Ranjona Banerji: Crowds, coaches, coffins & commentary

13 Sep,2022

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Ranjona BanerjiOne section of “the news” has been dominated by the death of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

 

The long arm of Britain’s colonial past reentered our lives, with many commentators furious with the recently deceased queen and with all those who mourned her death or commented favourably on her long reign of 70 years and longer life of 96.

 

This fire and fury took up a lot of space, with fulminations, grief and a few small bits of dark humour.

 

The coverage was not unusual given the general public interest in the lives of the rich and famous and especially when the rich and famous also have plenty of scandal in their lives. From highbrow to lowbrow, we have to accept that we enjoy a bit of spicy gossip.

 

The outrage on social media though was interesting. Of course, outrage is one of the two main sources of oxygen for social media. The other being fake news and/or misinformation.

 

Thus the death of this British queen roiled many social media commentators who now wanted immediate reparation for centuries of colonial suppression, oppression and exploitation. Interesting that these strong and vociferous demands were not made in a more concerted effort during the lifetime of said queen. Not that it would have been effective anyway. But at least she was alive and could have heard the anger.

 

Ah well, the ways of social media are often lost even to a frequent social media user like me. The mainstream media I must confess carried on regardless with its relentless coverage of crowds, coaches, coffins and commentary.

 

The other big news for India was the Congress Party’s launch of its Bharat Jodo Yatra. Or was it?

 

The poor Congress Party! It can never get anything right as far as the media is concerned. (Nor can any other opposition party for that matter!) So if it protests against something a BJP government has done, it is either being negative or not vociferous enough. If it does not protest, it does not care. Or it is using old-fashioned means of communication no longer acceptable. Why is it on the streets? Why is it not on the streets? What are streets, who made the streets, my streets are better than your streets, why did the Mughals not build enough streets and why did you not protest when they did not, and why did Nehru not have a better streets policy and so on.

 

The options for the Opposition are therefore very limited, especially where the mainstream media is concerned. The powers-that-be, when not activating their media shills to attack the opposition, activate various state agencies like the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation against political parties, NGOs, think tanks and so on. This, according to the mainstream media, is the correct way of operating in a democracy.

 

Thus we reach the case of the burning shorts.

 

Having been lectured that hitting the streets (what is a padayatra, who walks any more, what is walking, isn’t walking a colonial activity et cetera) is not the best way to be effective in a democracy, someone in the Congress put up a photograph of a pair of burning khaki shorts on social media.

 

I mean, how could they?

 

What an insult! How could someone attack the RSS this way? And is this actually an attack on the BJP? Is the BJP the same as the RSS? Why doesn’t everyone worship the RSS? Soon the RSS will give up its khaki shorts and wear khaki trousers? Is a pair of burning shorts in bad taste? What is good taste?

 

And on and on and on.

 

Maybe the incessant media coverage of a funeral cortege may be more soothing…

 

Unless: how dare there be a funeral, what is a funeral, colonialism must end, what is colonialism, why are you walking, why are you standing in this state and not that state…

 

Have fun!

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia on Tuesdays and Fridays. Her views here are personal

 

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