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Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Sometime in May this year, Ryan Gosling might have discovered that he was an Uttam Santati (customised child, conceived following RSS’s Garbh Vigyan Sanskar project), had he been following the Humans of Hindutva (HOH) page on Facebook. In less than three months, the page has garnered a following of more than 60,000 people.

Written by Surbhi Gupta | Updated: July 23, 2017 12:05:02 am
Facebook, Humans of Hindutva, Humans of Hindutva Facebook page, Humans of Hindutva Facebook, what is Humans of Hindutva Sometime in May this year, Ryan Gosling might have discovered that he was an Uttam Santati (customised child, conceived following RSS’s Garbh Vigyan Sanskar project), had he been following the Humans of Hindutva (HOH) page on Facebook.

Sometime in May this year, Ryan Gosling might have discovered that he was an Uttam Santati (customised child, conceived following RSS’s Garbh Vigyan Sanskar project), had he been following the Humans of Hindutva (HOH) page on Facebook. The post, another in a series of sharp satires taking on right-wingers and Hindu fundamentalists, was removed by Facebook after complaints and only restored after the administrator wrote an open letter in protest.

But, in less than three months, the page has garnered a following of more than 60,000 people. The page administrator, who wishes to remain anonymous, talks about why he chose parody as critique and his plans ahead. Excerpts:

The nation wants to know — who is behind the Humans of Hindutva page?

I’m just an average guy, who likes to drink a lot more than he should and has read a lot less than he could. I run my own business and love to travel when I have the money or time. When I don’t, I make do with music and films.

What’s holding you back from telling the world who you are — are you scared?

If I were scared, then I wouldn’t have started this. There have been death threats against me. It is funny because nothing on the page is hateful, sexist or racist. I’m pretty tame compared to some stuff out there. I want to remain anonymous because I don’t have the energy to deal with the attention that will inevitably come if my identity is revealed. Also, I have no desire to end up in a car trunk somewhere.

What inspired the idea of a parody page on Facebook?

A heated exchange with a nationalist friend. I wanted to frame his arguments in order to make him realise how ridiculous they sounded. We laugh now about how that argument led to this page. You share a love-hate relationship with Facebook: it’s given you space for satire, but has also removed posts and had blocked the page in between.

I value Facebook for taking my voice to the masses and want them to deliver on their promise of standing up for freedom of speech. Of late, I noticed that my reach has been limited. Many followers tell me that they can’t see my posts on their newsfeed and if they share a post, they find that it hasn’t been shared.

However, after that initial ban, I have not faced much trouble and Facebook also reinstated my posts after my appeal. I just want them to understand that their algorithm is vulnerable to the mass reporting of content — even if it isn’t objectionable — especially since it’s no secret that the right-wing has invested heavily in setting up IT cells who do their bidding.

What goes behind a Humans of Hindutva post?

I used to pick topics from newspapers, but people message me now about news stories worth writing about. Social media is full of information and op-ed pieces of the day also help. All I do is use that information and give it my spin. I have to do some research so I don’t look like a muppet. I don’t take more than five-10 minutes, so I write when stuck in traffic or when I’m having an easy day at work.

Had Humans of New York (HONY) not been there, what would you have called your initiative? Also, there are numerous spin-offs already. How do you stay relevant?

Like I mentioned, it all came together after an argument with a friend. As I was walking home, the name and format came to me in a flash. I’ve seen a lot of HONY posts but I find them rather suspect because I don’t think strangers are going to have these inspiring stories all the time. So, I decided to use the HONY format to exaggerate the notions held by Hindu nationalists. I only wanted to have a laugh and would be just as happy doing this if I had 100 followers.

How has your experience with the trolls been? Any message for them?

I have no problem with trolls because, at the end of the day, I’m a troll myself. I’d like them to be creative in their backlash. It’s rather boring to be called a ‘Mullah’ or ‘anti-national’ or being asked to go to Pakistan again and again. I ask them to relax and go through the works of authors like Joseph Heller, Anthony Burgess, David Foster Wallace, Douglas Coupland and Chuck Palahniuk.

There’s always a possibility that satire can offend others. How do you deal with that?

People need to understand that their right to get offended does not trump the right to free speech. If a silly page offends you more than lynchings, then you need to set your priorities straight.

When you first started the page, did you expect it to be this popular?

When I started, I had no idea that my silly rants would reach the audience I’ve got. We live in interesting times and if you have some conviction in your ideas, then they will find takers.

With the public discourse becoming so polarised, and the rise in fake news, what role have you envisioned for yourself and HOH?

(Vladimir) Nabokov said that ‘satire is a lesson, parody is a game’. HOH is neither of these; I’m just an ordinary guy making fun of extraordinary people. I’m in talks with publishers for an HOH book. I’m also starting a satirical website soon, which will have an HOH section.

Any message for the BJP and PM Modi?

Human decency and politics are not mutually exclusive. What I find depressing is how the BJP is doing exactly what they said they wouldn’t. They’ve abandoned their development mandate and are, instead, focusing on vote-bank politics and ideological warfare. If they had stuck to their mandate and delivered on their promises, then I’d be the first one to support them as I would benefit from the change, too. However, I feel they don’t speak for anyone but their corporate cronies and fringe supporters.

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