Before you continue reading, let me begin with a disclaimer: I am not a follower of Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. I have never met him or visited his ashram. Nor have I read any of his books. Yes, I have watched his interviews a few times on TV. That's all. So I do make it clear that I am not an enraged devotee.
Now that that's out of the way, what is agonising is the extent of hate and abuse on social media - a platform where more and more everyday conversations are just turning into outbursts of ugliness.
So what happened? On July 6 - and incidentally that was three days before India celebrated Guru Purnima
, a day when you remember the contribution your teachers have made to your life - one of the country's most well known spiritual gurus was trolled and abused. Sadhguru had tweeted:
Twitteratis ripped him apart stating the video of the elephant clearing litter and dumping it into a dustbin was an old one. Moreover, the elephant was from a national park in South Africa. The "outrage" spilled over to abuse and allegations which flowed untiringly.
Liar. Modi supporter. Money-spinner. Fraud. Dishonest.
Sample a few of them:
Seriously, has the level of discourse dropped so much that even respected, non-controversial figures can no longer be spared? Can't there be some measure of reason, maturity and restraint?
For example: do any of those abusing and accusing him really think that Sadhguru is naive enough to lap up that elephants are inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Swachh Bharat
campaign? Like, really?
Many insist he is a funny man. So could it have been that he was saying it just in jest as some seem to have understood? Or probably he was trying to use the video to inspire people?
Nope. He is a Bhakt
. Fraud. Money-spinner. Dishonest. Charlatan. There is no scope for anything else. Period.
Truth is - most often - online "outrage" does not reflect reality. The conflict is manufactured and magnified by provocative hashtags. Articles are not even read but are still retweeted only because they carry a controversial headline that suits one's agenda.
Just ask the abusers to perform one reality check: go abuse Sadhguru in person. Believe you me, they simply would never dare.
The next day Sadhguru clarified:
This isn't just about Sadhguru. It's about the absence of a conversation on social media which can be critical, creative and also civil.
A good place to start having this conversation is perhaps with oneself. First: stop this casual labelling of everybody
into distinct and extreme categories. Bhakt-Khangressi. Sanghi-Naxali.
Aaptard-Libtard. Nationalist-Anti National. Presstitute-Mouthpiece.
Political leanings of a large section of society are not as black and white as social media makes them out to be. One may like BJP and Modi. One may like Modi but not BJP. One may support both Congress and Rahul Gandhi. Or one may be a Congress voter but still (silently) prefer Modi over Rahul. There are all sorts of people and any number of possible combinations!
There is an urgent need to stop boxing people into brackets. Remember, even those who support an opposing ideology, they are - at worst - only political opponents.
For if you don't, what will happen is that soon than later, in your mind and then in your actions, the 'others' will all turn into real enemies.
The dangers of that will no longer be virtual.
They will be very very real.(Tejas Mehta is former Bureau Chief, NDTV 24x7 and is now a political commentator.)Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.