Anyone and everyone with a smartphone and an internet connection (2G to 5G, all-inclusive) have an idea about Riri’s tweets and some replies opposing or supporting them by Indian celebrity counterparts. We may be on either side of the spectrum- supporting Riri’s point of view or demanding Greta to go back to school and focus on her padhai (which, in my opinion, is quite laughable- especially in India where education remains suspended since March and has been the government’s least priority project).
No one is talking about it because they are not farmers they are terrorists who are trying to divide India, so that China can take over our vulnerable broken nation and make it a Chinese colony much like USA…
Sit down you fool, we are not selling our nation like you dummies. https://t.co/OIAD5Pa61a
— Kangana Ranaut (@KanganaTeam) February 2, 2021
I am, thus, going to skip an introduction of what happened and who said what from which side.
What I do want to discuss is my own experience. It reminded me of a theory that a friend of mine once shared with me while we were discussing the tenets of Buddhism and he suddenly paused and point blank, asked me, “Do you really think Ashoka had a ‘change of heart’ and became a changed man or were his subjects just too scared to disobey him lest he goes back to his old ways?”
Those who know the history better than I do can most definitely answer this question with more accuracy than I can but I want to be honest here and accept that to me, the latter seemed plausible, infact, more than the former.
That story stuck with me.
As later that week Article 370 was revoked and all my intellectual circles were discussing and debating of what might happen in Kashmir and how the Kashmiris will revolt, I stood in my own silence with an eerie awareness that there shall be none by the people of Kashmir.
That story stayed with me through all the major issues and protests that broke ever since- from the Anti-CAA protests, North East Delhi riots, University attacks, Shaheen Bagh and now the Farmers Protests. That story was not just about the fear that may have existed among the subjects but also upon the ways a ruler (here, Ashoka) can work in to instill and reinstate that fear.
While the sense of fear sometimes evades among the subjects (read: citizens) and a peaceful and consistent opposition is erected, I’m not shocked when there’s an arrogant ignorance of it by the state.
The state’s response is akin to a fragile male ego deflated with a safety pin that was until now holding the pleats of my mother’s saree neatly in place- in a patriarchal set-up.
Instinctively, all responses that this grievous safety pin injury evokes is one to invoke more fear to reinstate and strengthen existing fear. I’m not sure how else to explain myself the numerous threats to Riri that have been flooding the internet, to the extent of glorifying the physical abuse and violence that is Riri’s trauma, other than one aimed at instigating fear in her?
Further, there have been memes about Riri losing out on performances at Indian weddings, and maybe shows and paid appearances in India.
Has this sorry excuse for a human completely forgotten that Rihanna owns a beauty empire worth almost a billion dollars and doesn’t need to “dance” at an Indian wedding, unlike him, the government’s lapdog, who has to dance to the tune he’s fed every single day pic.twitter.com/OOMyrSxVN6
— rihanna baaji stan account⁷ (@zedchrmsm) February 3, 2021
The threat of losing out on work and business. There isn’t much to lose or a tighter noose to hang over her head. However, this threat becomes very real for Indian celebrities (Tapsee Pannu, Swara, Abhay Deol) for speaking up in support of Riri, or the farmers or in support of anyone who has dissented against the state. Riri can afford to lose out on work in India but where are Indian celebrities to go, especially those who aren’t the locals of Bollywood itself?
In fact, this fear which can be questioned upon its real or imaginary existence becomes all the more visibly real when a mainstream, established, seasoned actors like the Khans are called an anti-national and advised by political leaders to “go to Pakistan”. When those personally under political fire also find themselves in a place where they have to eventually come around to align with the ruling dispensation. It provides the crack for light to enter and give a glimpse of the fear that resides.
Isn’t the atmosphere that we were already living in-one of fear? And aren’t some, if not most of these responses, by Indian celebrities out of a place of fear? A fear of falling out of favour? A fear of losing out work? A fear of losing privilege hitherto enjoyed? Or worse still, for those who speak up against the ruling dispensation of the sate, to fall into disfavour? Dissenters with a target on their backs? On the backs of their family members and loved ones?
This is not to justify those who are outright spewing hate speech and endorsing genocide (there’s really only a very fine line) but only an insight into the situation that we, collectively as a nation, are currently grappling with- circumstantially surrounded in fear, instigating more fear out of fear.
When will this cycle of fear stop? How will it stop? Will it, at all, even stop? I do not know but I hope that acknowledging this fear can be the first step towards resolving it.