Ghazanfar Abbas | Caravan Daily
NEW DELHI — Do you know Wali Rahmani, a 19-year-old boy who is utilizing social media to fight hatred and fake news?
Rahmani is perhaps the youngest among a few in the country who has been working remarkably as social media influencer through his videos aimed to make the Indian citizens aware about issues of national importance such as governance, policies, constitution, media, communal hate and fake news. A native from Kolkata, he is a first-year law student in Delhi who often appears on national TV and public speeches. He has now over 1.70 lac subscribers to his YouTube channel and 1.23 lac followers on Facebook.
In an exclusive interview with Caravan Daily, Rahmani talks at length about his one-year journey as a social media crusader, his life and dreams.
Excerpts of the Interview:
Caravan Daily: When & why did you think you should make videos on Social Media – YouTube and Facebook etc?
Wali Rahmani: I would have never ever thought that I would fight against fake news and expose the particular (present BJP) government and make the people aware about the historical facts and also fight for the rights of people. But during March 2017 while I was preparing my board exams of class 12th when Yogi Adityanath became the Chief Minister (CM) of Uttar Pradesh, I got so agitated and frustrated that even this man who has had been delivering hate speeches and the venom against a particular community for many years, can become CM of such a big state of the country. And people are aware of it. I thought that if a man of that stature can become CM then where the country is heading towards. Then I made my first live video on Facebook which was widely shared by people. Overnight the video reached to millions of people. In that video I asked youths of the country what they are doing through their education. This video was the life changing event for me where I understood that this is the path where I should work on. And I will continue this work irrespective of all threats I get.
CD: What are the important issues you are focusing on?
WR: Nobody can deny the fact that Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis have been subjugated and suppressed in the country in the past 70 years of independence. when I started to make these videos, I got threats and people started asking me to say Vande Mataram etc… and then my another video was focused on ‘Why I won’t say Bharat Mata ki Jai?’
It was a sinister plan by BJP IT cell to frame me as an anti-Hindu person which I am not. I am a more secular person on this land. Mostly my best friends are Hindus. But since I was being framed as anti-Hindu, I realized to take a shift and then I started making videos on historical facts, how government’s policies affecting people and wasting their money and not utilising public taxes. And today my image as anti-Hindu doesn’t exist any more. More than 50% of my followers on social media are non-Muslims and I am happy about it. This is the India we need. All the communities should come together and take this country forward with a secular ideology.
So far, Wali Rahmani has produced 50 videos on different issues like lynching over rumors about beef consumption and cow slaughter, and hatred against Dalits and Muslims.
Now battles between historical rulers are being presented as Hindu Vs Muslims which is incorrect. I have also debunked this narrative in my videos. The present BJP government is trying to set a false narrative for political benefit.
CD: Besides politics, how much responsible is media for fake news?
WR: In my schooling days I was taught that media is the eye and ear of the people as the fourth pillar of democracy. But how true is it now? Media is no more the fourth pillar of democracy. We have paid media houses which have become business houses today. They take money from particular party and then run their prime time shows as what that party demands and orders. Media is most responsible for spreading hatred and dividing people. I request the people not to watch the 7-10 pm prime time shows aired on such news channels.
CD: Why do people start believing rumor on social media like the one that “deaths of people took place on railway track on Dussehra in Amritsar because the driver of the train was Muslim” which was later debunked by Alt News too?
WR: People believe such rumors and fake news because such an environment of hatred has been created against Muslims.
Today the WhatsApp authenticity has become much more than the authenticity of books. People have started referring WhatsApp for facts check. It seems that soon a time will come our premier universities like JNU and BHU will have lesser influence than this WhatsApp ‘university’.
CD: How can the youths utilize social media to stop the divide between the people of different religious identities?
WR: Youths can use the social media effectively but they need to enhance their knowledge for that. They should start reading. Good readers can only become good leaders. My message to youth is to stop wasting their time. They should channelize their energy.
CD: Besides the social media awareness campaign and study, what else are you doing and what are your future plans?
WR: I want to share one thing which nobody knows — that I am the ‘father’ of 10 kids. I am father of 10 orphan kids and they call me Abba Ji. I am intended to train them as future leaders. This orphanage named Ummid was established in my home town Kolkata six months ago. This idea came to my mind as I was feeling lonely in my mission; so I thought to start teaching and taking care of ten kids to be future leaders. But no mother was ready to give me her kids, so I thought why not adopt orphan kids because they don’t have parents.
Rahmani quotes Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) saying as inspiration for running orphanage: “I and the person who looks after an orphan and provides for him, will be in Paradise like this” (putting his index and middle finger together.
CD: How much support did you get from your family for orphanage and social media work?
WR: The only support I got from my family is that they did not resist me from what I do. They believe me that I can do it. Today I have a team of 50-60 people who are supporting me in running this orphanage. We are preparing leaders irrespective of religion, caste and gender. Orphanage is open for all children irrespective of their religious background and they have freedom to study whatever they want to study.
Rahmani is eldest among three brothers. His father Mohd Shafiuddin Rahmani, who owns a leather factory, and mother Shabnam have been very supportive to him. His mother first gave him Rs. 50,000/- from her savings for the orphanage. Mostly old-age women of his locality have helped Rahmani in establishing the orphanage.
“Ummid is turning into an idea and idea is turning into a reality. My aim to work on ground in future and activism will be continuing on ground level,” he finished the talk on a note of hope.