India-Pak Tug Of (Ad)War Heats Up Ahead Of Manchester Clash

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SRINAGAR — India and Pakistan returned from the brink and billion plus had a sigh of relief. Though the real war was avoided a virtual war continues unabated. Unpaid armies from both sides of the border spew venom against each other and try to outwit other in the labyrinths of cyberspace.

Facebook threads of full of hate posts and venomous tweets are hurled at each other with impunity. As it’s free for all on the cyberspace with no regulation like in the established media, things seem to be getting only worse.

Anugyan Nag, a media professor at Jamia Milla Islamia said, “The internet is an open and free space and allows one to post whatever they want. In that sense, it is an enabling space. But it is the same space that allows trolls, objectionable photos and content about people to be put up.” He further added, “The danger of social media lies in its virality. Within minutes, something can spiral into something entirely different and blown out of proportion, having a snowball effect. As more and more people gain access to content online, it allows for more and more versions. This open ended nature of social media content gives birth to hate-mongering.”

Hate sometimes is camouflaged in funny memes. There is an exchange of memes from both sides of the border, most of which convey the internalized hate for the other country in a lighter and funnier vein. Indo-Pak meme-war is going on almost all the time. Regardless of how the governments deal with the issues between the two countries on the policy level, memes have always brought about a fresh and new way of dealing with them.

The cyber war has intensified in the run up to the much-awaited World Cup tie between the arch rivals being played in England on Sunday.

A Pakistani channel Jazz TV’s released an advertisement ahead of the clash and many in India are questioning whether this was going too far.

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The spoof, which received a lot of flak on social media showcases Wing Commander Abhinandan being interrogated by the Pakistani intelligence. To each question about cricket, he mimics what Abhinandan had said in a viral video then released by Pakistan, “I’m sorry, I am not supposed to tell you this”, except the last question asking howz the tea, “Tea is fantastic,” he says.

Further in the ad, when the impersonator gets up to leave after being questioned, the interrogator pulls him back and says, “Ek second ruko! Cup kahan leke ja raho ho? (Wait a second! Where are you taking the cup?),” – a pun on the World Cup trophy.

Sunday’s match between the arch rivals is guaranteed to put the two nations to a standstill, it is widely believed.

Fans from both sides are in a frenzy without the need for such advertisements. In a reaction to the Jazz TV’s spoof of Wing Commander Abhinandan, Indian tennis star married to a Pakistani cricketer, Sania Mirza tweeted, “Cringeworthy ads on both sides of the border seriously guys, you don’t need to ‘hype up’ or market the match anymore specially with rubbish! it has ENOUGH attention already! It’s only cricket for God sake, and if you think it’s anymore than that then get a grip or get a life !!”

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This is not all. Another ad, this time by India, was released by Star Sports, the broadcast rights holder for India with a conversation between Pakistan and Bangladesh about the spirit of perseverance. The ad, released a week before the match, garnered over 1.7 million YouTube views within a day. Jazz TV had released its ad 3 days after this ad, on the 12th, four days before the match.

“The advertisement is in very poor taste. A spoof on who is the real father is simply a slur on women,” said Julie Thekkudan, a gender expert from Oxfam India, an NGO dealing with gender based issues. The ad showcases a young man with “Pakistan” written on his T-shirt, explaining the art of perseverance to another young man with the words “Bangladesh” on his T-shirt. As he is telling Bangladesh, “Mere abbu ye kaha karte the,” a man wearing a blue jersey enters and assumes the role of the father of Pakistan. The ad has a father day angle to it because Father’s day is coinciding with the Indo-Pak match.

Decoding the controversial Mauka Mauka ad Prof. Farhat Basir Khan, a visual media politics expert said, “Advertising professionals are first and foremost storytellers and they have to establish their storyline in under a minute, which leads them to use images from popular culture, lived memories, familiar situations and play on historic events. While the spirit of mauka mauka has always pushed boundaries in previous seasons too there have been gaffes but nobody has ever crossed these limits of politicizing an issue or making a mockery of the honour and dignity of a serving soldier and one who has survived enemy captivity with such dignity and stoicism.”

Despite the enabling space that the internet has been for providing a creative outlet to people, to promote hate between two countries for the sake of viewership might be too harsh.

Shailja Bajpai, a senior journalist with The Print and social media analyst said, “The constructive aspect of the internet between India and Pakistan is long gone. The two promos that came out depict not just the rivalry in cricket, but also a general rivalry between the two nations. Ads and promos always reflect the time and culture they’re in”. She further added: “They are a capitalist venture who have played on the already existing hatred between the two countries to get viewership. There’s no conspiracy, nothing more to it. The ad about India being the father of Pakistan is half true and half in jest, we shouldn’t read too much into it.”

When we have these aggressive and disturbing ads at our disposal, who needs guns to fight?


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