Forget Rahul Gandhi, we must ask who are the real Pappus of India?
Have we all been ‘Pappufied’ in the name of love jihad, gau raksha, triple talaq, acche din, black money crackdown and so forth?
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I felt like a Pappu after the RBI released its annual report on Wednesday, August 30. Pappu here refers to the social media synonym for a slow-witted Indian.
So, I felt like one.
Remember, calls were issued from the rooftop to bring black money back from Swiss banks ahead of general elections in 2014.
Voters bought the narrative that came in the wake of a string of corruption scandals in Dr Manmohan Singh's government. Besides, the World Bank, in 2010, had already estimated India's shadow economy made up one-fifth of the country's GDP.
On Wednesday though, the RBI reported citizens had deposited almost all the banknotes — 99 per cent of them — scrapped by the prime minister almost ten months ago, ostensibly to unearth unaccounted wealth.
Setbacks to the overall economy aside, demonetisation ate into the central bank's own profits because of a jump in operational costs.
I realised I was Pappufied in November. Phew! But did that happen only once? Or has this Pappufication been going on for more than three years now?
An image circulated recently on WhatsApp of a mother showing her toddler a piece of chocolate.
When he opens his tiny mouth to grab it, she squirts drops of a yucky dose inside.
Looks like many of us have been treated the same way, like gullible children.
Many of us – the little Pappus – have been unsuspecting recipients of narratives grounded in conspiracy theories.
Just three years ago, around the same time as the "kala dhan" slogan was floated, a new wave of religious polarisation was set off over so-called love jihad.
This narrative was also embraced generously by the target constituency, no matter that there was no firm data to support claims that Muslim men were seducing Hindu women to overwhelm the majority.
Also in 2014, “pink revolution” became the centre-piece of a third narrative followed by pledges to protect sacred cows.
A year later, a Muslim blacksmith, Mohammad Akhlaq, and his son Danish, were battered by people who knew them in their Bisara village over rumours that they ate beef. The father died from critical injuries.
That blood-curdling assault sparked a spate of mob attacks through 2016-17 supposedly over gau raksha.
The immediate victims were low-income Muslims but the onslaughts served as a rebuke to every other religious and ethnic minority in the country.
Then came another narrative — triple talaq. Advocates of aggressive Hindutva used it more to demonise Muslims than out of any genuine concern for the women. In a welcome departure from the noise, some highly trustworthy voices outside of those vested interests were also heard.
The country's top court settled the issue judiciously.
Let's now talk about Aadhaar. Wasn't it originally designed to stop pilfering of state subsidies for the poor?
Why this impatience then to inject biometric data into daily lives of the citizens? Why my fingerprints or eye scan for buying a mobile phone, train tickets or for opening a bank account?
I am glad the Supreme Court has stepped in to elevate privacy as a personal, natural and fundamnetal right after an elected government of the world's largest democracy refused to acknowledge its existence.
When I remove my Pappu goggles, I can clearly see what all has unfolded in India in one month alone.
This week, I saw Mumbai, India's highest tax-paying city, reduced to an overflowing river not from some Hollywood-style climate change phenomenon, but from seasonal rains. And if that was not enough, a deadly building collapse occurred on Thursday, the third in the city this year.
Rioters were allowed to go on a rampage in Haryana last week over the rape conviction of a Dera head.
Encephalitis outbreak and oxygen shortages at Gorakhpur's main state-run hospital had cut so many young lives short earlier.
In Muzaffarnagar, more than 20 passengers were killed when a train jumped the tracks. An India Today investigation has, in fact, established there were no rails underneath the Kalinga-Utkal Express when 13 of its coaches, tossed to the sides on August 19, mangled.
Our hand-phones get awash with short video clips of Rahul Gandhi every time he makes a public appearance or a speech.
Most of these videos are mischievously captioned or edited to portray him as a Pappu, over and over again.
Sorry, but I don't care what he does or what he doesn't. He's not in power. But with my own Pappu goggles off, I do now want to know what my government is up to.
What's happening in the country?
Have we all been Pappufied in the name of love jihad, gau raksha, triple talaq, acche din, black money crackdown and so forth?
Which new chocolate will be waved at us next? And which bitter pill will be slid down our throats?
I can only wish the meddlesome nanny spare the little Pappus like me over-the-counter sedatives next time around.