Metrolife: Post against Hanuman sticker sparks religious freedom row

Last week, Resmi R Nair, an activist and model who lives in Bengaluru, posted on Facebook against cabs with the Hanuman sticker, describing it as a symbol of aggressive Hindutva. She said she wouldn’t board such cabs or pay cancellation charges.

Soon, a VHP activist responded by cancelling a cab driven by a Muslim, saying he didn’t want to support jihadis. The tussle set off arguments and taunts on social media and elsewhere. Resmi was in for brickbats, with many accusing her of being a ‘Hindu hater,’ and digging out articles saying she had been arrested for running an online sex racket. She and her husband had earlier taken part in a ‘Kiss of Love’ demonstration by kissing in public. Moderate voices were critical of her, too.

Abhishek Misra, the VHP activist whose Twitter handle says ‘Ideology first,’ wrote: “Cancelled @Olacabs Booking because Driver was Muslim. I don’t want to give my money to Jihadi People.”

His tweet was retweeted and liked by thousands. An Ola spokesperson provided some balance: “Ola, like our country, is a secular platform, and we don’t discriminate (against) our driver partners or customers on the basis of their caste, religion, gender or creed. We urge all our customers and driver partners to treat each other with respect at all times.”

Many Bengalureans Metrolife spoke to were surprised at the tirade against the Hanuman sticker, and the response. They said they had never paid any heed to the religion of a driver while hailing a cab.

Their worries, on the other hand, were related to matters professional: Was the driver dressed shabbily? Was he driving rashly? Does he use foul language?

M K Raghavendra, writer and film critic, is furious with Mishra. “Just because cab drivers don’t have the resources to act against people in power, they can’t be spoken against in this manner. People like this don’t represent the majority in the religion. There should be some action taken against him for speaking in such a manner,” he says.

Sachin Tiwari, sociologist, says, “If a person structurally and sensibly approached his immediate surroundings, there would definitely be a higher level of tolerance in our country.”

Sophia Sharon, who teaches sociology in Mount Carmel College, says, “People know how to take advantage of the current situation in India and misuse it for their own benefit.”

She believes social media hypes things and helps people gain popularity easily. “Individuals grab any chance that comes their way to get into the limelight and stir up controversies,” she told Metrolife.

She is critical of Resmi’s tirade against the Hanuman stickers. “She is trying to create an issue out of something that is not an issue. Ultimately, we live in a society among human beings. We need mutual adjustment and cooperation,” she observes.

Shikha Chandrashekar, student at Christ University, sees extreme intolerance in the debate. “At this rate, it will lead to more complications in our country,” she says.

Anushka Phadnis, another student, adds, “The sad part is that educated people who hold influential positions take to social media to spread and reinforce hatred.”

Ian Faria, motivational speaker, says, “We are one nation and this incident is the height of intolerance.”

 

What model Resmi R Nair said on Facebook

Dear UBER (Uber) India/OLA 

I am one of your regular customers living in Bangalore.I travel by uber/OLA even in wee hours most of the time accompanied by nobody. Many of my female colleagues and friends also travel in the same manner.We all have a very serious concern regarding the security of uber cabs with belligerent Hindutwa symbols .As you may be aware,the Hindutwa groups and their leaders have openly supported the gruesome rape and murder of an eight year old girl in Kathua village in Jammu and Kashmir. Me and my friends are scared to travel in uber cabs carrying outrightly violent symbols commonly used by these Hintuwa groups.Hence I inform you that I would not travel in a uber/OLA cab if it carries such symbols of violence. I will not pay pay the cancellation charges either, because I am not willing to provide my money to feed rapists or to promote rape terrorism. (Unedited)

 

‘Driven by agenda’

Reacting to Resmi’s post, Charmine Zu, social activist, questions, “Some people are trying to take forward their own agenda. How can one stop me from showcasing my religion, considering that we’re living in a secular country? If I have a car of my own and I want to display objects related to my religion, why shouldn’t I?”

 

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