In our polarised times, #TukdeTukdeGang is at war with #NorthKoreanMedia. Where’s the pop-corn?
Catchphrases are powerful, they can evoke a lot of emotion and meaning at the same time. They also help with sweeping generalisations.
You’ll see this phrase all over social media: ‘Tukde Tukde Gang’. Often with a hashtag. It is used to club together all Left-liberals as anti-nationals who want India literally broken up in pieces. It’s a useful shorthand.
Justice for the Kathua victim? Tukde Tukde Gang.
Those opposing death penalty for child rapists? Tukde Tukde Gang.
Justice for Gauri Lankesh? Tukde Tukde Gang.
The fluid in Holi balloons thrown at women students didn’t turn out to be semen? Tukde Tukde Gang.
Was judge Loya murdered? Tukde Tukde Gang.
Naxalites killed in an encounter? Must be a sad day for the Tukde Tukde Gang.
Soldiers martyred in Kashmir? Celebration time for the Tukde Tukde Gang.
Nine people left dead in protest against the dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act? The Tukde Tukde Gang at work, of course.
Untimely rain destroying crops? Must be a conspiracy of the Tukde Tukde Gang.
Who is this Tukde Tukde Gang? Who are its leaders, members?
The details are vague, but we know that activist Shehla Rashid and Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, a Dalit leader, are among those leading it.
The nation wants to crow
The ‘Tukde Tukde Gang’ label owes its origins to Arnab Goswami and his ‘news’ channel, Republic. A lot of people seem to be unaware of this, despite the TRP numbers that suggest half the universe watches Republic World.
In January this year, Arnab Goswami decided to remind viewers of the golden moment of his journalism career, when he had taken on the likes of Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid two years ago.
In his excitement, he even got the date wrong. He said it was January 2016. In fact, it was February 2016. To be precise, 9 February 2016, the third anniversary of the hanging of Afzal Guru.
There are those who feel Afzal Guru had been unfairly charged and not given a last chance to save his life. Those who feel this way may be a handful of leftists in Delhi, and this position by no means endorses the Parliament attack of 2001 he was convicted for abetting. Neither does it amount to supporting Kashmiri separatism or Pakistani terrorist groups.
On 9 February 2016, some JNU students (former members of the Democratic Students Union or DSU) had organised a protest against the hanging of Afzal Guru. This protest was an annual affair, and the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, student wing of the RSS, was prepared to counter it in advance.
Since Afzal Guru was a Kashmiri, radical Kashmiri youth had reached the event, just like they land up at any Kashmir-related event in Delhi. Most of them were students, but they were not affiliated to JNU.
The Kashmiris and the ABVP activists provoked each other. The Kashmiris shouted pro-azadi slogans, and the ABPVP activists shouted slogans about Kashmir being an integral part of India.
Amongst the slogans the Kashmiri students shouted was perhaps one about India breaking into pieces — Bharat ke tukde. Eyewitness accounts said that the three organisers of the event — Khalid, Banojyotsna Lahiri and Aswathi — had tried to make the Kashmiri students stop with these slogans.
Fake news operation
The Delhi Police and some news TV cameras were present in advance, as the ABVP had decided to make an issue out of it. It wasn’t eyewitness accounts but videos that became proof of what had happened. The videos, that later turned out to be doctored, showed Khalid and JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar and others chant anti-India slogans demanding azadi for Kashmir and promising to break India into pieces.
Khalid and Kumar were arrested, but curiously, the Delhi Police, ABVP and news channels including Times Now, then led by Goswami, never asked about those Kashmiri students. The Kashmiri students were asked to lie low, because arresting them could have raised tensions in Kashmir. This would have adversely affected the BJP-PDP alliance in Jammu and Kashmir.
The “JNU nationalism row”, as it came to be known, was an out-and-out fake news operation with the joint collaboration of ABVP, news channels like Zee News and the Delhi Police, which picked up people on the basis of doctored videos.
The incident helped paint JNU in particular and left-liberals in general as anti-national. In the history of fake news in India, ‘Tukde Tukde Gang’ is the ultimate fake news.
All of this came out back then — Kanhaiya Kumar returned to JNU from jail to a hero’s welcome. The police has found no evidence against him. But two years later, Arnab Goswami has revived the fake controversy with ‘Tukde Tukde Gang’. That is the power of catchphrases and hashtags.
Una to North Korea
Five months after the JNU fracas, Dalits in Gujarat’s Una were flogged for doing their caste occupation of skinning dead cows. In reality, it was to drive them out and grab the village land. Dalits in Gujarat protested against this for weeks. The protest threw up a new national face for the Dalit movement, Jignesh Mevani.
In reviving the JNU nationalism row, Arnab Goswami has somehow made Jignesh Mevani a lynchpin of the ‘Tukde Tukde Gang’, even though news TV had not heard of Mevani when the JNU incident happened in February 2016.
If Arnab Goswami knows the art of reductive phraseology to caricature people he doesn’t like, the trick can easily be used by others too. In an NDTV interview in June 2017, Shourie described a section of the media as the “North Korean media”. The phrase has stuck; you see it often on social media.
In our polarised times, #TukdeTukdeGang is at war with #NorthKoreanMedia. Where’s the popcorn?