Kerala Needs You, India. Leave the Online Bickering For Later

Social Commentary

Kerala Needs You, India. Leave the Online Bickering For Later

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

This weekend, social media had a marked shortage of people attempting the #KikiChallenge. That in itself would be a boon from heaven, so the fact that the dancing trend had been replaced by a cause as noble as the Kerala flood relief ops was satisfying as well as heart-warming. Except, not everyone chose to see it that way. For some keyboard warriors, even a cause as heart-wringing as providing aid to your countrymen in need was an opportunity to flex their trolling muscles. When an entire state is drowning, what kind of lowlife would choose to get into a pedantic online debate?

Apparently, there is more than one kind.

The first is the worst. This species of troll insists that no donations should be made to the state of Kerala, because of its predominantly Muslim and Christian population, who obviously vote for anti-national leftist parties. All Indians are this troll’s brothers and sisters, unless they can quote Karl Marx. Kerala’s historic affinity for left-leaning politics – and traditional beef-eating habits – come in their way of understanding that both capitalists and communists require food, water, and succour during the time of a natural disaster.

But still, that’s just a symptom of how things are in the country. There are some people who think if you eat beef, you don’t deserve any food. Sometimes, you don’t even deserve to live, but that’s a different topic entirely. Like dietary choices or playing the national anthem in cinemas, offering aid to Kerala is just another topic that has unnecessarily received a political colour.

Except – and I can’t stress this enough – it’s a friggin’ natural calamity.  

Differences in opinion can be hashed out later, because the people of Kerala need all the help they can get.

For proof, look no further than the fake video of the Army serviceman spreading misinformation about the floods. The man in the video, dressed in military fatigues, makes tall claims about the flood only affecting areas where the rich lived, and about any aid efforts being scams by the Malayali community. The video has been debunked, but it shows how far people are willing to go to thwart relief efforts to their purported ideological opponents. It’s ironic that the people making these claims identify as patriots, when what they are effectively arguing for is to completely neglect the needs of Indian citizens in distress.

While certain people are unable to rise above divisive politics, they are not the only obstacle to relief efforts. Another breed of troll, well-versed in the art of CSR (Comment Section Rebuttals, i.e.), has chosen Kerala’s hour of need as the time to practise their craft. This goes hand in hand with some good ol’ virtue-signalling with extra doses of piety.

Popular South Indian actor Siddharth started the #KeralaDonationChallenge, and Malayalam star Dulquer Salmaan was among some of the celebrities trying to raise awareness. The CSR trolls didn’t even spare them, asking Salmaan why he was posting about the floods on Instagram if he was not going to be physically present at the disaster zone. Even normal folk just trying to direct people’s attentions to the urgent situation have come into their firing line. Normally, I’d have no problems with taking down people who overshare on social media, but if there was ever an occasion where it was warranted, this was it.

Hindering and questioning donations is one thing, but justifying the flood as divine retribution takes a truly special type of nitwit. Meet the #ApologiseToLordAyappa brigade. According to these weather experts, the torrential storm and subsequent deluge is the gods’ way of expressing their displeasure with the people of Kerala. The cause of this umbrage is that women might, just might, be allowed into the inner sanctum of the Sabarimala temple. By their logic, the Bhuj earthquake must have been caused because Gujju kids were sneaking chicken tikka on their nights out.

At a time when a part of our country is facing the worst crisis it has seen in years, the negativity and hate that has become part and parcel of discourse in this country feels out of place. Differences in opinion can be hashed out later, because the people of Kerala need all the help they can get. I’ve always been fond of the idiom, “If you have nothing positive to say, say nothing at all.” When it comes to Kerala, we’d do well to remember that.