Recently, a new series “Tandav” has been mired in controversy. Many Hindus have expressed anger over multiple scenes of the show, while others have condemned them for being “intolerant”.
In July 2020, another show “Paatal Lok” enraged many Hindus because it hurt their religious sentiments. Scenes wherein a pet had been named after a Goddess, or where a Pujari rapes a woman and wraps his sacred thread before the act, were deemed offensive by the community.
The question is- are the outraging Hindus really intolerant? Or are shows these days deliberately peddling anti-Hindu content in the name of freedom of expression?
I am amongst the outraging few.
I have had people tell me “Our faith is not so weak; Hindus have always been very tolerant, why change that now; It has 5 minutes of borderline offensive content, doesn’t mean the whole show should be banned; Creative liberty should not be stifled; etc.”
Let me elaborate on why each of these arguments is faulty.
Firstly, some people like to believe Tandav is not the most offensive anti-Hindu content ever created.
It may be true. I will be honest- I was unable to finish the entire show. I am a conservative, and as a result, certain things affect me more than the average Hindu youth. My own father, a devout Hindu, watched the whole show and agrees with those who say it is not the most anti-Hindu content on our digital platforms.
However, the outrage comes from the fact that Hindu sentiments have been toyed with for far too long. Nobody raises their voice for a Hindu who is killed for simply practicing their faith, there are no rallies for Hindus who fall prey to hate crimes, our temples have been attacked time and again, our Gods have been mocked by comedians and politicians alike. In such a scenario, a show which has offensive commentary on everything Hindu will clearly not be taken well.
Secondly, even if the show is as problematic as we like to believe it is, Hindus have always been able to take a joke. Why change it now?
The answer to this is related to my first argument. It is owing to the fact that people have pushed us, and we have allowed them to push us. We bent over backwards to accommodate the interests of other communities as we make up the majority. People started vilifying our practices and we let go of them. The average Hindu today suffers from such terrible low self-esteem as far as their religious identity is concerned – due to years of being told that our community is bad – that today we have no choice but to tolerate all propaganda against us. But at some point, decades of pent-up anger will ooze out through wounds that were hidden until now. That this anger chooses to come out over something trivial compared to all that has been done to and said about Hindus and Hinduism, is a different issue altogether.
Thirdly, why ban the entire 6 hours of a show which has, say 6 minutes, of anti-Hindu propaganda?
It is not just the comic sequence on our Gods. Scenes like “Brahmanvaad se azadi (Freedom from Brahminism)” further the “Brahmanical patriarchy and privilege” narrative which has been running for the past one year; thanks to the support it enjoys from the Indian Left. Another dialogue which greatly offended people, as it should: “When a man from a ‘Lower Caste’ dates a woman from an ‘Upper Caste’, he is essentially taking revenge from that one woman for the decades of casteism faced by his community.”
As if Hindus are not already divided due to widespread misinformation and past atrocities of casteism, dialogues like these just further the divide between Hindus. It is clear that there are some greater forces at play here, forces which want Hindus to remain divided so as to conquer them.
Fourthly, why stifle creative liberty? Content that is a little offensive should not bother people.
Creative liberty seems like a good argument in theory. But why is it not applied to all communities equally? There should be a level-playing field in the entertainment industry, where you either offend all, or offend none. I personally believe in the latter. As I said before, I am a conservative, and thus, believe that one’s rights and liberties should not be absolute, as they will eventually lead to a degeneration of the society. Today x offends y, tomorrow y will offend z, the cycle will continue and eventually this game of offending will circle back to x, the original perpetrator. The point is, why offend anyone, when comedy and content can be tasteful?
Exercising your own rights is good as long as it doesn’t curtail somebody else’s. No matter which community it is, one should refrain from touching all that is sacred to a group of people.
Fifthly, if it offends me, I can choose to not watch it. Why step all over others’ right to enjoy content.
If by simply not watching it, I could ensure it doesn’t brainwash the teenagers and college students, who are perhaps the largest consumer base for digital platforms, then I would make that choice and go mum. I disagree with a lot of things my peers do, just as they disagree with the things I do. Doesn’t mean we stop each other from living our lives as we want.
The point is these youngsters will grow up to occupy positions of power and influence in the coming decade. I do not want them to imbibe this propaganda and eventually be in decision-making positions, because that will threaten all Hindus living in India.
My religion is not my entire identity. But I have the right to assert this part of my identity when it feels threatened, especially in the midst of growing anti-Hindu rhetoric.
Lastly, the most common argument “Our faith is not so weak!”
It isn’t. Getting offended over something that hurts your sentiments is not a sign of lack of faith. Rather, this is proof that my faith is strong; that I will defend it when it is targeted innumerable times by people who don’t know one thing about it; and that despite immense hurt and anger, I will not take the law in my hand, but I will let the law take its course. If this does not prove how strong my faith is, then I don’t know what does.
In conclusion, all I can say is that maybe, in a few decades, we will get to a point where people can sit and laugh at borderline offensive content, no matter which group it pertains to. But till that happens, till people continue to heal wounds of their past and recover from constant hate showered upon them, it is important that we steer clear of content that can hurt sentiments.
Many people blame the BJP for making Hindus intolerant since it came to power in 2014. This is absolutely wrong. BJP may have aided in awakening the Hindu consciousness, but this was long overdue. When one is pushed against the wall for a long period of time, it is only natural that their instinct to defend themselves will kick in at some point, and they will revolt.