I have a sneaking
admiration for WhatsApp warriors who devote much of their energy towards proliferating
positivity via posts that usually feature photos of cuddly kittens, yoga
practitioners showing off their flexibility and rousing quotes that are meant
to motivate in a bid to counter the constant barrage of depressing news. The
forced cheer and fixation with positivity is not the worst thing in the world.
However, the pressure to stay positive and put a cheery spin on everything may
not necessarily yield results that are conducive to collective wellbeing.
Take the recent
decision announced by the Indian government to regulate digital media and
oversee online news coverage, social media and streaming platforms, for
instance. In an infamously horrendous year, the content offered by Amazon,
Netflix, Hotstar, and the like has been a source of comfort. Of course, there
is an abundance of nudity, violence, and other ‘objectionable’ content that run
the risk of ‘corrupting the morals’ of the citizens of a moralistic society but
that was part of the fun. Indians finally had the freedom to use their
discretion to decide for themselves the kind of material they wished to consume.
Now that a heavy handed government has stepped in with the ostensible view to
promote ‘healthy and wholesome entertainment’ and of course to prevent the
viewing of anything that may impugn the integrity of the ruling party, it is
impossible not to have serious misgivings.
After all, this is
the country where it is okay for folks to piss but not kiss in public. Smoking
and drinking advisories are mandatory in films and TV shows not that it has
hindered tobacco sales in the least or stopped the government from pocketing
profits generated by liquor lovers. Shooting with live animals is discouraged
but cruelty to animals in real life is mostly ignored. Depictions of anything
explicitly sexual is frowned upon but trying to secure convictions for proven
rapists and other sex offenders is close to impossible. In addition to the
random cuts demanded by an opaque bureaucracy which may include anything from
bleeping ‘breasts’ and blurring an offending undergarment, there is the
censorship enforced by the mob. Violent political groups have tried to prevent
the screening of films like Padmaavat and caused Tanishq to take down an ad
depicting an interfaith union. The latest move to criminalize ‘love jihad’ and
its onscreen portrayal is grave cause for concern.
No amount of cute
pics and sweet messages should be allowed to convince us that all will be just
dandy with the world merely by thinking it will be so. We need to roll up our
sleeves and raise our voices when confronted with the looming specter of gross
injustice and any attempt to curtail our freedom and personal choices.
This article was published in The New Indian Express.