NL Interview: Journalist Mohammad Ali on Hindu vigilantism and how social media amplifies hate

WhatsApp in particular makes it easy for hate to manifest without accountability.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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In early April, American magazine Wired published a longform piece on the role of technology in facilitating the rise of a “Hindu vigilante” in Uttar Pradesh. The piece, which appeared in the May issue of Wired’s print magazine, was by Mohammad Ali, a journalist based in Delhi and New York.

In this interview with Manisha Pande, Ali discusses the article, the role of social media in promoting hatred, and more.

Ali describes the celebrity status acquired by Vivek Premi, the vigilante documented in his essay. Premi was arrested for assaulting a Muslim labourer accused of cow smuggling but was later released after an order was issued by the home ministry. According to Ali, Premi’s fame shouldn’t be solely attributed to social media; he became a Hindutva celebrity after the government revoked his arrest.

Social media isn’t the reason why we’re seeing so much hatred today, Ali says, but “social media started as a mirror to our hatred and then it amplified it...Social media has made it possible for the hatred to come out and for the hatred to be manifested, so easily, without any trace, without any accountability, especially if you look at Whatsapp”.

Manisha and Ali discuss the “mainstreamisation” of this “erstwhile fringe”, as evidenced by Zee News recently airing a “jihad chart”. Ali says the propaganda once seen only in Bajrang Dal WhatsApp groups is now the same propaganda that drives the news cycle, which “affects our psyche”.

The interview also covers the nuances of caste coalitions in Uttar Pradesh and the Hindi media’s coverage of the Bajrang Dal.


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