Indian Twitter makes the country of 138 crore seem like just two groups of people trying to speak over each other. The latest in the eye of outrage-storm is stand-up comedian Vir Das. Desi Boy went to Washington DC and gave a monologue at the John F Kennedy Center.
The monologue was about his perception of two Indias - a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde India, the good and the bad, and the irony and the hypocrisy.
Of course the not-so-impressive side of India - not factually wrong - offended a group of people. And the same statements also won over another group, who are applauding Vir Das for speaking the hard truth. Here are the five headline-making statements from Two Indias:
1. “I come from an India where we worship women during the day and gang-rape them at night."
This statement took the trophy in being the most offensive to some people. Even though both are facts. And even those offended have not dared to claim otherwise. So why are they so pissed off? Perhaps because ghar ki baat ghar mein rehni chahiye thi.
2. “I come from an India where we have the largest working population under 30 on the planet, but still listen to 75-year-old leaders with 150-year-old ideas.”
Vir Das’s dig at the cult of Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not sit well with many. Perception may vary about the Prime Minister, but India is not a dictatorship which demands complete love and zero opposition to the leader of the country, so Vir Das is entitled to his view. As are the ones who are angry with his view.
3. “I come from an India where every time we get information, we are always available to care for the PM but we can’t seem to get information on PMCARES.”
The debate on PMCARES fund is unending. One group says the PM fund historically has been exempt from public scrutiny; the other can't understand why the fund meant for public good and for public spending by a government leader needs to be confidential.
4. “I come from an India where we take pride in being vegetarians, and yet run over the farmers who grow our vegetables.”
India has the largest population of vegetarians in the world. And for some it is a question of pride, caste and background. Beef or cow meat, a staple of meatarian food worldwide, is largely banned in India. And as recently as this week, some local leaders in Gujarat raised a hue and cry about selling non-vegetarian food in the open.
And yes, the second part of Vir Das's statement is why the son of a Union minister is in jail.
5. "I come from an India where the AQI is 9000, but we still sleep on the roof and look up at the stars."
For those who think Vir Das is perpetuating fake news that India's AQI is actually 9,000, there's something called exaggerating to make a point. Delhi and adjoining areas' air quality is making international records for being the worst.
Well-known club members of the offended group, like Kangana Ranaut, are calling him a ‘terrorist’ and other unknown ones are filing police complaints against the comedian for his speech.
Ashutosh Dubey, whose Twitter bio says he’s the legal advisor for BJP Maharashtra unit, filed a complaint full of spelling and grammatical errors (perhaps more than the factual errors in Vir Das's monologue).
WHY ARE PEOPLE OFFENDED? In a nutshell, people are offended that Vir Das ‘insulted’ and ‘defamed’ India on an international stage. They think that it will somehow affect the law and order situation in the country and empower the Mr Hyde India. Others think that he overstepped his right to free speech and is trying to be ‘woke’ to fit in. According to them, he shouldn’t have been critical of India on foreign soil.
It’s ironic that actor Kangana Ranaut who’s posting Insta stories accusing the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi of being a ‘feku’, and calling India’s freedom struggle ‘bheekh’, thinks Vir Das’s opinion is ‘soft terrorism’. Chalo, yeh bhi theek hai. ('Cos free speech hai.)
VIR DAS SPEAKS UP AFTER HIS STAND-UP: Vir Das tweeted a long clarification about the Two Indias after the backlash, saying that he doesn’t hate India, nor is he trying to spread malice against the country and its people. Also, to quote him from the monologue: "Which India am I proud of? One of them. Which India is proud of me? None of them."
THE O: Going by the logic of the offended, every speech and thought expressed in public space will have to be censored. Their list of RULES – like not speaking bad about your country on foreign soil, etc. - seem neverending. There is a gigantic joke somewhere. Is it funny, though?