March 6, 2021 9:30 pm

Meme-o-cracy and Citizen Diplomacy 

By Dania Sheikh

WHILE Indian and Pakistani forces were engaged at the LOC and the diplomats of both the countries were embroiled in a verbal spat at the UNHCR, the citizens of both the countries were laughing their hearts out over shared memes. The ‘twadda kutta Tommy, Sadda kutta kutta’ dialogue by Shehnaz Gill, an ex-big boss contestant and famous Punjabi singer has gone viral and received love and appreciation from across the border as well. Similarly, the ‘Pawri ho rahi hae’ meme by Pakistani content creator Dananeer became an instant hit and was trending in both Pakistan and India.

The original post by Dananeer from Pakistan, which turned into an internet sensation

Social media was inundated with the recreations of these dialogues. Even famous Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh joined the bandwagon and posted his version of ‘Pawri ho rahi hae’.

The people-to-people interaction between India and Pakistan has been halted time and again due to the hostility between the two countries. The Indian government banned Pakistani artists to work in Bollywood films post the Pulwama attack in February 2019 and Pakistan has also banned the screening of Bollywood films in their theatres and cinemas several times.

The viral post by Dananeer was adapted into this catchy score by India’s Yashraj Mukherjee which too got viral immediately 

However, the rampant integration of the world as a result of Globalisation defeats the purpose of these bans. The new Global networks of communication have made it possible for strangers from around the world to connect and interact and engage in conversations. In contemporary times, it has become a matter of a few seconds to gather information about anything that intrigues us.

The existence of social networking sites has made it possible for us to get a glimpse into the lives of people inhabiting different parts of the world. We are now more aware of the culture and traditions of different communities. Exposure to such information about the “other” has enabled us to dismiss the stereotypical notions about the other communities. Previously, the non-existence of this forum solidified our preconceived notions about the other communities. An absence of interaction bolsters the stereotypes about the other communities. Social media has played a huge role in exposing the artificially created binaries of us and them, it has facilitated in establishing amicable relations between countries.

As the world has become more globalized, cultural exchange is also advancing, state control is waning away. Countries might be at loggerheads with each other but citizens can have harmonious relations. People do not care where the memes,reels, tik toks, Tv shows, and movies are created as long as they are entertained. Citizen diplomacy has the potential of forging peaceful relations between nations and public opinion against hostility is necessary for any peace dialogue to proceed. Heads of states are compelled to take aggressive and tough measures against other countries because of public opinion, this is especially true for democracies where people’s mandate is supreme, and going against it would be political suicide.

The friendly exchange over social media is a testimony that people-to-people interaction and citizen diplomacy can play a huge role in mitigating the tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours and foster ties of friendship and peace.

People in Kashmir caught on the “pawri ho rahi hai” fever as well. RJ Nasir and senior photojournalist Javed Dar too, didn’t hold back

It is sad to see politicking over this long-standing conflict which has upended our lives and devastated millions of families, political parties are fuelling the conflict just to garner votes, many of these contemporary political parties with a massive mandate would lose their relevance if this issue is resolved.

The competition among political parties today revolves around who can arouse more hate for the people belonging to the other community, religion, or ethnicity, a solution to the conflict seems next to impossible considering the benefits its prevalence generates for those in power, they will covertly continue to thwart any peace process.

The state power today is not as overarching as it used to be in the years bygone, the unprecedented levels of globalisation have tamed the state control and authority, a democratic state cannot control what content people view, what music they listen to, or the stuff they read online. Thankfully, viewing content created in a country other than our own doesn’t amount to a seditious act as of yet and this offers some hope for a more tolerant world.

Views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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