In a wise move after the tragic killings of Nilotpal Das and Abhijit Nath by a mob on June 8, students of Gauhati University have launched a “social media movement” to create awareness about the consequences of “rumour mongering” and “fake news” among three to four persons and to motivate them to nominate their friends in turn on social media platforms to do the same. What deserves appreciation is their realization of the great harm that social media can do when misused, and that the remedy for such harm must also come through social media used responsibly and with the good of society in mind. Quite obviously, there has also been the realization that if there is no concerted effort to counter the evil that can arise from the misuse of social media, it might be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prevent the recurrence of such mindless killings triggered off by mere rumours in future. There is the imperative need to realize that the forces of evil in many societies work more purposefully and expeditiously to cause harm than the forces of good are able to do. It will not do to ignore the fact that the lives of the two youths were snuffed out merely through the mischief of Alphajoz Timung, a 25-year-old autorickshaw driver who told villagers over phone that Nilotpal and Abhijit had abducted a child, following a quarrel.
It is futile to expect that certain alarming evil trends that were totally alien to the collective psyche of the people of Assam but have lately taken roots in the State can be reversed completely in a matter of a few months. It is important to assess the impact of certain unwholesome developments in our society based on economic factors. One of them is an almost total absence of opportunities for income generation that depend solidly on work for a large number of people. This is the kind of situation that has incited people without employment or those who are averse to any kind of physical labour to treat well-employed people as sworn enemies. One does not have to do anything to offend the enemies of productive work. It is enough to be well employed and to have the signs of it. That some people can have the means to drive down to a place of their choice for sight-seeing is offence enough for people with warped value systems. It is shocking to think that we now have a society where there are people who can get a mob even to kill harmless tourists by circulating false information. If we fail to remedy this perverse situation, very soon no one will be safe in Assam. A lot of people are already worried that killing people over trivial issues has become so easy in Assam.
It is for these reasons that the students of Gauhati University who have launched the “social media movement” must sustain it and work towards creating a milieu where people ask essential questions before embarking on any kind of action that could lead to the death of innocent people at the hands of an unruly mob that some evil mind has managed to put together. A rational approach to all intended action (especially when it can have an effect on other people’s lives) must be the sine qua non of all collective action. People must not be allowed to forget how easily a mob can be induced to violence. In a State where life seems to have become very cheap, this must be a guiding principle for all students.