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.