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India: Youth Slaps Minister Over Price Rise and Corruption

On 24 November, 2011, India's Agriculture Minister, Mr. Sharad Pawar, was slapped on the face by a youth as he was leaving a government building. The youth, Harvinder Singh, was apparently fed up of the growing inflation, corruption and graft cases in the country and decided to hit out at the Union Minister in protest. Incidentally, Mr. Sharad Pawar is the President of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a breakaway faction of the Indian National Congress. He is also the current President of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

The Indian Government and the political fraternity have strongly condemned the attack on the veteran politician and minister. However, there was mixed reaction among ordinary citizens to the incident and it was reflected in the opinions expressed on social media. Netizens spoke out via blogs, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Sharad Pawar, Image courtesy Wikipedia

There were some who denounced the action, saying that getting violent and expressing grudge against politicians in this manner was not the civil way of protesting and would achieve no positive result.

@mnidhi90:I strongly condemn this attack on Sharad Pawar. After all he is a union cabinet minister. This expression of protest is totally unaccepted.

@prasoonkmr1: Well…I am not a supporter of Sharad Pawar….but any form of violence is ethically unacceptable…!!!

@Amvarsh: Slapping Sharad pawar is not gonna solve problems.

@aneesinha: Slapping Sharad Pawar is not a solution, hold this anger n show it during elections n vote the right people n use the rights in better way.

@Naren_reddy23: Whatever it is, slapping ex def minister Sharad Pawar is a mad thing to do. Protest some other way. Tom he might even slap president or pm.

However, others saw this act as a common man's rising anger against politicians – given the rising cost of day-to-day living and the stories of scams, corruption and lack of accountability among politicians holding public office. There were also questions about the government's political will regarding the formulation of a strong Lokpal Bill, the proposed anti-corruption bill to reign in the pervasive corruption in public life.

It seemed significant that the Agriculture Minister was targeted, given the continuous price rise of food and other essentials, while on the other hand farmers continued to commit suicide, burdened under debt and poor returns. Perhaps, it was a combination of all these factors that led to an overwhelming resonance and public support for Harvinder Singh's actions, on social media.

@kenylalan: @BDUTT Almost everyone on twitter and FB has welcomed this attack on Sharad Pawar. What's happening??

@rokul59: Is there any doubt that slapping of Sharad pawar reppresents frustration and deep anger among youth of India against corrupt? #akparivartan

@rajshrestha75: Sharad Pawar slapped! Violence isn't appreciated but see what the big picture means! Good morning Indian Politicians!

@ishwetatiwari: Wow “Somebody slapped corruption on the face”. Listen to Anna Hazare now & pass the janlokpal. #janlokpal

@realsachin007: Every Indian shud follow hurvinder Singh's act against sharad pawar.. All politicians deserves it.. Heads off to ur courage bro..

@AjitVirk: Sharad Pawar deserves this CHANTA (slap),he is mainly responsible for suicide of farmers and this MEHNGAYEE (rising cost of living).

In a video posted on YouTube, 2WardsABetterIndia shares his views regarding the incident. He feels that this should be a ‘wake up call to the Indian government’ to assuage the growing public anger.

Soon enough, the incident drew the ire of the NCP party supporters who went on a rampage in Maharashtra – the party's stronghold.  There was also some attempt to give a communal colour to the incident. Citizens reacted strongly to these developments.

On his blog The Common Man Speaks, blogger Keyur Seta wrote:

The incident would have not gained this much attention if the NCP party-workers hadn’t reacted in this manner. By damaging public property (setting tyres ablaze, breaking shops, etc) and doing rasta-roko, they have made the incident more famous. In other words, the party-men made sure Pawar’s humiliation became a much bigger one than it was intended to be.

Blogger Pooja Mahimkar at Sernedipity commented:

So Sharad Pawar got slapped by a common man Harvinder Singh. And NCP blows it out of the hand by creating riots and bands all over Mumbai, Pune and Satara.. I mean really? How is that going to help anyway? By doing all this you are basically piling on to the miseries and problems of the common man, exactly the reason why Harvinder slapped Sharad Pawar. And honestly does this even justify anything? I mean millions of people get slapped everyday if we start doing riots and strikes… you can imagine what kind of dangerous world it will be then. Now you might say that Sharad Pawar is a big political personality and everything which is why this becomes national news, to which I would only ask you one question.. “Really???? “ I mean name me one thing he did that was good and beneficial for our country.

Tweets came in, fast and furious, denouncing the retaliatory action by Sharad Pawar's party workers. Some tweeters also uploaded images of the rampage.

@raunakn_09: #NCP protesters torch Pune-Mumbai Expressway;both sides blocked!Police just watching.. #Pawar #HarvinderSingh #LivePic pic.twitter.com/eeqEMosk

@fR0DDY: Entire Navi Mumbai is closed. All shops and malls. Thanks to Sharad Pawar led NCP. Avoid travelling if you can. #navimumbai

jhunjhunwala: NCP has called for a bandh in Pune. No bandh for inflation,black money,corruption or Farmer suicides but 1 slap & a shitstorm

@primary_red: Attacking Sikhs in Mumbai because some lunatic slapped Mr Pawar in Delhi is asinine. Identity politics makes us truly stupid. Weep, India

@ayushmannk: Harvinder Singh didnt slap Pawar as a representative of Sikhs. He's a common man with a common grievance. Stop giving it a communal twist!

In another video, 2WardsABetterIndia urged fellow citizens not to give a communal colour to this incident and see it for what it is, a common citizen venting his anger at the political establishment. You can watch the video here.

The mainstream media has also received some flak for what some people see as giving too much (undue) importance to the incident, especially by showing it time and again on the TV channels.

@aanandkharde: Sharad Pawar was slapped once by a man. But, how many times did the media slap him by repeatedly telecasting the footage?

@jithinyujin: Sharad Pawar was slapped once. TV Channels show it again & again & again. That's like slapping him 1000 times!!

@anilkohli54: Sharad Pawar is an experienced politician he will take this slap in his stride as an occupational hazard media shud not over hype the issue.

@ashokepandit: While I condemn attack on Sharad Pawar, I request the media not to play that visual of his attack as it will create unrest.

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