Kolkata group uses WhatsApp audio notes to counter communal hatred

WhatsApp caused over 25 deaths this year by helping the spread of fake news and hoaxes, be it child lifters or people transporting cattle. This citizen’s initiative plans to combat the communal hate by using the same tool.



Representation Image
Kolkata: Know Your Neighbour, a citizens group known for heritage walks and their efforts towards communal harmony in Kolkata, launched an audio clip countering hate directed at Muslims on the occasion of Muharram.
With mob lynchings on the rise, the group decided to dispel the hate content and fake news, hoax and rumours, that lead to lynching events. In the two-and-a-half-minute audio, the second one after their popular Eid audio in June, speaks about two types of mobs one that participates and one that stands by and watches. It also speaks about the rising climate of fear, hatred, intolerance and suspicion in the country which encourages people to murder their own neighbour.
Originally in Bengali, the audio note they released in June on the occasion of Eid, spoke about the misconceptions of people about Muslims.
Translation of Audio:
Two men meet on a street.
A: Hey, where are you going?
B: Oh Hello, I am off to celebrate Eid
A: Eiiiiid? But that’s a Muslim festival!  Aren’t you a Hindu?
B: My friend, Haven’t you seen Muslims come to see the Durga during the Puja? And my old friend Abdul has invited me over – the Hindu- Muslim question does not arise at all. In fact, why don’t you come along – his mother is very fond of serving guests.
A: Are you nuts? Who knows what they will feed me? On top of it, I will have to speak Urdu.
B: Urdu? What are you saying?
A: Yeah, everybody speaks in Urdu in ‘their’ area
B: Urdu is only spoken by non-Bengali Muslims from UP and Bihar who live here – which is the same as the what Hindus immigrants from the North speak. Abdul’s family is from Nadia. Actually, you will be surprised to know that 95% of all Muslims in West Bengal speak Bengali – they know neither Urdu nor Hindi.
A: Yeah right! Go on then, eat beef with them and become a Muslim – either ways, the rate at which they are having kids, soon we will become Pakistan.
B: Oh wow, so many claims in one sentence! Now listen to me –  A Hindu is never served beef in a Muslim household without his consent. Mutual respect has been the cornerstone of the many years of harmonious co-existence of Hindus and Muslims in India. Let’s not make an issue out of nothing. Secondly, merely eating beef does not make you a Muslim. In British Calcutta, even though Derozio’s students had eaten beef, they didn’t turn Muslim, did they?  Not only that, they even led the young Bengal movement and are till date respected by all Bengalis. Thirdly, you must know that ‘Muslims multiplying so quickly that they will overtake Hindus soon’ is a deliberate lie, a fake news that has been circulated. According to the Census, the Muslim population share has actually fallen and even in 2100, Muslims will merely be 17-21 % of the total population. So none of what you said holds true – these lies are indoctrinated in our minds. Now I am getting late, come if you want to,
A: (hesitating) you go on, I don’t feel like it
B: Cool. If you don’t feel up to it, then I won’t insist. But it is important to know what is right and what is wrong. I am off now, the biriyani will turn cold otherwise. Oh yes, there is firni as well!
Narrator: If we don’t know our neighbours, we are doomed to fight each other. Religion is private, festivals public (while religion is for each of us alone, festivals are for everybody). On behalf of ‘Know your Neighbour,’ Eid Mubarak.
Know Your Neighbour was formed in 2016 with the intention of promoting communal harmony in Bengal. KYN works in association with SNAP (Social Network for Assistance to People) Bengal. They organise walks and conversations, with a focus on minority dominated localities in urban and semi-urban areas. They build interaction around community-oriented practices and festivities, such as Iftar. They also hold public discussion around educative events like film screenings, literary-cultural festivals.
The audio notes are being circulated on WhatsApp, where most rumours were said to be shared in India. Over 200 million people in the country use the app. Over 25 people were killed in mob lynchings due to rumours spread on the app this year.
West Bengal, where the group operates, saw many gruesome cases of mob lynchings this year where students and women were lynched on the suspicion of being kidnappers or transporting cattle. In June, a homeless man was tied to an electric pole and beaten to death in Malda, West Bengal, on the suspicion of being a child lifter. Many more lives were lost in the region in 2017.
Even though most fake news is not hate content, almost all hate content is fake news. 33 people were killed in 69 mob attacks since 2017 when only one was killed in 2012. The spread of communal hatred becomes uglier on social media apps, where people are not aware of how to spot fake news. Even with the new Forwards feature in WhatsApp, the source of the hate content is still unknown.
Citizens for Justice and Peace organise workshops to spot and stop fake news. Some of the community resources for that are available here.

Related Articles:
The Bengal lynchings that made no news
The story of three Bengali Muslim households which lost their men to lynching in 2017



Related Articles