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The thappad and its louder after-effects

The thappad and its louder after-effects

The main trigger for the slap was Kangana’s obnoxious remarks on Sikhs and Punjab during and after the farmers’ protest in 2020.

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Last Updated : 13 June 2024, 20:06 IST
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For a moment, CISF constable Kulwinder Kaur must have felt vindicated and exultant after landing a slap on the face of actress and MP from Mandi, Kangana Ranaut, at the Chandigarh airport. She likely realised that this slap would resound loud and clear across the country, potentially making her a celebrity of sorts, both in public and on social media.

Blinded by pent-up fury, Kaur deluded herself into believing that her actions were for a good cause, despite the fact that such behaviour from a security officer is despicable and contrary to the ethos of her uniform. The main trigger for the slap was Kangana’s obnoxious remarks on Sikhs and Punjab during and after the farmers’ protest in 2020. Kaur was also miffed at Kangana’s comment on women joining the farmers’ protest during the agitations at Delhi borders against the now-repealed agriculture laws. No wonder the BJP lost the 2024 elections in Punjab by failing to bag even one Lok Sabha seat. Kaur was promptly suspended for her behaviour, raising important questions about the need to control one’s emotions while on public duty. Even if Kaur harboured a grudge against Kangana, she could have confronted her verbally. This approach would have been less unpleasant and would have shown our democracy in a better light. However, Kaur seemingly lacked patience for democratic niceties and believed that the best way to express one’s dissent and displeasure was through a thappad, valuing its shock value and instant impact.

The role of a security person is to maintain law and order, and what she did to Kangana in the name of justice cannot be condoned or justified. Many carry burdens of injustice in their hearts, whether real or imagined. However, does that give them the right to take the law into their own hands by slapping somebody they believe has offended them? The word thappad metaphorically means teaching somebody a lesson. However, when taken to its physical extreme, it assumes a sinister quality both in public and family life. It becomes a ruthless assault on someone’s dignity and self-respect. Many Bollywood celebrities have come out in support of Kangana.

Now the question we should be asking is why Kulwinder Kaur could face charges for her behaviour while Kangana Ranaut has never been held accountable for her abhorrent comments on agitating farmers. Known for her propensity to make inflammatory remarks at the slightest provocation, it was unsurprising that she was not given any portfolio in Modi’s cabinet. The BJP high command didn’t reprimand Kangana for making derogatory remarks against the agitating Punjab farmers. Perhaps things would have been different if the actor had apologised for hurting the sentiments of Punjabis. However, she refuses to get off her high horse while expecting sympathy when things don’t go her way. 

Kangana is no stranger to controversies. In 2023, the actor claimed in an interview that Javed Akhtar threatened to sabotage her career, even suggesting it would drive her to suicide. This led to Javed Akhtar filing a defamation case against her. Despite this, Shabana Azmi, in a rare gesture of solidarity, has wholeheartedly supported Kangana in the slapgate incident.

Post the incident, Kangana has also drawn flak for her hypocrisy and victim mentality, as people on social media have questioned the consistency of her views. In 2022, it was the same Kangana who expressed support for Will Smith’s action through an Instagram post. “If some idiot used my mom or sister’s illness to make a bunch of fools laugh, I would slap him like @willsmith did...’’ She was referring to the incident when Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars.

Besides actors, politicians, too, have been on the receiving end of slaps and shoes. Arvind Kejriwal was slapped twice, first in 2014 and then in 2015. In 2011, author, activist, and public interest lawyer Prashant Bhushan was slapped by two people while he was in the midst of an interview. Congress leader Kanhaiya Kumar was also slapped while campaigning in his constituency for the 2024 elections. Additionally, Sharad Pawar was slapped at a function on Parliament Street in 2011. Incidents like these are numerous, but they rarely create the furor that the slap on Kangana Ranaut has unleashed. At times, we tend to be selective in our sympathy and support regarding attacks on actors and politicians. What happened to Kangana at the airport is indeed unfortunate, but her persistent inflexibility in refusing to admit her own mistakes does not behove an actor of her stature. The pathology of infallibility runs deep in some people, and Kangana is no exception.  

(The writer is a Delhi-based journalist)

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