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Rawal’s Arundhati Sledge: When Legislators Turn Loose Tweeters

My opinion, or yours, may not matter, but a legislator’s certainly will. 

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Paresh Rawal will beat Arundhati Roy, hands down, in the race to become a worthy human shield – to be tied to an army jeep for fending off the stone-pelters in Kashmir. His stocky body will ensure that the stones don't go past him and damage the army vehicle that my tax money has enabled the government to procure. I care for this dearly bought piece of machinery. The stones will just boomerang off the swathes of fat on Rawal's body and give the stone-pelters a taste of their own medicine. Roy's petite frame will not be an effective shield.

Disgusted? You should be.

My opinion, or yours, may not matter, but a legislator’s certainly will. 
Last month, 36-year-old Farooq Dar was allegedly used as a human shield against stone-pelters during polling in the Srinagar Lok Sabha by-election. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@icakashmir)  
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The Opinion That Matters

But it is just my opinion and does not carry any weight. Rawal’s opinion, however, has the potential of influencing policy decisions should the government start deliberations on using human shields.
Unlike me, Rawal is a legislator entrusted by people like me and Roy with the responsibility of making laws that impact all of us.

His utterances, therefore, cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Sensible should be the tongue that swears in the name of the Constitution of India.

Instead of typing 'THE ACTOR, Padma Shri & PARLIAMENTARIAN of INDIA' (sic) in his Twitter bio, Rawal should type ‘troll’. Or better, ‘cyber-bully’. A sitting parliamentarian, in recommending extra-constitutional use of force against a fellow citizen of India, is grossly misappropriating his constitutional privileges. Police in this country have lodged FIRs against common men and women for far less serious online misdemeanours.

You don’t have to be a fan of Roy’s writings or politics to criticise Rawal’s unprovoked incitement to violence against her. Yes, tying a human being against her wishes to a vehicle, moving or stationary, is an act of violence. Fortunately, the army has not responded enthusiastically to Rawal’s suggestion.

Growing Vigilantism

The rising number of vigilantism-related cases indicates a spurt of growth in people's tendency to cause violence, directly or through incitement. Like Roy, anybody could be at risk of being tied to a moving jeep, or even dragged by the same. Does a sitting parliamentarian approve of such events? If he does, is he not, then, admitting to the failure of the State machinery of which he is a cog?

Social media is increasingly becoming a space where violence is getting normalised. Despite laws against cyberbullying and threats of violence, such incidents are commonplace. When it comes to female users, an added layer of sexualised violence is added to the existing repertoire of cyber-crime.

When this culture of online abuse finds abettors in sitting parliamentarians, the result is a Kafkaesque nightmare for the victim. In the past few months, we have seen influential men and women ganging up against ordinary citizens.

Gurmehar Kaur, a 20-year-old student, faced a slew of vicious online attacks, some launched by public figures from all walks of life, for expressing herself.

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Loose Cannons To Be Rewarded?

Is the fault located in the medium or are individuals merely more comfortable now in shedding their superego to unleash a Hobbesian dystopia? Is violence indeed the essence of a human being's constitution?

The debate will not settle any time soon. The focus, then, shifts to what the laws of the land are and how they are being implemented.

If an individual, through words or action, threatens the existence of another, it is a criminal offence almost everywhere in the civilised world.

India's schizophrenic democracy, however, sometimes assesses the victim-victimiser relationship purely on the basis of their respective social, political, religious, and gender credentials. Thus, the chances are Rawal will not only be not reprimanded for his loose cannon behaviour, he may be hailed as a right-wing crusader.

Who knows, he may even be the chief minister-designate for an upcoming Assembly election.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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