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Thursday, 24 December 2015

Boycott! Boycott!

At the time of going to the press, the ongoing debate on Intolerance that has seized India has morphed into a never ending debate on intolerance! What started as a mark of protest by returning awards by eminent men of arts and literature dubbed #AwardWapsi, moved on to celebrities reinforcing the views of rise in intolerance during what I call the seminar season fever which grips the lawns and studios of Lutyen’s Delhi. The last on this has not been heard yet and one wonders what will be the next manner of ‘protest’ against rising intolerance will be, and when, and by whom. This has thus far been the narrative from the blue corner of people christened the #AdarshLiberals. A euphemism for Left Liberal thoughts and ideology which has held centre stage in India ever since.......well forever!

The counter narrative coming from the red corner is the rightwing ideology which has supposedly found a robust voice especially since the swearing in of the Narendra Modi led govt. This set of voices collectively answers to the nomenclature bestowed by the people in the Blue Corner on them, #Bhakts. There are synonyms like #HindutvaBrigade, #Sanghis but by consensus among the keyboard warriors, especially the 140 characters based ones, the first mentioned is the overwhelming winner! The popular mode of counter protest from this corner has been to accuse the Blue Corner or in some cases proving the accusations thrown at them wrong!

Where is the money?

I refrain from taking you through the flashback which started a few months ago which featured among others the rival warriors sparring over Church attacks, Beef Consumption, Bihar Elections, Go to Pakistan, Gau Mata etc which is well known to all of us. Where I would like to take you instead is to the latest salvo fired by the #Bhakts brigade. Loosely called the #Boycott Movement wherein the supporters of the RW has targeted the celebrities who they have a difference of opinion with by.........not buying! Or propagating boycott of products/services endorsed by the people who have supported the #AdarshLiberals point of view. Three such instances which grabbed headlines were the Aamir Khan/Snapdeal, Shah Rukh Khan/Dilwale and Barkha Dutt’s book. People were encouraged to uninstall the App of the online retailer Snapdeal who featured Aamir as their brand ambassador. Online and offline forums campaigns asked people not to see the latest Shah Rukh release Dilwale. Last but not the least, protesters logged on to Amazon where Barkha Dutt’s book was on sale and gave it negative reviews. In short the attempt was made by the protesters to hit where it hurt. The wallet, the bank balance!

Not so "quiet" at the Amazon Forum!

While the jury is still out on the outcome of the boycott but what did raise eyebrows was the cry of bloody murder from the blue corner. The protest was branded not only unfair but also suppression of freedom of expression. The rejoinder took me by surprise to say the least. As long as it was peaceful it was absolutely legitimate on the part of the protesters to give voice to their freedom of expression which the campaign to boycott the above celebrities was. If you think I am being unreasonable in my assessment or I am not being fair in judging the protests, then let take you to our middle school history text book. Does Swadeshi Movement or Dandi March ring any bells? In case you joined in late, the Swadeshi Movement was all about boycotting products made by the British companies at the cost of Indian weavers, artisans and ilk. The Dandi March was against the British monopoly of manufacturing and selling Salt in India. While many a protest/demonstrations led by Mahatma Gandhi targeted the political edifice of the Raj, these two were an example of hitting where it hurt. The Wallet, the bank balance!


Those who quote Mahatma Gandhi at the drop of a hat must learn to ‘tolerate’ when a little bit of ‘Gandhigiri’ is directed back at them!


PS: While at it protesters, don’t ever ever forget the first lesson in ‘Gandhigiri’, non violence. You lose and you lose my support if you exceed this brief however right you may be!


Gandhigiri : Popular term for Gandhism triggered by a Bollywood film.