It is a truth universally acknowledged that making outrageous statements gets you attention in the Hindutva ecosystem. And if you are a fading Bollywood artist, what better way of reclaiming the headlines than saying something that will help you trend on Twitter, polarise people, make you a martyr of the leftist cabal and thus a hero of the right-wing internet sphere?
The latest is Paresh Rawal, who tweeted on a lazy Sunday evening that instead of a stone-pelter, writer Arundhati Roy should be tied to an army jeep as a human shield.
It's understandable that Rawal needs to generate ridiculous headlines. How else will he rise from being an ordinary Lok Sabha MP to a nationalist icon of the masses, and compete with the likes of singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya whose unhinged and abusive rants are routine on Twitter.
The Hindutva ecosystem is an Olympic match of inciting hate and justifying violence. Whoever wins the match gets rewarded with positions in party and government.
So Rawal thinks it's patriotic to invite such violence against people. This is the new normal in an India where lynching is as common as outrage on Twitter.
How is his incitement of violence any better than what he seemingly opposes, i.e., stone-pelting? Stone-pesters in Kashmir pelt stones for their cause, while Rawal wants violence against Roy for his own agenda. But inciting violence is a punishable offence and the law must apply to Rawal.
The Lok Sabha MP from Ahmedabad East seems to be unaware that the Kashmiri man used by the army as a human shield wasn't a stone-pelter. In several media interviews he has said he was on his way back after casting his vote in the recently-concluded bypoll in the Valley. After his terrifying experience, he has resolved never to vote again.
Even if he had been a stone-pelter, the use of human shields is a practice widely seen by the international community as a war crime and a serious violation of human rights. That India resorted to the practice against what it calls its own citizens, should be a matter of embarrassment for us all. When India goes to international justice platforms against Pakistan, it will be reminded that there's something called international law that is against the use of human shields.
Those going further in demanding the use of human shields, people like Rawal and Captain Amarinder Singh are further reminding the Indian Army of an incident it would rather forget.
Many military experts and commentators have remarked how the use of human shield by the army in Kashmir was in bad form, and did not show the Indian Army in good light. Those going further in demanding the use of human shields, people like Rawal and Captain Amarinder Singh are further reminding the Indian Army of an incident it would rather forget.
The question nobody will ask is why India needs the army, and the army needs to use human shields, against what it calls its own people? What can we do to change the situation? It must be a lot of people pelting stones, and doing so with great ferocity, that one of the world's largest armies needs to take the extreme and unlawful measure of using human shield.
If Rawal still thought of Roy of all people, it is a tribute to how powerful Roy's writing is. The pen is mightier than the sword.
Instead, Rawal suggests that Roy be used as a tool for inciting further violence. Why does Roy come to his mind, of all people? It's been years since she wrote a polemic essay that shook the Indian nation. She hasn't been commenting on the Modi era, and has been keeping quiet on Kashmir. If Rawal still thought of Roy of all people, it is a tribute to how powerful Roy's writing is. The pen is mightier than the sword. Perhaps it also reflects the inability of Hindutva rabble-rousers to engage intellectually.
Since you can't respond to Roy with words, just incite violence against her with a callous tweet.
Incidentally, it's only two weeks to go since Roy's second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, will be out in different languages in 30 countries. Rawal's comment is a farrago of self-goals, the most amusing among them is how he is helping her with pre-launch publicity.
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