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Mainstream, VOL LV No 35 August 19, 2017

Issue versus Faces: Question of Ownership of Campaigns

Sunday 20 August 2017

by Bihu Chamadia

Starting with Akhlaq, we witnessed umpteen number of incidents of mob lynching across the length and breadth of the country. Recently, A 16-year-old Junaid was killed by the same faceless mob. Two major campaigns against these mob lynchings were initiated, namely, Not in My Name and National Campaign Against Mob Lynching. We see the #notinmyname campaign took place at the national level and attracted many important persons from different walks of life. The campaign was, however, faceless with no important personality in the forefront. On the other hand, the #nationalcampaignagainstmoblynching was initiated by some well-known faces of the society. This National Campaign too held a press conference in which almost all the media houses of the country participated. But it did not garner much attention when compared to the #notinmyname campaign. So, can we analyse how the two campaigns were similar yet so different from each other and how the indian population received them differently?

At the time when campaigns and protests are the need of the hour, we have to understand that the issue should take the lead, not a few people. That is a major drawback of the #nationalcampaignagainstmoblynching. It may have many well-known personalities as its initiators but the issue gets lost while we pay much more attention to the face-value and the publicity of the people, rather than the issue. At the other end, the #notinmyname campaign came with such force that even the Prime Minister had to respond about the killings by the so-called cow vigilantes.

Why is it so that a popular face is always needed for the endorsement of a campaign? Isn’t the issue enough? We see a new norm that a campaign does get started but is lost on the way.

Mob lynching is not a petty issue. It is not an issue that is so small that it doesn’t catch your eyes. I agree with the fact that we live in a country of people with numb minds and heart and somebody has to take the lead. But, do you think if issues can’t shake our emotions and conscience, a celebrity can?

When Akhlaq was killed, we had a series of award wapsi as a symbol of protest but why did it not continue? Why does Junaid’s murder not make them speak, that is, those who once gave up their awards for Akhlaq? Here the question arises: was it really for Akhlaq?

The issue takes a secondary place. When a person with a face-value endorses a campaign, no wonder it has an impact on a large population. But we see that the impact fades away with time. From which we can conclude that the issue did not have any impact, the person had.

The society is going through a phase where we are facing too many issues to handle at a single point of time. But, it’s a natural tendency of the society to erupt in protest on a single-issue which can been seen as a saturation point and culmination of all the problems. We agree that the country is facing many economic problems, but india is a country which keeps societal problems in the forefront. We have a really bitter experience of social issues becoming so dangerous that it led to the partition, the memory of which is still alive in the minds of many and condemned by all.

The #nationalcampaignagainstmoblynching based itself on the faces of a few people and till the population does not feel connected to any issue, their conscience does not awake . This is the problem of ownership. The crowd versus the individual. The #nationalcampaignagainstmoblynching was too corporate in nature, it needed people to endorse the issue which is why the people do not feel connected to it.

The issues are getting lost while the famous faces try to launch campaigns. As a consequence the cause suffers. This does more damage than good to the cause.

The author is a media practitioner.

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