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Friday, Dec 13, 2019

Humour is the weapon of mystery man behind Facebook’s Humans of Hindutva page

In a world of fake news and right-wing propaganda, a parody Facebook page called Humans of Hindutva is taking on the saffron brigade with satire and gallows humour.

india Updated: Jul 17, 2017 11:27 IST
Zehra Kazmi
Zehra Kazmi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A screenshot of Humans of Hindutva , a parody Facebook page that targets the extreme right through satire and humour.
A screenshot of Humans of Hindutva , a parody Facebook page that targets the extreme right through satire and humour.

Does the Hindi phrase ‘Kadi ninda’ sound very much like ‘Gujrati dish’ Curry Ninda to you? Chances are you have seen a viral post from Humans of Hindutva, a parody Facebook page which revels in taking the mickey out of right-wing rabble-rousers.

The post uses a still from Masterchef Australia to take a thinly veiled swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and all other shades of the saffron brigade. And it is unapologetic about poking fun at the right-wing’s version of patriotism and its obsession for the cow.

In an India where political divides are becoming sharper, satirists are responding sharply. A heated exchange with a hyper-nationalist friend led to the genesis of Humans of Hindutva (HoH). “I think satire is important in a society like ours which is very sombre and servile,” says the admin.

If you have wondered who runs the page, you will have to wait – the writer prefers to remain anonymous given the death threats and abuse that comes his way. But a few sketchy details are forthcoming: He has a weakness for whiskey. He is a voracious reader. He runs his own business and writes on breaks. And he is an insomniac which is why he often posts at the crack of dawn.

HoH borrows from the stylebook of the popular Humans of New York, but its dark commentary on current events and politics could not be more different than the original’s empathetic portraits of ordinary people.

“I have been waiting for years for the Indian equivalent of The Onion or The Daily Mash but nothing came around,” says the admin. “That’s when I realized that I should be the one to get the ball rolling.”

HoH’s acerbic posts take on the current political and social climate of the country – commentators often jokingly ask which “University of Sarcasm” he graduated from. Sample this firecracker of a post -- accompanied by a photo of bald, evil movie villain Shakaal -- that lampoons the extreme right for its quest to turn India into a ‘Hindu rashtra’ and for advocating scrapping reservations. It has been shared more than 5,000 times till date.

These are the kind of viral posts that helped HoH amass a following of more than 50,000 and a book deal in a short span of two months. Even the admin appears surprised by the success of his page.

Read more: Delhi BJP leader accused of posting Gujarat riot photos as those of Basirhat violence

“I just wanted to make stupid jokes to make myself laugh because I cope best with any situation by finding humour in it,” he says. “As a kid I always doodled in my text books. I used to draw moustaches on historical figures and make them say dumb things in speech bubbles. That’s what I had originally envisioned for this page…a return to my juvenile self.”

Two characters that often pop up in HoH’s posts are Bhaktiman, the defender of the misrepresented right-wing and his arch-nemesis, the Librandu, who stands for all things bleeding-heart ‘liberal’. But while the page is peppered with such bizarre characters, the humour is decidedly gallows. But this is to be expected when the grist for HoH’s satire mill is grim, every day news, plucked from newspaper headlines.

“When I post about lynchings or sexual assault, my focus is not on the victims but on those who try to justify such psychotic behaviour. I think it’s fair game to ridicule such people by exaggerating their opinions,” says the admin. “If anyone thinks my humour is in poor taste or politically incorrect then they should remember that I’m only mimicking the politically incorrect opinions of certain people.”

Political satire in India is relatively tepid – we have neither the sass of American late-night talk shows nor the classic British lampooning of Yes, Minister. But HoH’s popularity goes beyond his biting words, which typically take him about five to ten minutes to write, to his unerring choice of a pop culture reference or a photo.

When it was reported that Aarogya Bharti, the health wing of the RSS, had issued a set of ‘guidelines’ for women to deliver ‘Uttam Santati’, fair-skinned, tall babies, HoH put out a post that imagined the customised baby as Hollywood heart-throb Ryan Gosling.

The Ryan Gosling post had a staggering 14,000 likes and became a victim of its own popularity when Facebook took it down because of mass reporting by trolls.

“Facebook depends on its users to report objectionable content, the trolls try to take advantage of the automated system which can’t tell a real complaint from a fake one,” says the admin.

A few of HoH’s posts have been taken down by Facebook, but were eventually reinstated after he filed an appeal. “I hope the trolls realize that each time they get a post of mine removed, they only give me more notoriety and coverage,” he says.

His way of dealing with trolls is direct – do your research to counter their views, but ban those who are not willing to engage. “Many of them complain that I’m biased against Hindus. Which is not true. I’m biased against Hindutva,” he explains. “Not all right-wingers hate the page. Some make valid points and are open to hearing my reasoning behind posting something. At the end of the day, this is a silly parody page and people should visit it with low expectations.”