Rumour Sails Dangerously in India

I am writing this blog-post after a long time and apologies to all the readers of Aamjunta who have been waiting for new posts for all these days.

It was around 6.30pm on a Monday in Feb 2010. I reached home slightly late from office and was discussing something related to cricket with my nephew. Suddenly, my Bhabi (sister-in-law) got a call on her mobile. Though the number flashing on her mobile screen was known, she could not guess what could be the reason for that call. Interestingly, the call lasted for some 30 seconds and ended with a serious-somber note. Just after the call, she asked my mother to visit the nearby temple with diya and ghee and also pray to our family deity. She was looking really concerned and serious. Moreover, my mother had just come back from the temple. So, I could not guess the reason of her going back to the temple again. Also I could not guess the reason behind my sister-in-law’s concern. In fact, the matter was so serious that without waiting to give us any explanation, Bhabi went to the nearby shop and bought a small pouch of ghee in no time as there was no special ghee at home. Finally, I asked her what is the matter and what is the reason behind so many calls and her despair. Initially she was reluctant to tell, but she could not keep the matter to herself completely. She just said, that her sister had called and said that she heard from someone that a small kid died immediately after his birth. But, to every one’s surprise, before dying he said, that ladies who have one son should go to a Shiva Temple immediately and pray to god with ghee and diya. My immediate response to her conversation was that it is just a rumour, nothing else. But, I did not give much emphasis and let her follow her faith without any argument.

In no time, my sister, Bhabi’s mother, her sisters all called her up and kept on advising the same thing. In just 10 minutes some 15 calls were either made or received on her phone. Everyone was telling the same thing, but with different versions, and added flavours. Some said, that the incident happened in Jajpur, some said it was in in Dhenkanal, some said it was in Balasore. In no time, my Bhabi also called all her relatives who have one son; and even called up Mumbai to inform my other sister-in-laws. The episode was straight from a daily soap and I sighed and said Rumour bhi kabhi telephonic message tha… . 🙂

With all these interesting stories and telephone calls happening at our home, I switched on our TV set and to my surprise live pictures were being flashed on local news channels which said that there are big queues in all Shiva temples with milk, diya, ghee and other offerings. What a day for the gods! Rumours can be so beneficial to them! Not only home-makers, many working ladies also visited temples. Same news was being discussed in many other channels also. By then, the entire incident was proved to be just a rumour. Like any other rumour, the origin of this story was unknown, some said it was initiated by telephone operators to increase their calls, income and some said it was just a fun message started by a group of young people and some said it was just a story created by pujakas in order to increase their dakshina.

Anyhow, even though many people knew that it is a rumour and was baseless, they acted superstitiously. It is our false belief, lesser confidence on our selves, superstitious nature and. powerful rumour-mongering in which the latter won.

It was not the end of rumours….

After ten days of that incident, some thing similar happened. At about 1.20 am in the night, I got some calls from unknown numbers. I was in deep slumber, did not pick up the phone and switched off my cell.  I happily slept and peacefully spent the night in my room. At around 7 am when I switched on my TV, I could see interesting stories flashing as ‘Breaking News’ on many news channels. The news was that in many parts of Odisha, people did not sleep the night before, in fact did not go back to their homes. Many people were seen roaming on the streets the entire night with their little children and relatives. Some even took their belongings out from their homes. The reason for this chaos: someone called at night and said that there will be a serious earth-quake and people will die. Moreover, even there is a chance for destruction of the earth. So people started calling their relatives and asked them not to sleep in their homes that night. The incident started at around 11 pm and went on till 6 am or so. People suffered that entire night.

By that time, I could guess the reason behind the calls which were made at 1.20 am to my mobile. Even there were 4 missed calls on my brother’s phone — 2 known and 2 unknown 🙂 . Later the next day, there were reports that even there were special pujas in many temples of the state, to save the world and the people from earth quake. Hmmm! But, like the previous story, origin of this story was also unknown, but there were doubts that someone made this story and called couple of people who made that public. Even, there are versions that telecom service providers or the representatives of those providers are also involved in this. But, whatever be the reason and whoever started the rumour, it just spread in no time across the state, irrespective of religion and geographical locations.

Many suffered the entire night, and a few like us, who did not pick up their phones slept happily. Another rumour in a span of just ten days!

However, my intention is not just to blog about the kind of rumours that spreads these days, I would also like to discuss the eventualities and the dangerous situation that arises due to these kind of rumours. Not only rumours are created for the profit of some people, they are some times targeted at destruction, for creating tension between communities and even for creating friction between people, friends and enemies. Rumours are even more dangerous than nuclear bombs, these are silent bombs, created and planted without any cost.

On different note, rumours are sometimes targeted to tarnish the image of  people, be the boss of a company, the minister of a state or a public figure or as a part of small office politics. Frequent rumours are heard on film stars and their public and private lives. Some call it film gossip, some call it fact and others call it rumour.

Aamjunta, let us make sure that we should not be involved in propagating the rumours, rather should control, even if it is created against our worst enemy. Who knows, we may be next target of some thing similar! We need to be positive not only in our own life, but also for others. A small statement sometimes unintentionally made can serve to destroy the lives of many. Why not try to find the actual source of this communication and stop that from its root? Creating stories are very easy, but the impact is dangerous, unless handled with care, life can become a hell. In a country like India, where many people are uneducated and superstitious, rumours spread in a flash. If not handled with care, then rumours can be the most dangerous and damaging form of communication that we encounter in our life.

Aamjunta, be vigilant towards rumours and do not make unnecessary calls to others. Wait and watch and then take action…. 🙂

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8 Responses

  1. Nice one. But, after a long gap. We request you to keep writing and to bring such kind of common man’s stories to the knowledge of common men.

  2. A very informative and helpful article. However, I have a few questions for you — do blogs actually reach the target audience? How many ‘aamjunta’ — the victims of rumour-mongering or any such evil do read these articles? Is ‘Aamjunta’ really achieving the goal with which it had started, of creating public awareness. I have a gut feeling that the readers of ‘Aamjunta’ are not the people who are suffering or are victims or participants in the issues that you have raised.

    Why not publish these articles in a book? ‘Aamjunta’ think about it 🙂

  3. Seems to be a lot going on in Odisha!! but in a sense chain mail, the bogus lottery system and such rumors play on peoples sentiments and superstitions to meet their end. It is sad that even in the educated class there are instances where rumors have a deep seated root!!

  4. Thank you all. Yes, I am seriously thinking of compiling a book. Will take a final decision asap. Hope it will reach more people.

    Rumours cannot be stopped completely, but it can be controlled substantially. However, it needs change in attitude and awareness. Hope these posts can create some awareness among aamjunta.

  5. It is an interesting and nice write-up…

    Compiling a book is definitely a better idea, especially if it is published in Oriya and Hindi / English – that would reach more mass within & even outside our state…and to people who are not tech savvy.

    But to control these notions or practices in the future, I think the best & practical method is to make children aware during their budding years. Because psychologically, it is often very difficult to change the attitude or beliefs of grown-ups. Just to quote a personal example: today a few of my cousins believe such things as their parents / teachers / friends’ elder siblings believe in it ; but I don’t as I was strongly discouraged on similar things right from my childhood. Adults naturally remain either rigid or confused on a change of attitude – its the innermost layer of a personality ! …So if one generation is well-checked, then the awareness will usually get transferred to the next gen..so on & so forth.

  6. It happens mainly in the Indian subcontinent. Education does not matter, the level of superstition is the key here. It is an eye opening post. Thanks.

  7. Every thing in India is just an act of God and we do not want to take responsibility. superstition kills many people in the form animal-bird-human sacrifices. Need to stop all.

  8. Things are like this here. Rumor is the most dangerous and the most pathetic. Rumor with mob – horrified combination.

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