One tweet from the international pop star Rihanna is all it took to make the andh bhakts aka the Indian troll army on Twitter to see red. How dare a ‘foreigner’, and that too black, support the ongoing farmers protest?
And lo and behold, the trolls hurled the choicest of slurs and abuses at Rihanna. But do these self-proclaimed guardians of Indian morality realize what values Rihanna cherishes?
Rihanna, like many black celebrities in the West, is not afraid to speak in favour of the marginalized in and outside her country. For that, we see many black (and also white) celebrities routinely speak out against police brutality committed along racial lines in the US.
So, it was not out of tune with her personality to speak up for the farmers who have been protesting at Delhi’s borders for months on end.
Have a look at her Twitter profile and you will see an imposing photo of Martin Luther King Jr., the celebrated black civil rights activist and Nobel Laureate who was killed by an over zealous white supremacist.
But this is unheard of in India. Out here, you expect the celebrities to toe the government line without applying their brains. What else explains the wave of “collusive’’ tweets sent out by a large number of celebrities against the tweets of Rihanna and Greta Thunberg?
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Not only were the hashtags identical but, more comically, even the text was copy pasted from the official tweets of the Indian government! And to top this, even the official statement of the Ministry of External Affairs was attached with the tweets.
If there was competition among celebrities for boot licking, Indian celebrities would win hands down.
But can you blame the ‘poor’ celebrity who is trying to eke out a living by being on the good books of the mighty Indian state? Hardly.
Today, it is a crime to utter anything anti-establishment in India. Doing so will label you anti-national and could put you in a tight spot in the eyes of the police and the judiciary. The latter has taken over the role of legitimizing every action of the government against free speech in the country.
Meanwhile, the government goes about its business of threatening free speech platforms like Twitter to block thousands of accounts that the government feels are indulging in anti-national propaganda.
These include accounts of journalists, civil rights activists, and ordinary people who do not accept the government’s words at face value and have taken to social platforms like Twitter to vent their disagreement.
However, when seen from the lens of the fascist RSS ideology that is behind the current dispensation in the country, free speech needs to be regulated and controlled no matter the cost or damage to the country’s external image.
After all, India is the Vishwa Guru that the world looks up to for inspiration and guidance.
So, can the “mother democracy” do anything wrong?