmed that the uploads originated from outside India and mostly from Pakistan. The role of Pakistan has been confirmed by Indian government and will share the details with Pakistan government. If true, India is right to blame Pakistan. Strategically for Pakistan though, the 2008 Mumbai attacks now look very silly.

If we look at the past two years, Indian government has blamed Pakistan less and Social media more. Beyond Pakistan, India has found a new punching bag in social media. I expect it to stay for a while. Are our politicians so thick headed to understand that they can’t shoot the damn messenger? Of course not. They think that inflation actually helps the farmers but this thing about social media, they would know. Alas, they have been using it to their benefit for quite some time. Then what gives?

It’s the politics, stupid.

Isn’t everything about politics? Social media is a just a lame duck to sweep the actual internal strife under the rug as pointed here and here.

Just like TV, Social Media is just a medium. It’s a new medium with new rules, benefits and as we are finding out, new challenges too. Deal with it. And don’t pretend that banning social media is an elixir. At best it’s a diversion. This government’s biggest strength – more than managing the coalition partners is just that – creating diversions. Now that we have India’s two new blame darlings (Pakistan and Social Media) in the picture, the real reasons for NE exodus will never be known. Besides, aren’t we a little too busy for 2014?