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How Defamatory Imagery Of Hindu Religious Symbols Is Vitiating The Social Media Space

Protesters at the India Gate.
Snapshot
  • The grossly obscene images of Hindu gods and religious symbols on social media have left a big dent in the minds of Hindus, who worship these symbols every single day.

Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir was witness to a grave crime early this year. But more than the crime, the outrage around it has taken several horrific turns, which are questionable. The anger over the unfortunate Kathua incident was an outrage on multiple levels, each as complex and arguably sinister as the other. On the one hand, Bollywood celebrities held placards alleging the child was raped in a 'devisthan', on the other, there were repeated slogans of 'Hindu majoritarianism' taking over the country. Were these outrages in keeping with the narrative on other such heinous crimes? Not exactly. Is there any one differentiating factor? Possibly. The rapists were allegedly Hindu.

Another aspect of this outrage, which was not related to this crime and not in any way instrumental in providing justice to the victim, was grossly obscene graphics of Hindu gods and religious symbols floating around on the social media. This imagery has left a big dent in the minds of Hindus, who worship these symbols every single day. To a Hindu, an image of a trishul is not just a picture on a wall, it is a representation of Mahadeva and Devi Adishakti. To a Hindu, a drawing of bhagwan Sri Ram is not just a picture, it is revered and worshiped. So, a humiliating drawing of Sri Ram is an insult to the devotion Hindus offer to the god every day. Hinduism is a religion that is defined by its practice of worship. Rituals are integral to Hinduism, as opposed to some other religions, which support a certain ideology only.

To a Hindu, any insult of their religious symbols that they worship every day, is an insult to their gods, to their religion, to their sacred religious sentiments and to their entire community.

An artist called Durga Malathi had circulated the paintings, which depict the trishul in an obscene and derogatory manner, wherein the representation itself is a crime. No Hindu will look upon these images and feel that it is somehow 'alright'.

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How is this going to save any women from crime is unclear.

The artist claims that it is her freedom of expression to paint the pictures thus, and that she was shocked by the reaction of Hindu groups. She further alleges that since she is facing flak from Hindu groups, ipso facto the crime would have been committed by someone from that community. It is worth noting that the artist is a part of Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kerala. What the artist is hypocritically forgetting is that Hindus have the same right to freedom of expression as her, and when she insults a religious group in an insensitive manner, she should not complain or play victim when she receives harsh criticism from the same groups.

The artist alleged that since Hindus are censuring her artwork, they are purportedly doing so because the crime in Kathua was committed by Hindus. This is a far-fetched theory. The artist is glossing over the fact that any abusive imagery of Hindu deities will be censured by Hindus, because it hurts their religious sentiments.

Several Hindu groups have made it categorically clear that they are demanding death penalty to child rapists.

Demonstrators with the giant India flag at the India Gate. Demonstrators with the giant India flag at the India Gate.

In response to these vulgar images on the internet, a protest march was organised on 21 April at India Gate by Mission Vande Matram and eminent lawyer Prashant Patel. It was supported by Aam Aadmi Party's Kapil Mishra and Supreme Court lawyer Ashwani Dubey. Those attending the protest march were carrying a 200-feet Indian flag. The event was attended by more than 200 people in New Delhi. The participants expressed their anger over the hateful images of their religious symbols and a bid to defame Hinduism at large due to one crime. “Some people are making cartoons and circulating them on social media. Those cartoons are obscene, and we cannot tolerate this. I have filed complaints against a journalist and a cartoonist against this,” Patel said. People at the gathering made it clear that they don’t support any criminals, but they will not tolerate abuse of the Hindu faith. An FIR has been filed against the artist.

The bigger problem with promoting hate graphics online and the subsequent backlash is the agenda behind these online movements. While one can see that those running these hate campaigns do nothing to help provide justice to victims, they antagonise the Hindu community, and raise a sense of Hinduphobia amongst Hindus and the common man in general. They try to portray every Hindu in a questionable light. They also ‘deliver’ a verdict on a criminal case, without waiting for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe, or the courts to come out with a judgement. They misinform people and cloud their ability to separate facts from fiction. They damage the very fabric of harmony and mutual trust in a community, which is what binds people together across the boundaries of caste and religion. They are not only hurtful to the common man but also to several Hindu organisations, who diligently work towards doing good to the society. They try to equate 'saffron' with 'terror'.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the agenda of raising false alarm over 'Hindu terror' has now taken a route that includes overriding the facts of a crime and the decision of courts. While this social media campaign is noteworthy, it is only one example of multiple such micro-internet-phenomena that disrupt the mental peace of people in general, and Hindus in specific. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this offensive imagery is thousand times as hurtful to Hindus as any other verbal mis-reportage, and they will no longer be made scapegoats of Hinduphobia campaigns.

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