Rasheeda Bhagat

Democracy means scrutiny and debate

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on February 08, 2021

To treat a Rihanna or Thunberg tweet on farmers’ agitation as an attack on our ‘sovereignty’ is ludicrous

What a deep hole our government has dug for itself over the ongoing farmers’ agitation. Horrendous images of the difficulties faced by the agitating farmers, suffering the harsh winter, and hit by water cannon assaults, were followed by a serious security lapse, by design or otherwise, that let a breakaway group to reach the Red Fort ramparts.

Media headlines and hashtags of “republic shamed” were akin to singing a dirge after the damage has been done.

With both sides hardening their stance, the resultant show of force by the government, images of formidable barricades, trenches and nails cemented on roads to keep out farmers from Delhi, all displayed for international scrutiny, has been a total disaster for India’s international image.

When you do all this, create a battleground scenario to keep at bay not China or Pakistan, but your own farmers, and then switch off internet services for them, you are begging for global condemnation, now a mere click of a button.

And, condemnation did come in droves from international celebrities; pop star Rihanna, who, you’ve been told a million times, has 101 million followers on Twitter, and climate activist Greta Thunberg, and a host of others, predominantly female, tweeted on the farmers’ agitation.

When a loose cannon such as Bollywood’s Kangana Renaut, whose limited vocabulary cannot go beyond expletives like “fool” and “dumbo”, responds like a street fighter to those whose views differ from hers, you can turn up your nose and walk away. But not when official response from the government is rolled out, and Indian celebrities pushed into the republic’s service, to take on the ones “out to divide or destroy India”! Is this a ping-pong game… or our celebrities vs firangi celebrities contest?

The best course of action for the government would have been to allow the Kanganas of India to holler away, and maintain a stoic silence while the social media storm blew away. But then reticence and a well-calibrated response are certainly not a hallmark of this government. It has to do everything at a high-decibel level, just like the banging of thalis to drive away corona!

And, hence, we saw the Delhi police registering an FIR on charges of “sedition and criminal conspiracy” associated with a toolkit for farmers, shared by Thunberg on Twitter. Next, a bunch of India celebrities, both from Bollywood and cricket, marched on the field to counter firangi celebrities using hashtags such as #IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda, etc.

A latecomer to the party couldn’t be blamed for thinking that Pakistan had once again uttered the K word at the UN! Or China had smashed through the LAC.

Led by Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar, with Bollywood celebrities such as Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, and Suniel Shetty in tow, they cautioned people against propaganda and conspiracies. Proving that great minds think alike, all of them advocated an “amicable resolution”!

Tendulkar’s advice that “external forces can be spectators but not participants”, was a real gem, but the general drift was that like the “tukde tukde” and Khan market gangs of yore, the Rihanna-plus gang was out to destroy India’s unity and sovereignty.

Beyond absurd

But do these people, who have millions of fans hanging on to every word they utter, really think India’s sovereignty is so fragile that it can be damaged by a few tweets?

If you call yourself a democracy, then be prepared for international scrutiny and debate of all hues. And the “conspiracy” theory is absurd; didn’t Donald Trump get it in the neck constantly from international activists and the US media alike, and ‘Black Lives Matter” generated heated debates all over the world including India.

Aren’t we forgetting that democracy and debate are handmaidens? Also, why grudge international support for our farmers? When headlines, accurate, twisted or whatever, appear on how India’s farmers’ protest is being severely crushed by the state creating a war-like zone to keep them out of Delhi, adverse reaction is bound to come from human rights and other activists. That is the nature of the animal called activism, and if the world is truly a global village and social media has no boundaries, every nation and government will be put to scrutiny.

To treat a Rihanna or Thunberg tweet as an attack on our “sovereignty” is ludicrous. Both women were threatened by an army of trolls with rape, and all this in the name of nationalism.

Many of these ultra nationalists even thought that Rihanna was a Muslim out to defame a “Hindu” India! Some even said she was paid to tweet! Apparently not all tutored to tweet have been educated about Google search which tells you in five seconds that her net worth is $500-600 million!

Instead of wasting energy on twitterati, our government would do well to resolve the controversial farm laws issue.

Published on February 08, 2021

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