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Tying Arundhati Roy to an Army Jeep is a Right Winger’s Fantasy

For Paresh Rawal and his ilk, dissidents and other malcontents come in the way of India’s destiny of becoming a great nation

Paresh Rawal in a film still

So it turns out that Paresh Rawal’s infamous tweet about Arundhati Roy was based on fake news. The tweet has since been deleted – under orders from Twitter – so cannot be linked here, but in it he had expressed the wish that Roy ought to have been tied to the front of an Army jeep instead of the Kashmiri civilian who was forced by soldiers to act as a human shield last month.

With this, Rawal joined the ranks of fellow celebrities Rishi KapoorVirendra Sehwag, the Marathi actor Vikram Gokhale and some D grade ‘celebs’ too in publicly displaying his intolerance –and poor judgment – on Twitter. Apart from his tweet being plainly offensive, one wonders what would happens if some lunatic takes it upon himself to attack Arundhati Roy simply because his idol thinks she is physically expendable?

There is a crucial difference between Rawal and the other celebrities, of course, a difference that may not have struck him and even if it did, would not perhaps bother him. Rawal is an MP. As a member of parliament, he is obliged not just to uphold the Constitution but also to behave in a sober and dignified way.

But if at all he cared about that, he would have thought hard before tweeting in so cavalier a way. Clearly he knows that no one is going to pull him up for his indiscretion; perhaps his party leaders might even give him a pat on the back.

On social media, Rawal has been pilloried by many but supported by many more. Again, he might think, the critics are nothing but the usual liberals and ‘anti-nationals’. Persons, in others words, not worth bothering about.

What could have been the motivation behind Rawal’s tweet? The usual conspiracy theories have emerged. Many think that such tweets are distractions to lead the public and the media away from questions about more serious issues. In this particular case, Rawal’s tweet became bigger news than the brutal lynching of seven innocent men in Jharkhand, a state ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party. More than one television channel chose to ‘debate’ the former rather than the latter.

It is also possible that Rawal wanted to bring himself to the notice of his party bosses by showing that he was no slouch when it came to hitting out at ‘those who want to break up India’. The right winger’s job description is codified and the list of anti-nationals is well known. They have to be condemned in the harshest possible language; obscenity is encouraged. Arundhati Roy, for her crime of having asked difficult questions of the Indian state, is on top of that honours list and by simultaneously wishing her the worst and praising the army for its ‘out of the box’ tactic of tying an innocent Kashmiri to the front of the jeep, Rawal has won extra points.

But the actor’s is not just a command performance. He did not think up this tweet merely to catch the eye of his superiors. Nor is he part of a troll army that is paid to furiously attack ideological enemies with the usual stock phrases for daily wages.

In his case, the idea that Arundhati Roy should be tied in front of the jeep and made to face stone pelters in Kashmir is part of a fantasy. A fantasy tied deeply to the notion that India would return to a Golden Age if all the dissidents and malcontents – everyone from minorities, leftists, ‘sickulars’, journalists and pesky question askers of all types – could somehow be done away with. It is they, with their persistent negativism, who are holding up the Achche Din project, by demanding human rights and freedom of expression, rather than falling into line and accepting the Truth laid down by the majority.

Rawal, like others who are part of this cult, dreams of an India marching in unison, towards its manifest destiny, while the rest of the world looks on in admiration and envy. Such an India did exist at one time, they believe, only to be destroyed by outsiders – the Mughals, the British, and the Nehru-Gandhi family. They may have all gone but the children they spawned still exist and have to be fought. Rawal is simply an actor giving public expression to a sentiment that is regularly expressed in conversations all over the country.

How often does one hear, “What India needs is a dictatorship, a tough, no-nonsense leader with a vision”? Rawal and his ilk were always looking out for him and were overjoyed when he emerged. Except that things have not exactly gone as they had hoped. India still continues to be a noisy democracy where critics not only survive but also seem to thrive. They speak, they write. The Arundhati Roys publish books. The Kanhaiya Kumars and Shehla Rashids make stirring speeches. The Dalits seem to be getting above their station. Even businessmen grumble, albeit in a low tone. This is clearly unacceptable for the Rawals.

In the past, folks on Rawal’s side of the civilisational divide may have expressed violent sentiments in private only; in today’s environment, where men and women can be lynched  on mere suspicion, they feel emboldened enough to say on a public platform that people like Arundhati Roy need to be physically restrained (Rawal’s tweet) or even eliminated, as the singer Abhijeet tweeted.

  • Maximus

    The article calls a spade a spade. Long overdue and no nonsense. Brilliant to tackle the bully.

  • alok asthana

    Why care so much for Paresh. While he has his right to say what he feels like, he is no respected intellectual, thinking man. Is just what was earlier called a ‘bhand’. Let him have his two minutes of titillation, ignore him and move on to the real target – N Modi.

  • ashok759

    Whom would Paresh Rawal wish to tie to the front of a jeep to atone for the lynchings in Jharkhand, when innocent people were beaten to death, even as poicemen and officers looked on – is that also Arundhati Roy’s fault ?

  • Rohini

    The Wire, I commend you on the continuous and hard coverage of the stupid twitter war between Rawal and Roy. Excellent twitter journalism.
    When am I going to read a hard hitting article on the horrifying incident of stripping and naked parading of 2 boys of 8 and 10 for stealing a chakli in Ulhasnangar? This happened three days ago…no outraging about what is worth 1000s of words?
    But then, that would be real journalism, wouldn’t it?
    Well, here you go, FYI

    http://indianexpress.com/article/india/boys-tonsured-stripped-paraded-in-ulhasnagar-it-was-all-in-fun-why-did-they-go-to-police-says-accuseds-kin-4668895/

    • Matty

      Well Rohini, you may like to call whatever happened on twitter ‘stupid’ in order to trivialise it, but it wasn’t so. It was vicious! Accept it.

      Nor was is a random blip! It’s an inherent trait of Jingoists like Rawal et al to stifle diversity of opinions (sometimes even those opinions that don’t even exist as in this case as Roy didn’t even say those things that she has been accused of)!

      This kind of behavior is encouraged and rewarded in the Bigoted Jingoistic Party. It earns them brownie points and helps them climb the ladder.

      Anyways, coming back to the point, I would like to pose an easy question for you that I assume you can answer in a word but I know that you won’t – Is Paresh Rawal’s behavior with respect to Arundhati Roy and her alleged-but-non-existent opinion acceptable to you? Try to give me a yes or a no!

      • Rohini

        matty, where I live, namely real life India, I have greater things to worry about than some idiotic fight in twitter. Or is that so hard for you to understand?
        i need to worry about protecting my kid from molestors on the streets, from pedophiles and sexual abuse …touching, groping, etc in buses and on the streets.
        my immediate concern is to address the issue of how school and activities will be handled safely from REAL LIFE predators. I also need tp worry about how to ensure kids safely surf the internet, about ensuring they are not exposed to porn.
        besides all this., i must worry about safe drinking water, and mosquitoes, already having lost a friend’s ten ye old to dengue and helped another one with the grief ofvalmost watching her 18 yr old slip away with dengue..luckily saved by blood transfusion.
        these are just a couple of ordinary things that occupy bourgeois old me and millions more like me in India…so excuse me if I have no time for this tripe about Roy and her non victimhood and your orgasmic twitter wars, ok?
        now, if you’ll excuse me….

      • Rohini

        Matty, nice try. I am asking about true journalism and the lack of reporting around Ulhasnagar.
        you are so concerned about Roy and her that ridiculos twitter issue..are you not worried about the human rights violations of two young powerless kids by adult males in Real life? They were naked, with their entire bodies in full view.
        as a parent, I am ore worried about that than about Roy and her idiocies. She can tale care of herself. Of what use is a press which when confronted with a choice of subject between kids being sexually abused and tortured and a twitter spat choose the twitter spat.
        sorry, but my concerns in life don’t involve twitter AT ALL. i want a safe place for my kid, so you can imagine what exercises my emotions.

        on a related note, a few days ago, i was told by an abusive male commented that I should experience rape like Bilkis ‘ because he disgareed with my view point on some topic.
        Vardarajan, the man whose paper is waging war on roy’s behalf about a stupid twitter comment

  • Siddhartha

    With many folks from the left and the right and the Congress (which is neither left nor right in any sense) going into a feeding frenzy on who should be tied in front of Army jeeps, this issue has become a bit of a non-sequiter. So it is surprising that a well respected journalist like the author would devote his time and effort penning a piece on it, unless it is driven by political compulsions. On a lighter note, perhaps Paresh Rawal should stay with comedy and humour, and the unwarranted focus of all the attention, Arundhati Roy should stick to Ram Guha’s advice given way back in 2000 and published by the “Hindu” – “I am told that Arundhati Roy has written a very good novel. Perhaps she should begin another. Her retreat from activism would – to use a term from economics – be a “Paretto optimum”: good for literature, and good for the Indian environmental movement.”

  • Rohini

    1. Your trust in the Wire is touching and hilarious. Given that the IE for e.g., has already covered the heinous human rights abuse of 3 kids in Ulhasager, people are not really waiting for the ‘Wire’s team to get to it’. Like I asked before, of what use is a press that prioritises this tweet tamasha over a serious incident like Ulhasnagar? The Wire missed a chance to create serious awareness of child rights and child abuse.
    2. Let me ask, why did YOU not ignore my comments? Don’t think I have FoE?
    3. You justify Rashid’s tweets (not on but 3 about diff people). But not Rawal’s. AND call it ‘logic’, in your world. I inhabit terra firma and live in the real world. Logic has a somewhat ..er…logical sense in my world. So, if I am ok with one, I am ok with the other. Logic.
    4. Thank you for your assurance but it means twat. As a woman, I can assure you rawal’s tweet is NOT so much Threatening as idiotic and crass. It’s not pleasant but it’s not a patch on young kids being stripped, paraded naked, filmed and then shared online. ok?
    5. So, you’ve in one fell swoop just called me a liar by saying you ‘don’t believe Varadarajan has the time to respond’ or that he would rationalise.. hahahah, and then you claim to ‘fight for women’ – you cannot even believe what a woman is saying when it goes against your pet beliefs which are based on squat . The comments are on the website. So, check it out. The comment on rape is still there and so is the rationalisation.

    5. You last comment about ‘digging my own grave’ has me holding my stomach and wiping my tears away. laughing and gasping. A young MALE denizen of the internet presuming to tell an Indian woman who inhabits real life and encounters molestors about ‘domineering dominants’, women’s safety!! Oh my word. What are YOU going to teach ME that I do not know about this topic, dear Matty?
    Ciao, ciao, kid.

  • Rohini

    if your best counter to me after reading everything I wrote in response to you is to impute various motives to me, which you have no evidence whatsoever to back up, you certainly are a mental lightweight.

    because you, dear Matty, are getting increasingly aggressive, and are resorting to name calling, random, irrational accusations and making belligerent demands.

    that is the signal for me to take a bow, and exit , having won this round. good luck.

  • Rohini

    thank you for that superfluous introduction to Logic 101.
    The simple question at hand here is. When faced with a constraint of time, space and reportage, which is the more important topic from a society’s pov that an editor chooses to focus on? Is it twitter or is it two young naked children stripped and paraded? Should ai dedicate three articles to twitter and zero to a very disturbing incident in india involving underage slum kids?
    These at editorial decisions..ethical ones that must be made for the greater good of society..to drive change. When someone is unable to see reality as it is and instead resorts to banal lectures and trite quotes from random people…that indicates a lack of realism coupled with a complete lack of empathy for the fate of children in this county.
    I am ok with being quoted at. That’s about as effective as a wet rag.

  • Rohini

    **”It’s nobody’s case that such heinous crimes shouldn’t be reported. . I’m sure there were a hundred more ..probably worse … that happened that day.”**

    Yes, you are right – there WERE many heinous things that happened – like yesterday – on London Bridge AND two weeks ago, when a few kids were blown up in the Ariana Grande concert..

    but The Wire has said – lets focus on twitter and toys, ..because that’s the ‘editor’s CHOICE…
    I suppose THIS is the sort of choice you seem to be supporting!
    That’s well and good, because then, one must wonder if the Wire is a digital new outlet or a an opinion blog rag..No news outlet worth its salt can maintain this stunning silence on current events.

    No wet rag can clean a window enough to help a delusional mind see REALITY, so wipe away but your mind will not see.