The internet is a powerful thing in the hands of a Hindutvavadi bully. That became clear once again on 6 August, when an online movement led by Hindu chauvinists forced a powerful Bollywood studio to remove scenes from an upcoming film that they suspected of pushing an “Islamic” agenda.
On 11 July, Reliance Entertainment released a trailer for Singham Returns, the sequel to Singham (2011), about the (violent) adventures of a proudly “Maratha” cop, Bajirao Singham. In the sequel—which also stars the actor Ajay Devgn—the eponymous hero has a new challenge to deal with, naturally. This is the issue of “black money,” a matter brought to national attention, incidentally, by the very Hindu yoga guru Ramdev.
Within days, the web was awash with loud outrage against what was claimed to be a motivated campaign by Bollywood to belittle the Hindu faith. To be sure, the Hindu right has been arm-twisting Bollywood into submission even before it discovered the internet. In 1995, for instance, Mani Ratnam had to screen Bombay, a Hindu–Muslim love story in the backdrop of the Mumbai riots, to the Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, who was widely believed to have presided over the riots, and make the cuts Thackeray demanded before submitting it to the censor board. (Thackeray demanded cuts of a different kind—he insisted that the character inspired by him should express no regret over the riots.)
Now there is even less to deter Hindutvavadis as they have a go at Bollywood with their enviable strength on social media and their skill with headlines and hashtags.
Leading the anti-Singham “movement across internet” were websites like hindujagruti.org and hinduexistence.org—the latter publishing one sharp commentary after another to “stir the Hindu mind in a warrior spirit.” Their main objections to the trailer: