How the Army Would Have Dealt with Afwah's (Rumours) of The Padmavati Kind
LT. COLONEL NOEL ELLIS
As usual after dinner I sat down to scan news channels. I landed up with Mr Rajat Sharma explaining his views on the movie controversy. Well, I am sure he laid to rest all rumors, propaganda and whispering campaigns to rest. Hope Padmavati turns out to be a blockbuster. I rarely watch Hindi movies but this one I definitely will.
Be that as it may, I being from Rajasthan and having served there extensively understand the feelings of our brethren and their rage to tear apart the world for the insult they perceive has been done to their pride and valour as also to the rich traditions of their clan. I have heard of many heads being chopped off in the years of yore for aan, baan and shaan. Hope now things will cool down. Let us leave Deepika’s nose and Bhansali’s head for the time being.
I sat down to research these words on the net and this is what I found. A rumor or rumour (spelling differs between American and British English) is viewed as "an unverified account or explanation of events circulating from person to person and pertaining to an object, event, or issue in public concern".
Rumour is a kind of propaganda which refers "solely to the control of opinion by significant symbols, or, to speak more concretely and less accurately by stories, reports, pictures, and other forms of social communication". Rumors are also often discussed with regard to "misinformation" and "disinformation”. Rumors can be created and planted by nearly anybody, require limited resources, can be deadly for those in its direct path, and can instill fear.
Controversy on Padmavati falls aptly into all these slots is my view.
Basic characteristics that apply to rumour are; One, they are transmitted by word of mouth. Two, they provide "information" about a "person, happening, or condition and three, they express and gratify "the emotional needs of the community”.
Someone divided rumors into three types:
1. Pipe dream rumors: reflect public desires and wished-for outcomes. (Achhe din) (Pun intended)
2. Bogie or fear rumors: reflect feared outcomes. (You will go to hell if you don’t pray and don’t do abc).
3. Wedge-driving rumors: intend to undermine group loyalty or interpersonal relations (The Hindu-Muslim riots are fueled by these types of rumors)
Propaganda on the other hand is neutrally defined as a systematic form of purposeful persuasion that attempts to influence the emotions, attitudes, opinions, and actions of specific target audiences for ideological, political or commercial purposes through the controlled transmission of one-sided messages (which may or may not be factual) via mass and media channels. A propaganda organization employs propagandists who engage in propagandism.
In addition, there is something called a "smear campaign". It is a term that loosely means a coordinated effort to attack a person's character. Some people term it as an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). Rumors, as IEDs, are low-cost, low-tech communication weapons that can be used by anyone to disrupt the efforts of communication, civil affairs or outreach campaigns such as those undertaken by governments in crisis response situations or militaries in insurgencies. Well, history of India has umpteen examples of it.
One must understand that to spread rumors you require rumor mongers. These people now have the modern tools of sms, facebook, twitter and other social media to spread the word faster and create far reaching results as happened in the Padmavati case I suppose.
In the Army, we had posters displayed in our offices saying do not spread rumors and we used to encourage our men to come and speak to us if they heard anything abnormal. Rumors need not be military in nature; they could do with some event happening back home. It was our moral duty to educate our men and their families not to drift away by such sayings and believe in the systems which existed thus we could control all sorts of panic, both in the battle field and in peace by curbing and controlling spread of rumors. I still remember anonymous complaints were never taken any cognisance of as many used to be planted stories.
Suffice to say afwah failana and kaan ka kacha hona are different sides of the same coin and both need to be curbed. One must see for oneself, hear it from the horse’s mouth, understand the ground situation, weigh the pros and cons, believe in your training, have faith in your systems and God and then only react, rather than intimidate fellow citizens who are artists and creative personalities by profession.
Hope by now the boil in the blood would have subsided or will we have another rumor being spread for something else soon? I wonder.
(Lt Colonel Noel Ellis has retired from the Indian Army after over two decades of service)