Online propaganda on Nagaland

Aheli Moitra

Around August 2017, a series of videos about Nagaland were released on video-sharing site, YouTube. Loaded with a bunch of false information, each video was released by a different, but seemingly related, channel.


Most of these videos are in Hindi and are clearly meant to shock and awe, each as bizarre as the other. The videos have been filed through numerous YouTube accounts; to name a few, Knowledge Fobia, Awesome Videos, MV News, BB News, Interesting Facts, Secret Indian TV, Amazing Facts, Tech Art Fun, Revealing Eyes, Fantasy World, History of the World in Hindi and so on. All of them seem to have the same content and use almost the same footage and web template.


The recent video to have caught the attention of people in Nagaland is ‘NAGALAND! India’s Dangerous State’ uploaded by the account ‘Shocking Truth.’ Uploaded in August 2017, it seems to be the only translation of the original content from Hindi to English.


With the same narration style, the video gives “mind blowing facts” about Nagaland—the video has attracted 85,244 viewers, as of Wednesday evening, with 502 likes, 23,818 dislikes and 3,166 comments.


What does it contain? Visually, it has footage of Mizo girls, Meitei traditional dance, Rhinos, forests, people in what can be classified as “tribal” gear, and even Buddhist monks, to name a few. Clocked at 3 minutes and 15 seconds, the video has a narrator talking about Naga people wearing colourful bed sheets as traditional clothing and anklets to help climb trees. According to the video, “80% of their (Naga) population is linked with agriculture but they don’t like to eat vegetables.”


Apart from all the fake information loaded on the video, the ‘Shocking Truth’ video promptly concludes that Nagaland is a “dangerous place” equating the eating of dog meat, for instance, with an element to be feared. Alternatively, the narrator simply lies. On ‘Interesting Facts,’ the narrator states that head hunting and sacrifice are normal practices in Nagaland. In ‘Tech Art Fun,’ Khonoma supposedly harbours ruins from the age of Mahabharat!


In each of the videos published since last August, some details are tweaked but with the same intent to induce fear in the viewer through blatant misinformation or using certain information in a way that creates an image of the far-flung ‘other,’ to be detested, kept away or tamed.


Dehumanizing the Naga people has been an old part of sub continental tradition to subjugate a peoples. Before, this was done through word of mouth and Naga people had to bear the brunt of becoming lesser human beings, to be brought under control by colonials that passed Naga territories from one to the other—militarization has been a favoured policy of such control. Its effects have been felt through generations.


As this propaganda moves to the internet and proliferates, it reaches a wider audience and even helps the channel owner make profits out of it! While a number of complaints have been registered against at least one of the many videos, none has been brought down yet. More the content stays online, more channels and communities grow around this misinformation.


Imagine the impact of this on an already conflict torn people who find themselves victims of historically dehumanizing abuse. Will YouTube take responsibility for being the platform for repeating this propaganda in the 21st century?


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