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Breaking TV sets to boycotting Chinese goods — India’s RWAs wage ‘war’ against Xi’s China

For middle-aged RWA men, the death of 20 Indian soldiers is a moment to prove nationalism. As part of revenge, they are breaking goods for which they have already paid money to China.

LJP activists burn an effigy of Chinese President Xi Jinping during a protest in Patna on 17 June 2020. The protests are against China after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in violent clashes with the PLA in Galwan Valley Monday night | PTI
LJP activists burn an effigy of Chinese President Xi Jinping during a protest in Patna on 17 June 2020. The protests are against China after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in violent clashes with the PLA in Galwan Valley Monday night | PTI

As the news of the death of 20 Indian soldiers in a clash at Galwan Valley Monday night broke out, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “frontline warriors” —  the ‘uncles’ of Resident Welfare Associations —  took it upon themselves to scare the Xi Jinping government into submission: by getting rid of anything remotely ‘Chinese’ in their household. Unfortunately for these angry uncles, though, practically every appliance in their homes — from  Samsung refrigerators to Sony or LG television sets — is ‘Made in China’.

Members of Resident Welfare Associations (RWA) have been gatekeeping their precious colonies for the past three months as India remained under a lockdown. They prevented the entry of Zomato or Swiggy delivery boys, created a ruckus over domestic workers using the elevators, demanded Covid-negative reports from them, and barred entry or exit of doctors and nurses. 

If you thought these RWA uncles would have got tired by now, look no further than the men triumphantly breaking and throwing away Chinese goods. Because why not? Whatever nationalist, Modi-loving news channels say, these men follow — they are the PM’s defence warriors in your local colony. They are so passionate and driven about avenging China, they don’t see (or perhaps choose to ignore) the “powered by Vivo” sponsor tag at the corner of Republic’s Prime Time debate, in which  host Arnab Goswami unsurprisingly launches a tirade against India’s enemy — usually it’s Pakistan; these days it’s China.

And so, the RWA uncles are channeling their pent-up energy into becoming the new flag-bearers of ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’ by boycotting Chinese products.

Also read: India-China clashes add new layer of uncertainty for businesses already hit by coronavirus

Forgetting the war against coronavirus

The RWA uncles have completely forgotten about the coronavirus crisis even as positive cases and the death toll continue to surge; they don’t remember any social distancing rules, and are busy beating ‘made in China’ TVs with sticks.

In a now-viral video, men in Surat can be seen rejoicing after a television set was thrown off a balcony, and stamped upon by several middle-aged men — some wore masks but none of them were practising social distancing.

The men appear to be in a child-like tizzy as they smashed the already destroyed TV sets with their lathis, yelling ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. These men, who were once self-appointed ‘Covid soldiers’, don’t fear the coronavirus anymore, despite the fact that India is now fourth in the list of countries with maximum Covid-positive cases.

Moreover, they don’t realise that they are breaking things in their homes for which they have already paid to the Chinese. Quite like Modi “punishing” Xi Jinping by not wishing him on his birthday.

Also read: The more troubling India-China conflict is economic, not military

Anti-China protests

Protests broke out across the country Wednesday, including in Modi’s home turf Varanasi. RWA heads and members of Right-wing bodies like Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) burnt effigies and photographs of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The protesters also burnt tyres and blocked roads, demanding a surgical strike against China — all of this with masks practically falling off their faces and no social distancing.

In fact, one RWA president, in New Delhi’s Defence Colony, went on to “declare war against China” in a five-minute-long audio message that is now being widely circulated on WhatsApp. He stressed on the need to carry on the war by throwing away Chinese goods, because it is “unfortunate we cannot take up guns and bullets.”

Also read: Third round of talks on, India rejects China’s claim over Galwan Valley

Economy not ready to boycott China

These gestures are meant to support the Indian Army, prove one’s patriotism and and nationalism, and help one become ‘aatmanibhar’. India stands by the Army and its soldiers against China, but we also have to be practical in what we do.

The real patriotism would be to figure out why Chinese houses are not filled with Indian products but ours are with their goods. Find out why and then do something about it instead of breaking and burning what you have already paid for.

Because there is a reason why we can’t declare an immediate economic trade war against China — India’s best selling smartphones are Xiaomi, Vivo, Realme and Oppo, all from China. They dominate 60 per cent of our smartphone market. In fact, between 2017-2018, about 60 per cent of India’s electrical and electronic equipment requirements were met by China. Around $4 billion has been invested by Chinese tech investment in Indian startups. 

Moreover, Chinese business magnate Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group has strategic investments worth millions in Big Basket, Zomato, Paytm, Paytm Mall, and SnapDeal among others. Just last week on 12 June, Shanghai Tunnel Engineering Co, a Chinese multinational firm, bagged a contract of Rs 1,126 crore under India’s Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) project.

Hence, RWA patriots and those thumping their chests by destroying household goods may take a moment to see how it doesn’t affect China at all. The uncles, as well as the young nationalists on social media inciting people to boycott China and its products, need to wake up and see their efforts are an ineffective balm to nurse their grudge. They need to do something constructive such as ‘make in India’, instead of ‘break in India’.

Views are personal.