Modi Watch: Support #SelfieWithDaughter, but feminism-bashing remains the norm
On Sunday, 28 June Modi announced his latest campaign for education of the girl child – #SelfieWithDaughter on his radio show Mann Ki Baat. In typical NaMo style, the campaign had its own hash tag that was *surprise* trending on Twitter.
Before I elaborate my views on #SelfiesWithDaughter, I have to credit Modi for popularizing selfies to the point where my 80-year old grand mom recently asked me what a selfie is, because she heard that ‘many people are taking selfies with Modi’. In fact Modi’s endorsement of selfie’s may well have inspired the lyrics of the latest Bollywood track called ‘Beta Selfie Le Le Re’ (Oh Son, Take a Selfie) in the movie Bajrangi Bhaijan. Though perhaps beti (daughter) would have been more appropriate here.
Coming back to #SelfieWithDaughter: my instinctive reaction was that it offers no concrete solution to an entrenched social problem – shouldn’t the PM focus on substantive policy reforms to educate the girl child, rather than mass selfie celebrations? However, it turns out that #SelfieWithDaughter aims to create awareness around ‘Beti Bacha, Beti Padhao,’ a government’s scheme to empower the girl child. Here are some key facts about the intervention:
But while reform is on the agenda, I’m still unsure as to whether social media needs more father-daughter pictures just a week after Fathers’ Day. What’s more, if the intention was to promote the scheme, then the campaign could have at least used the words ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ somewhere.
The real problem, however, is with the campaign’s aftermath that has been highly publicized. Several #SelfieWithDaughter skeptics were quicker than me in voicing their criticism against the campaign. Bollywood actress Shruti Seth took some pretty apt digs at the campaign in her tweets:
Seth was bombarded by so many BJP trolls that she even tweeted “I <3 Trolls,” as a humorous response to the unwarranted insults being hurled at her. Among these was the favourite ‘AAPTard’ label that BJP supporters are quick to attribute to anyone who deviates with their polices.
Another dig against the campaign, with darker implications was by activist Kavita Krishnan’s tweet:
Krishnan was allegedly hinting at the accusation against Modi and Amit Shah for the misuse of police machinery for illegal surveillance of a young woman in August 2009.
In a grotesque twist of events it was the social media laughing-stock Alok Nath whose bold and somewhat scandalizing response to Krishnan’s comment ‘Jail That Bitch’ finally revealed where his inner-sanskaar lies.
Ironically, #SelfieWithDaughter has exposed the injustice toward women, and is reflective of a growing intolerance toward dissenting views that is characteristic of BJP bhakts (supporters) and the government at large. While the PM’s recent ‘#DespiteBeingAWoman’ remark about the Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina was bad enough, what is more worrisome is the abusive behavior and chauvinistic attitudes that his power has enabled. It’s not only women like Shruti Seth and Kavita Krishnan who have been subject to it, but the BJP’s predecessor organization that Modi has been long affiliated with has often vocalized its stance on how women should be treated in society – not being allowed to wear jeans or use mobile phones are a few, not to mention their defence of marital rape. So, if Modi is serious about changing the attitudes toward women in society, then he may want to start with his own home-ground. Sadly, that’s going to take a lot more than selfies.