Trigger-happy Twitter celebs like Sonu Nigam should be more circumspect
Whether it is the compulsions of staying relevant or the nature of the social media beast that is fuelling these sensationalist tweets, celebrities need to be mindful of what they put out in the public realmanalysis Updated: Apr 18, 2017 12:25 IST
The voices have assumed a shrill, chauvinistic tone. A few months after playback singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya, (remember him?), warned us of the hazards of allowing Pakistani artistes to work in India, Sonu Nigam has woken up to the perils of forced religiosity and loudspeakers blaring the azaan in his Mumbai neighbourhood.
It so happened that one fine April morning, Nigam, best known for such chartbusters as Sandese aate hain and Har ghadi badal rahi hai roop zindagi, decided to express his displeasure over the azaan. “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,” he tweeted to his 5.92 million followers. “Gundagardi hai bus... (it is simply hooliganism),” he said in another tweet. It helps that the political climate in the country is decidedly Right-of-Centre and the BJP in power in the Centre and in Maharashtra. The tweet came soon after Olympic medallist wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt threw his weight behind the army personnel stationed in Kashmir.
Reacting to the outrage over the video of a Kashmiri youth tied to a jeep and being used as a human shield, he retorted on Twitter that there was no similar upheaval when army personnel were pelted with stones despite rescuing the people of the state from floods. Before this, Dutt was also one of the high-profile sportsmen mocking student Gurmehar Kaur’s statement (the other was Virender Sehwag) that Pakistan did not actually kill her soldier father, the war did. He posted a tweet with the picture of Hitler that read: “Did not kill Jews Gas did.” Bin Laden’s was accompanied by the text: “Did not kill people, Bombs did.” And the black buck image said: “Bhai didn’t kill me, Bullets did,” a reference to an incident which allegedly involved actor Salman Khan.
Dutt isn’t the only sports icon wearing his coloured views on his sleeve. Last week, World Cup 2011 star cricketer Gautam Gambhir took umbrage over the heckling of troops in the Valley, tweeting: “For every slap on my army’s Jawan lay down at least a 100 jihadi lives. Whoever wants Azadi LEAVE NOW! Kashmir is ours. #kashmirbelongs2us”. Gambhir’s jingoistic tweets split his more than 3.35 million Twitter followers right down the middle, evoking uproar and approval in equal doses. This new-found candour among popular artistes and athletes is a departure from the pre-social media days where a Mohammad Rafi, an AR Rahman or a Sachin Tendulkar kept their counsel and never displayed their proclivity to assert their political beliefs.
To some, Nigam’s controversial statement that came out of the blue or Gambhir’s pop-patriot tweets may appear to be attempts to draw attention towards themselves and revive their flagging careers: The 15 minutes of fame that they seek. Others say that artistes or athletes have as much a right to air their views on social media as you and I.
Although celebrities in the age of social media displaying a greater degree of openness in expressing their opinion on matters of popular interest is a welcome development, since they have millions clinging on to every character they type, they have to be careful of what they put out in the Twitterverse. For the record, a number of fans went on to Sonu Nigam’s timeline to tell the self-avowed admirer of Sufi music that he had crossed a line.
Displaying a degree of maturity on social media will help these icons gain the respect of millions of fans who might respect their craft but are enraged by their biases and political views. They can certainly do better than inciting passions by saying that anyone who has insulted our soldiers deserves to be shot (the way Dutt did in an interview) or exhorting them to lay down jihadi lives (as Gambhir tweeted). The trigger-happy Twitter celebrity can inadvertently turn into a troll. Whether it is the compulsions of staying relevant or the nature of the social media beast that is fuelling this, they need to be mindful of the medium and the message.