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India Is Losing Its Shit over a Snapchat Story

The country's ruling party went so far as to file a police complaint over the comedy bit.
June 1, 2016, 4:56pm

For the past couple of days, India has collectively been losing its shit over a Snapchat story. Tanmay Bhat, co-founder of comedy collective All India Bakchod, used the social platform's face-swap feature for a mock conversation between India's most famous cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and 86-year-old powerhouse singer Lata Mangeshkar. In the parody, Bhat takes a dig at Mangeshkar's old age and says, "Jon Snow also died, so you should also die."

Tendulkar and Mangeshkar are legends and largely considered sacrosanct. Naturally politicians, social media, Bollywood celebrities and the public went into overdrive and outraged against Bhat. The issue has dominated primetime TV debates and newspaper headlines. The country's ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and an allied political party even went so far as to file a police complaint against Bhat for violating social harmony and say the video is against freedom of speech. Politicians have said he should be whipped in public while India's Censor Board Chief believes Bhat should be "arrested and dealt with severely." The women's wing of one party went a step further and took to the streets in protest and burnt his effigy. The Mumbai Police have also put in a request with Facebook and YouTube to delete the video.

Wonder if there are enough ppl debating a comedian's Snapchat story on primetime in the world's largest democracy— Aakanksha Tangri (@AakankshaT)May 31, 2016

This type of humour may not be India's forte, but outrage is. The severe response to this fairly innocuous joke seems even more absurd when considering that the government has far more pressing matters, such as the fact that India has been ravaged by what has been called the worst drought in living memory and extreme heat affecting over 300 million people. Meanwhile, there have been at least four separate cases recently where African nationals were attacked, including a national from the Congo who was beaten to death in Delhi by a group of men after a fight over hailing a rickshaw. Yet Rajnath Singh, the minister responsible for law and order and the Delhi Police deny the attacks are racially motivated. And then, in a new report, the Global Slavery Index estimates that over 18 million people are living in modern slavery in India—the most of any country in the world. Outrage away, India. Follow Aakanksha Tangri on Twitter.