What I learnt from WhatsApp groups about bhakts, liberals and governance

By Naam Rahit

Messaging services, such as WhatsApp, are battlegrounds for detractors and supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Narendra Modi government in India. 

On many WhatsApp groups, of which I am a part, there is a recurrent theme that reveals a deep-rooted hatred towards everything ‘saffron’ and often a lack of logic in arguments that are governed by malice not fact.

The war is visceral, but by being a silent observer on these groups one can learn quite a few things about ‘bhakts’ and ‘liberals’, about ‘how to govern the country’ and ‘how to handle the coronavirus crisis’, et cetera.

‘Bhakt’, incidentally, is a perfectly fine word which means a ‘devotee’, but it has now attained a derogatory connotation and describes anyone who supports Modi.

So here’s what I learnt from being on WhatsApp groups (that I cannot quit without offending friends, colleagues, relatives and neighbours):

  • I learnt we don’t need governments: all we need are WhatsApp groups to administer a country. 

  • I learnt that only the Indian economy is in the doldrums because of the wrong policies of this government. Every other economy, poor thing, has been badly hit due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

  • I learnt that all the world’s wisdom resides in WhatsApp groups. 

  • I learnt it is perfectly alright to be insensitive towards people who don’t share your view: all you need to do is affix a smiley at the end of an insulting post. 

  • I learnt that the very folks who frown upon ‘WhatsApp University’ (a colloquial epithet for fake news), often  themselves promote falsehoods without providing a shred of evidence. Their opinion is ‘proof’ enough.

  • I learnt that obtaining degrees from top educational institutions does not necessarily make a person educated.

  • I learnt there is race on to prove who in the group is most liberal or secular or patriotic. People trip over themselves to be the first to abuse the government.

  • I learnt that fat wallets and full bellies happily envelope themselves in a shroud of socialism and Marxist ideology to dispense wisdom and pretend to support the have-nots from their air-conditioned luxury apartments. 

  • I learnt that Indians are crazy just because they voted for Modi. Twice.  

  • I learnt that when something goes wrong for the country -- like falling GDP or rising coronavirus cases or attacks on security forces -- there is a certain set of people that derives pleasure from this. They are unable to control their fit of giggles or their frenzy to forward smileys and memes. 

  • I learnt that anything this government does, or does not do, is an opportunity to hurl abuse at it and its bhakts. 

  • I learnt that bhakts must be abused, trolled, sneered at and generally insulted as they ‘deserve it’. Especially if they are women bhakts. Civility is to be reserved only for the ‘liberal’.

  • I learnt that it is okay to denounce, insult, look down upon a differing opinion under the garb of being cheeky or outspoken. 

  • I learnt it is okay to cast aspersions at judges and to  question their judgements since they have allegedly been in ‘favour of the government’.

  • I learnt that democracy is dead, liberalism is dying, press freedom has been strangled, institutions have been demolished, et cetera. The liberals’ argument does not touch upon similar incidents in the past if it does not suit them. 

  • I learnt from these WhatsApp warriors that everything this government says is fake or a pack of lies or ‘jumlas’, but anything coming out of the Opposition camp, the Leftist workshops and the troll armies is to be considered as God’s own truth.

  • I learnt that self-styled ‘fact checkers’, many of whom have had no journalism background, claim to know more than hardcore, on-the-ground journalists. That these self-styled ‘fake news busters’ have been associated with an opposition political party is brushed under the carpet. 

  • I learnt that everyone who voted for this government is a bigot, a bhakt or communal, and thus must be mocked and abused. Everyone who did not vote for Modi is secular and progressive.

These are just some of the things I learnt on WhatsApp groups. Do share your observations about such messaging services, too.