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Instead of making progress in the safety of citizens and development of resources and infrastructure, we seems to have actually moved backwards. Is this the Vikas we were looking forward to?
A couple of months ago my sister and I were watching the cult classic Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. As soon as Akbar made his entry in the immensely popular Mahabharat stage play scene, my sister exclaimed, “thank god this movie released in the early ’80s and not today, otherwise leave alone becoming a cult classic, it would not even have had a proper release, and the actors and the director would have had to go into hiding.”
Though I wanted to vehemently deny her observation, sadly it is the truth. In the past few months, there have been several instances, which add more strength to this observation.
It’s not just satire and the art of critiquing which is dying a slow death in the country, slowly and steadily people are being forced to frame their choices in accordance with the expectation of the select few, who consider themselves the custodians of culture.
For those who refuse to follow the norm, wrath follows.
The arguments presented by the custodians of culture have little to no logic or practicality. it is done solely with the intent of muscle wringing and ugly show of power by these supposedly righteous humans who have no shame in displaying their archaic mindset. The most worrying aspect of this ugly phenomenon is that a great many of those displaying this mindset are people in positions of power.
The last couple of months have seen the popular jewellery brand Tanishq facing immense hostility for some very beautiful advertisements created by them. The first one was about a woman in an inter-religious marriage, where her marital family is shown celebrating her baby shower according to her paternal family traditions.
Instead of seeing the message of inclusivity and love transcending religious barriers that the advertisement portrayed, what these people only seemed to think was that the advertisement was trying to ‘lure’ Hindu girls and encouraging them to marry and convert into another religion.
These intelligent observers were pretty certain that women have no mind of their own, and are influenced by anything and everything they see around them. The biggest cause of concern here for those vehemently opposing the advertisement was the woman had exercised agency and made a choice of her own towards choosing her life partner, hence this issue would have risen even if the religion of the couple were reversed as demanded by the fanatics opposing the advertisement.
The one thought process that unifies all religious beliefs in the country is the belief of treating women akin to chattel. Thanks to social media, there is a ready platform for people professing such cringeworthy beliefs to shout it out at everyone, and shame and troll others to comply with their belief system, conveniently hiding behind their device screens. The saddest part of this regressive trolling was that the advertisement was called back by the jewellery brand.
This very brand had made an advertisement in 2013 which beautifully showcased a single mother getting married.
This was celebrated and appreciated as path-breaking; and to think that the same brand faced wrath 7 years later for making an advertisement which celebrates love. If this is not regression, I doubt what is.
The above advertisement was only the beginning of Tanishq’s woes. On the eve of Diwali, they released another advertisement, which had some of the talented actresses in the country talking about how they would celebrate Diwali, and included a line where actress Sayani Gupta said, “I think nobody should burst crackers.”
This was enough to trigger the currently most infamous hashtag #boycott. This ad was supposed to have ‘hurt religious sentiments’, and these hurt people questioned this brand’s ‘impunity’ for calling out their tradition and culture.
Diwali is and has always been known as the festival of lights, but sadly over the years, we have turned it into a festival of noise and fumes. Crackers are bad for the environment and the cracker manufacturing industry has been responsible for encouraging child labor and makes its workers work in extremely unsafe conditions. Which aspect of culture or religion are these naysayers talking about?
Tanishq is not the only one here facing the wrath, anyone who has tried reasoning with unreasonable custodians of culture has faced the wrath.
IPS officer D Roopa Moudgil has been shamed and trolled viciously to the extent that these trolling custodians of culture demanded her suspension. All because, again, she asked the residents of Bangalore to refrain from bursting crackers this year, and wanted imposed a ban on bursting crackers.
I am curious, do these people involved in viciously shaming and harassing anyone speaking logically deride logic itself? They have been saying that if pollution is so concerning stop driving vehicles and using air conditioners. And the best argument: aren’t Christmas trees causing pollution?
Well, there is a lot of effort being made and campaigns being run to encourage the use of public transport, and to switch off your vehicle engines at signals to minimize pollution. As far as air conditioners are concerned, the health hazards of its prolonged use are also being actively discussed, but these trolls choose to continue their air-conditioned existence and question the world. And the last time I checked, most Christmas trees in India were made of plastic.
These no cracker campaigns aren’t new. I remember these campaigns being conducted even in the ’90s, the only difference between now and then was, people then understood and encouraged, rather than troll. It is of course not possible to completely stop what has been practised for so long, but making an effort matters. That, however, is no longer how India thinks anymore; surely, we are on the path of ‘Vikas’!
We as a nation have progressed so much that now questioning a belief system could result in FIR being filed against you.
FIR against a Political Science prof for questioning tradition
Take the recent incident of an FIR being filed against Shilpa Singh, a professor of political science at a law college in Goa by Rajiv Jha, a member of the Rashtriya Hindu Yuva Vahini’s South Goa unit for creating a Facebook post questioning the symbols of marriage that women alone are forced to wear.
This shows how as a society we are slowly and steadily refusing to introspect or look at a varied viewpoint. With no discussion and such vehement opposition to questioning, there can never be even any attempt at change, let alone progress.
The Unlawful Conversion Bill
The Uttar Pradesh Government recently passed the Unlawful Conversion Bill. The Uttar Pradesh cabinet will enact an ordinance to curb unlawful religious conversions. The said ordinance shall have provisions for jail term and penalty of up to Rs.15000/- for forceful religious conversions. For conversions of minors and women of SC/ST community, there will be a penalty of Rs 25,000 penalty and a jail term.
Though it is being vehemently propagated as a move to prevent forced religious conversions and prevent their right of religious freedom of the citizens from being exploited, it is evident that this is a follow up on the chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s promise to enact a law against ‘Love Jihad’.
This bill was drafted and passed quite swiftly, despite the seriousness of the purported problem of love jihad being questionable.
But what actually needs to be questioned is that Uttar Pradesh’s reputation as the state with the dubious distinction of having the highest number of crimes against women being reported, according to the National Crime Record Bureau’s Crime in India 2019 report.
Of course the present State Government alone cannot be held responsible for the dismal state of women’s safety in the state. But this Government, which seems to be so keen on enacting laws to curb activities harming its citizens at large, does not consider that the unsafe conditions its women citizens are grappling with to be of much importance.
The present Unlawful Conversion bill has come at a time when several gory crimes against women in the state have come to light, showcasing the dismal standards of women’s safety in the state. Though efforts had been made to hush up the crime, not much has been done to change the situation.
The examples given above are only a few. There have been several such incidents in the recent past in our country, which makes us wonder, are we moving on a path of progress?
Social media was supposed to have created a platform for the exchange of ideas, but what we see is the extreme opposite. it has only increased the number of bullies forcing their views on others, and they seem to be enjoying support from those in the echelons of power. Is this the ‘Vikas’ we have been dreaming of?
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