What trolling of Kareena Kapoor, Swara Bhasker, Sonam Kapoor over Kathua rape reveals

The belated online outrage is either a reflection of herd mentality or armchair activism.

 |  4-minute read |   17-04-2018
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An 8-year-old girl from the Bakarwal community goes grazing her ponies in the hills. She is clad in a pretty purple dress and has big beautiful eyes offsetting it. But she never makes it back home... only the news of her brutal rape and eventual murder does.

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That was in January, and India has only slowly woken up to the horrors that were inflicted on the little one, three months later. One would say, the Kathua gang rape case, when seen along with the Unnao rape case - where a teen rape survivor claimed that BJP MP Kuldeep Singh Sengar had raped her and the death of her father in police custody - had shaken and stirred the Indian society that couldn't come to terms with this unimaginable inhumanity.

Friend and fellow journalist Shuja ul-Haq was in pursuit of the story of the brutal rape of the 8-year-old girl in Kathua, near Jammu. The pain, disgust and disbelief was only palpable in Shuja's posts because this turned out to be one of those stories that had left the journalist in him numb. But strangely it wasn't time for people to seek justice for the girl just yet. Back then, the girl hadn't made it to the trending pages of social media.

Today, just as the horrifying details of the Kathua rape and murder case are made public, the collective outrage is gathering steam. New hashtags are trending every day, and so is activism from that metaphorical armchair. The film industry with its silent protest is leading the shout to get justice for the child - now dead.

The outrage isn't what is being questioned here. The belated online outrage, however, is either a reflection of herd mentality or armchair activism. The internet today is a reflection of who we are as a society. At a time when the national conversation is dominated by the two cases of rape and murder, it is also important to call out the cloaked misogyny and blatant communalism surrounding us. And with film personalities it's easier to make that weighted argument some did make that attempt.

Just when Bollywood and its placard posts with the hashtag JusticeforOurChild went viral, in came the brickbats. Actor Swara Bhasker was at the receiving end of one such instance of hatemongering after her tweet on the subject.

This led trolls to question not just her intention behind the tweet but also her acting prowess.

While we laud Swara as she held her ground against the trolls, we also have an unsettling thought, on how easily the power of social media is used and abused - and more so to insult women. Swara's run-in with the trolls wasn't over just yet. Her Veerey Di Wedding co-star Kareena Kapoor also joined the campaign and got massively trolled on social media. Kareena's picture was incidentally also shared by Sawara herself. And out of the zillion likes on the post, there were a few voices of dissent.

Swara stood by Kareena fighting off the online thugs tweet after tweet.

But the internet is only mirroring the religious wars we are fighting on the ground, where the horrific episode of sexual violence against a powerless girl by brutal men is being given a communal colour. However, social media influencers more often than not erroneously act as catalysts - so eager they are to opine.

So when Sonam Kapoor reacted to Kathua rape case and tweeted, Koena Mitra was quick to take on Sonam for her tweet.

It's a dangerous world, this world of social media. People are scared of confrontation and through social media, they can make that veiled attack. The cloaked bigots usually use this tool to call names and shame women who speak their minds. Many others use it to peripherally register their support for a cause, their need to be accommodated in the collective consciousness is dire - a movement that will brand Kathua's little girl as "the new Nirbhaya" and revel in the nomenclature, without giving it a thought that when we call another rape victim by the name of India's most brutalised one, we glorify the brutal act of rape itself. It actually shows that we've made peace with the horror that is rape.

And social media in all its celerity, would rarely give us time to pause and brood, definitely not to reassess the Indian outrage because just like our followers on social media, many from the protesting lot are fake, some are bought, and only a quarter really are "organic".

Also read: How politicians exploited Kathua rape case should make us sick

Writer

Griha Atul Griha Atul @grihaatul

Author is special correspondent with India Today television.

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