With great power, comes great responsibility. In this adage by Spiderman comics, very few really understand the responsibility part, especially when they get an access to overarching power with great ease, as the sense of authority and an urge to ‘control’ everything around kicks in. Such is the case of award-winning veteran actor and a Lok Sabha Parliamentarian from Gujarat, Paresh Rawal who believes that if you are vocal about the political state of a country, have been actively focusing on human rights issues or critiquing the nation’s army or the military policies, you deserve to become the “human shields” when protesters decide to pelt stones.
His recent tweet suggesting tying the booker prize winner, Arundhati Roy to an army jeep for Kashmir civilian protesters to pelt stones at her is a highly villainous and tyrannical thought synonymous with a sadist or a misogynist.
He is a lawmaker suggesting lawlessness with his idea of violence being hitting at an independent woman who raises her voice of dissent, even if that is through writing. Also, the fact that he has taken to social media to take a dig at a writer only because her controversial thoughts on Kashmir are something that he does not support is probably hinting at the misogynist mindset that gets wary of a free-thinking woman who debates political policies and expresses her dissent on the most eyebrow-raising issue of the country – army’s role in Kashmir.
On the one hand where we have a writer who is advocating human rights, ever since her first novel two decades back, the award-winning, The God of Small Things; on the other we have a lawmaker who is justifying public lynching of a civilian woman to make the army exert their power on her (by suggesting they tie her up to an army jeep) so that it silences her voices of dissent against them.
Sad, but going by this logic, Rawal is suggesting that the mob lynching that recently took place in Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh or worse, the menace of terrorism where innocent women and children are attacked as they are supposedly the ‘easy targets’, is justified.
Isn’t this ironical to the fact that lawmakers are supposed to protect and encourage freedom of speech, and keep the situation from becoming violent lest there is any difference of opinion or controversial viewpoint?
This incident further makes me question how social media has come to be a place for ranting, hate-mongering and blaming rather than sharing opinions, having healthy debates and being a forum for open discussion. Ignoring the bigger issues at hand or making them look smaller by focussing on a single person or situation [in this case, Rawal’s tweet was with reference to the video that became viral on social media where the army in Kashmir tied up a Kashmiri civilian protestor to its jeep to become a “human shield” against the fellow stone-peltering protestors but he chose to focus it all on one person – Arundhati Roy] has become another popular trend. It sometimes drives the real problem aside to focus on something less substantial.
Meanwhile, Bollywood celebs like Swara Bhaskar, Vivek Agnihotri and some others have taken to Twitter to express their shock and angst at Rawal’s tweet.
Whatever may be the real reason of Rawal’s seemingly ‘out-of-context’ and much ‘out-of-proportion’ tweet, (strange that it comes at a time when Roy’s next novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is about to be launched next month) it has certainly created an outrage and an upsurge in tension in the already tensed environment after the video showing Kashmiri resident strapped to the army vehicle did the rounds. While some felt it was defaming the army in the Kashmir valley, others felt the video showed a situation where the army that is supposed to protect civilians is instead attacking them or making fellow civilians attack each other and exerting its power on its own brethren to quell social unrest.
The row started by Rawal has also made it clear that in a country like ours, authoring one’s opinion on a nationally sensitive issue should be scrutinized, judged and condemned in violent ways rather than thinking about practical yet humanitarian solutions to the real issue at hand. Isn’t Rawal’s tweet then promoting faux nationalism (by encouraging people and even influencing the fellow lawmakers to support someone getting lynched for penning their views) – a phenomenon that he thinks Roy deserves the mob lynching for?