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Random Forays | The need to control the rabble-rousers

A rabble-rouser is practically ubiquitous. He is visible and audible at every little gathering, especially on the street, when a fracas breaks out, or even when a milder incident takes place.

punjab Updated: Aug 20, 2017 17:54 IST
Vivek Atray
Vivek Atray
Hindustan Times
rabble-rouser,Random Forays,Vivek Atray
In these cantankerous times, there is a pressing need for society to maintain its balance. Controlling the habitual rabble-rouser is one way to do so.(Getty Images)

The Oxford Dictionary defines a rabble-rouser as, “a person who speaks with the intention of inflaming the emotions of a crowd of people, typically for political reasons.”

In these cantankerous times, there is a pressing need for the society to maintain its calmness and balance. Controlling the habitual rabble-rouser is one way to do so. In fact, too many of them are vitiating the atmosphere, not only in the political sphere, but in every realm of life.

While even the global landscape is dotted with notable rabble-rousers these days, there’s not much you or I can do about them. But, we can surely do something about such persons at the local level, and even in everyday life.

The rabble-rouser is practically ubiquitous. He is visible and audible at every little gathering, especially on the street, when a fracas breaks out, or even when a milder incident takes place.

When the vehicle owners step out hurriedly to assess the damage, a crowd will collect within no time. The rabble-rouser will emerge from nowhere and join the audience. He will quickly go on to provoke one of the parties into adopting a sparring attitude. And before the police arrives, or matters get really heated up, he will stealthily steal away!

At a factory gate meeting, his actions will be will be even more damaging. He will shout the first chant of ‘Hai Hai’. He will urge someone to throw the first stone. And, at a political rally, big or small, he will create a ruckus through his words and tone, whether on the stage or off it.

The rabble-rouser effect first became apparent to me when I was a young sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) at Kalka subdivision. During a village tour, our group found one particular gentleman who was extremely agitated and was complaining loudly against the government.

The local MLA was a powerful man and he mentioned about the need to offer him a minor position in order to keep the man quiet in the future. The MLA had obviously sensed the mood of the local populace, who were inclined to agree with the rebel, and he was also receiving a fair degree of nods during his anti-establishment speech.

What I did not realise at the time was that the man would get really lucky and would soon be made the chairman of a state level corporation, complete with a ‘sarkari’ car and a red light (those were the days!)

Rabble-rousing can be quite a gainful activity it seems. In an Ajay Devgan film, his character rises swiftly to become the main sidekick of the gang leader, simply by virtue of being persistently antagonistic.

The evident damage that such people cause is by their negative influence on society. Even in our own lives we find some persons who do not let a family settlement take place because they keep needling the main actors in the ‘drama’. Some of them also act as rumour-mongers and impact reputations adversely with ease.

Each individual can play his or her own role for the social milieu by not falling prey to the designs of such instigators. These days even WhatsApp messages can be rabble-rousers, as they sometimes potentially contain pernicious information which cannot be verified easily.

Thus, we find users mentioning “forwarded as received” when they send a message of which the veracity cannot easily be verified. The thing to do is to refrain from forwarding messages which are capable of causing more harm than good.Sometimes the originators of these missives, the online rabble-rousers, may actually be spreading a fear psychosis by design.

Some people will share stories like ‘gangs of robbers are on the loose in the area’ with the intention of alerting their dear ones. The result, however, could be a mindset of mass worry in the region, often without reason.

The antithesis of the rabble-rouser is a masseur whom I know.

This worthy will tell each client that, “So-and-so was all praise for you, Sahib”. Instead of spreading animosity, he creates friendships. Truly, a role model for us to follow, for there is probably a mini rabble-rouser in each one of us!

vivek.atray@gmail.com

First Published: Aug 20, 2017 17:46 IST