Dear PM, We Love Satire & Humour, But Your Followers Need Lessons

Modi says we need more satire & humour in our lives, but to achieve that, he needs to first reign in his bhakts.

3 min read

(Photo: TheQuint)

“We need more satire and humour,” says Prime Minister Modi. When I read this, I immediately called our in-house meme expert Divya, who is always at the receiving end of Modi’s bhakts. Her tongue-in-cheek takes are trolled by those who are followed on social media by the Prime Minister himself.

“How can you disrespect our PM?” is their common grudge. Clearly unable to understand the difference between “satire” and “disrespect”, they attack her and many like her. They come in herds; are always aggressive and at times abusive.

“We get trolled all the time. Not only Modi, if we do funny memes on Smriti Irani or any of his associates, we get abused. If you want us to laugh at your jokes, please learn to laugh at ours too,” says an angry Divya Talwar.
Screen-grab of reactions to a meme on Prime Minister Narendra Modi completing 2.5 years in office. 
Screen-grab of reactions to a meme on Prime Minister Narendra Modi completing 2.5 years in office. 

Humour and satire are tools of creative expression. If the Prime Minister seriously thinks that they are the "best healers”, then he should help create an atmosphere where artists can express freely. When his supporters, some of whom proudly call themselves ‘bhakts’ are so intolerant, how can one write satire? A ‘bhakt’ by definition is blinded by his devotion to his God. If a leader has blind followers, then that’s a dangerous thing for a democracy.

A few months ago, the plug was pulled on a stand-up comedian’s satire show because he poked fun at a minister. The official reason given was something else, but the comedian was pulled up for his act.

Dear PM, how do you expect people to create humour or satire in such an atmosphere? Just like digital wallets cannot work unless you create an ecosystem for it, humour cannot flourish unless society is free, tolerant and open-minded.

Appointing the likes of Pahlaj Nihalani certainly won’t help create such an atmosphere. If we really want people to laugh and enjoy themselves, we need liberal leaders at the helm of influential institutions.

‘It’s a Message to The Bhakts!’

Kunal Vijaykar, who has been running a famous satire show, The Week That Wasn’t, feels that PM is in fact giving a message to his followers.

The Prime Minister is subtly telling his followers – don’t do this. We have hope that there will be tolerance. But I should also add that in the last 10 years, besides one politician, all of them, including BJP leaders, have been very good to us.
Screen-grabs from The Week That Wasn’t. (Courtesy: YouTube)
Screen-grabs from The Week That Wasn’t. (Courtesy: YouTube)

Kunal says that most leaders have been tolerant of his work. But famous cartoonist Manjul feels that anyone who is in power tries to use it. It’s in the character of power, he says.

BJP generally confronts those who write against the party; Congress used to suppress dissent in a subtle way. Now what the PM is saying is a good thing and it will help democracy. I hope if he says it, he believes in it. It should not end up like a government scheme which doesn’t translate into reality.

It isn’t true that the BJP is the only intolerant party. Other parties aren’t magnanimous either. Remember, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrested a professor for posting a cartoon that mocked her. After the Charlie Hebdo cartoon controversy, MIM president Asaduddin Owaisi had retweeted a tweet: Freedom of expression is not absolute.

Congress has misused power innumerable times to pressure the media, and the Aam Aadmi Party is getting increasingly intolerant.

But what makes the BJP stand out is their intolerant swarm of trolls, encouraged by the Prime Minister himself. They create and circulate jokes about opposition parties and the media. They attack anyone who doesn’t praise their leader. They listen to only one man – Narendra Modi. Now that he’s asked them to take it lightly, let’s hope they get the message. Otherwise, the PM’s statement about the importance of humour will be little more than a joke!

Sense of humour of the people the Prime Minister chooses to follow. (Courtesy: screen-grabs from their twitter accounts)
Sense of humour of the people the Prime Minister chooses to follow. (Courtesy: screen-grabs from their twitter accounts)

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