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‘Nonsense Club’ wants awards so that it can return them


Chandigarh: At a time when there is a nationwide controversy over intolerance and return of awards by writers, theatre and film personalities, Chandigarh’s ‘Nonsense Club’ on Wednesday put up a unique demand to the government seeking awards for itself so that it could return them sometime later.

The satire by ‘Nonsense Club’ members led by Savita Bhatti, wife of late comedian-actor Jaspal Bhatti, was enacted at Chandigarh’s Sector 17 plaza in front of scores of people on Wednesday.

“When the spotlight is on writers and filmmakers returning their prestigious awards as a mark of protest against the rising religious intolerance in the country, we have demanded from the government that some award should be given to us so that we can also return it,” Savita Bhatti told IANS.

“As an artist, I cannot join the protest as I haven’t got any award. I request the union and state governments to honour me and my fellow Nonsense Club members Vinod Sharma, Lally Gill and Gurtej Tej with a ‘surrenderable’ awards so that they could return it at the earliest,” she said.

“As artists working for the last 30 years in this field, we have nothing that we can return symbolically as a voice of protest. We are feeling left out,” she said.

On the occasion, club members sang tearfully: “Jaane who kaise log they jinko, award pe award miley, Humne jab perform kiya, hum pe to zamana hasa.”

“Since the issuing of ‘surrenderable’ awards is a ‘sarkari’ process, it will take time. Till then, the club members have decided to surrender their fundamental rights as a protest against the deteriorating religious and social infrastructure of the country.

“We want the government to issue awards to all artists who complete 20 years of work on similar lines of issuing pension to its employees,” Bhatti said.


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Curb Racism And Semitic Intolerance In The U.S: UN Human Rights Expert

She also urged governments to work with the private sector — specifically technology companies — to fight such prejudices in the digital space.

Pittsburgh, Hate, shooting
Monks pay their respects at a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue following Saturday's shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, Penn. VOA

Following the shooting deaths of 11 worshippers at a synagogue in the eastern United States, a U.N. human rights expert urged governments on Monday to do more to curb racist and anti-Semitic intolerance, especially online.

“That event should be a catalyst for urgent action against hate crimes, but also a reminder to fight harder against the current climate of intolerance that has made racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic attitudes and beliefs more acceptable,” U.N. Special Rapporteur Tendayi Achiume said of Saturday’s attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Achiume, whose mandate is the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, noted in her annual report that “Jews remain especially vulnerable to anti-Semitic attacks online.”

A mother and her child arrive to place flowers at a spontaneous memorial of flowers and sidewalk writing a block from the Tree of Life Synagogue. VOA

She said that Nazi and neo-Nazi groups exploit the internet to spread and incite hate because it is “largely unregulated, decentralized, cheap” and anonymous.

Achiume, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, said neo-Nazi groups are increasingly relying on the internet and social media platforms to recruit new members.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are among their favorites.

Tree of Life Synagogue, racist
A person pauses in front of Stars of David with the names of those killed in a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, in Pittsburgh. VOA

On Facebook, for example, hate groups connect with sympathetic supporters and use the platform to recruit new members, organize events and raise money for their activities. YouTube, which has over 1.5 billion viewers each month, is another critical communications tool for propaganda videos and even neo-Nazi music videos. On Twitter, according to one 2012 study cited in the special rapporteur’s report, the presence of white nationalist movements on that platform has increased by more than 600 percent.

The special rapporteur noted that while digital technology has become an integral and positive part of most people’s lives, “these developments have also aided the spread of hateful movements.”

She said in the past year, platforms including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have banned individual users who have contributed to hate movements or threatened violence, but ensuring the removal of racist content online remains difficult.

The Tree of Life Synagogue, racist
One man pays his respect in front of a Star of David memorial for one of the 11 victims killed in the Oct. 27, 2018, synagogue shooting. VOA

Some hate groups try to get around raising red flags by using racially coded messaging, which makes it harder for social media platforms to recognize their hate speech and shut down their presence.

Achiume cited as an example the use of a cartoon character “Pepe the Frog,” which was appropriated by members of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups and was widely displayed during a white supremacist rally in the southern U.S. city of Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

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The special rapporteur welcomed actions in several states to counter intolerance online, but cautioned it must not be used as a pretext for censorship and other abuses. She also urged governments to work with the private sector — specifically technology companies — to fight such prejudices in the digital space. (VOA)