US born comedian Hari Kondabolu has gained fame for his attacks on the long-running US animated television show The Simpsons. As he outlines in his film The Problem With Apu, Kondabolu finds the show’s fictional character Apu who is meant to be an Indian immigrant, to be objectionable because of the often simplistic and inaccurate stereotypes of Indian culture that exist in the United States.
So far as I am personally concerned Kondabolu has the right to object to the Simpsons all day long and likewise the creators of the Simpsons are free to object to Kondabolu’s complains as they indeed have. What is troubling though is that while India is in the midst of multiple humanitarian crises, US media is giving far more attention to Kondabolu’s anti-Simpsons campaign than to the life or death struggles that Muslims face in India on a regular basis.
The violent gang rape, torture, bodily mutilation and murder of eight year old Asifa Bano inside a Hindu temple in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) has become emblematic of a wider humanitarian crisis gripping India, where rapes and assaults against Muslims by Hindutva mobs are increasing with no end in sight. Making matters worse, among Asifa’s rapists were two police officers and among those protesting on behalf of her assailants were members of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP.
Rather than work to unite India, Modis’ government has done everything possible to divide Indian citizens from one another and divide India from her largest neighbours China and Pakistan. For Modi and his fellow demagogues, anyone who is not a radical exponent of Hindutva socio-politics is immediately suspect, while India’s Muslim communities have borne the brunt of the wave of violent extremism that has sickeningly targeted the vulnerable first and foremost, including women and children.
Under Modi, brutal crackdowns on demonstrators in Kashmir have also increased to worrying levels. The infamous brutality of the “Israeli” regime which has recently killed scores of young, unarmed Palestinians during the Great March of Return is unknown in most of the world, but in IOK, it is an occurrence as frequent as it is in Palestine.
By no means am I saying that somehow Hari Kondabolu has a special responsibility to speak out about human rights violations in India just because he is a practising Hindu of Indian heritage and lives in a country whose internal situation is far more stable than that in India. But while the American media runs stories about the troubles supposedly caused by a long-running cartoon character on a popular television show, they are ignoring the real issues facing India which have repercussions throughout south Asia as a whole.
While Donald Trump’s pro-Modi foreign policy seeks to whitewash the grim realities of 21st century India, millions are suffering discrimination, intimidation, exploitation and violence. The blood which flowed from young Asifa’s lifeless body ought to be a far more compelling reason to become exorcised about the image of India than the cartoon drawings of a fake Indian character on The Simpsons.