You’ve got to hand it to Indian Twitter: they always get their man wrong. Shortly after Sonu Nigam sent out his now-infamous tweet questioning the use of loudspeakers for the morning azaan, trolls set to work abusing actor Sonu Sood. If you think this sounds rather like the time when Snapdeal bore the brunt of what the Snapchat CEO allegedly said about India, you are exactly right. Oddly enough though, that wasn’t the most absurd turn of events. The hardworking, if misguided, trolls of Twitter India were one-upped by Nigam himself who called a press conference on Wednesday and got his head shaved, even as television news cameras went into a frenzy not seen since Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan became bhai-bhai again.
If you’re now thinking that Nigam’s move sounds rather like that time Britney Spears marched into a hair salon in California and shaved her head, then you’re wrong. The singer’s seemingly extreme step was less of a cry for help and more like a family-friendly middle finger to a certain cleric in West Bengal who had issued a fatwa against the singer saying that anyone who managed to shave Nigam’s head would be awarded Rs 10 lakh. And what led up to this bizarre sequence of events? It is the old, old story of what happens when an outrage machine goes into overdrive and, unable to find another issue to clamp its slavering jaws on, latches onto someone who was foolish enough to think that tweeting to thousands of followers is the same as chatting with a close friend or two. In brief, this is what happened: On Monday, Nigam tweeted, “God bless everyone. I’m not a Muslim and I have to be woken up by the azaan in the morning. When will this forced religiousness end in India.”, followed by another tweet “And by the way Mohammad did not have electricity when he made Islam…why do I have to have this cacophony after Edison?” Then, to prove that he was an equal-opportunity offender-of-religious-sentiments, instead of the bigot that people were accusing him of being, Nigam proceeded to tweet, “I don’t believe in any temple or gurudwara using electricity to wake up people who don’t follow the religion. Why then…? Honest? True?” This led to much finger-pointing and chest-beating on Twitter, besides causing Syed Sha Atef Ali Al Quaderi, Vice President of West Bengal Minority United Council, to issue aforementioned fatwa. Nigam, in turn, stuck doggedly to the low road and found a loophole in Quaderi’s words. He called a press conference, got his head shaved before the avidly waiting cameras, all the while loudly proclaiming that he is anything but anti-Muslim, and demanded the Rs 10 lakh. To which the cleric replied that what he had actually said was that the reward would go to someone who would “shave his (Nigam’s) head, put a garland of torn shoes around his neck and tour him around the country.”
In the meantime, a number of questions remain unanswered, for those who are still not bored of what is quickly turning out to be one of India’s most riveting reality shows: did Nigam honestly not imagine the brouhaha his words would cause? Was this, just another photo op? Also — and please forgive the whataboutery — “whatabout” all the money he made singing bhajans that are blared from loudspeakers across the country during jaagrans? And will the cleric pay up if Nigam does indeed do a Bharat Yatra with a garland of torn shoes around his neck? To find out, watch the next episode of Nigam vs Quaderi.