AK vs AK controversy: Indian Air Force should avoid Twitter war, its values are too strong to be shaken by a film clip
The IAF should not highlight inconsequential issues by responding needlessly. Activity on social media needs to be carefully executed because of its far-reaching impact
The official Twitter handle of the Indian Air Force (IAF) has asked a scene from a forthcoming movie to be removed as it depicts improper uniform and inappropriate language.
Come on! Certainly, the IAF has more important business at hand than searching for, watching, ruminating on, feeling insulted about and voicing its resentment about a video which is, perhaps, mildly funny and inconsequential. Is it that we are becoming too thin-skinned about an increasing number of issues? Is the IAF (at least its Twitter handle) becoming needlessly vulnerable to self-created anxieties and insecurities?
The organisational ethos, culture and values are too strong to be shaken by a movie clip. Granted that the uniform of the person depicting an IAF officer is improper and the dialogue is coarse. But how does that impact the image of the IAF? The IAF is an institution built by the blood and sweat of thousands of air warriors over eight decades. Its image for an Indian is immortalised by the record-breaking airlift to save Kashmir in 1948, the strike on Pakistani tank columns at Longewala in 1971, the laser-guided bomb strike on Tiger Hill in 1999 and more recently, an attack on a terrorist camp in Balakot on 26 February last year.
And the impeccable demeanour of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in Pakistani captivity after he shot down an F-16 and ejected from his MiG-21. For those stranded in floods in Uttrakhand or Kerala or Jammu and Kashmir, the IAF repeatedly appears with helicopters as godsent saviours. Will the faith of these Indians, ever grateful to the men and women in blue, ever be shaken by a clip in a movie? If that happens, then the IAF was never held on the high pedestal that it claims. Therefore, a movie clip can do no damage. Why worry about it?
The armed forces, like all other components of our society, find a place in Indian cinema. The characters in these stories borrow their flavour by observing society. And there are, not 50, but endless shades of grey, in each component of our society. While the depiction of a character may not factually and accurately represent the societal segment it depicts, it is the underlined theme and the message that the storyteller is trying to project. Look at that and enjoy the humour and entertainment.
Take dress and deportment aberrations in the depiction in your stride, for the IAF brand is too huge and too valuable. Do not demean it by starting a war on Twitter.
If videos or pictures could so easily "tarnish" the "image" of the armed forces, where does one draw the line? This is slippery ground and one can easily fall, or slide, or both. Why bother to tread on the slippery ground that is not even your path? The actor is playing a role. How can role offend? If that was the case, would the IAF then want a ban on all videos or movies which show uniformed personnel in a "bad" light?
Hollywood films involving of villains (A Few Good Men), imbeciles (Hot Shots) and many others number in the hundreds! We have had Hindi films showing army officers as villains (coincidentally, the Anil Kapoor-starrer Pukaar), and as buffoons (Hum in which, again, coincidentally, the actor was role-playing a senior army officer). There was no reaction from the army. So, what changed?
Is it that reactions of individuals precipitated a reaction from an organisation? Like a domino effect? In that case, organisations like the IAF should refuse to be a domino. It just does not behove. Is it that sheer access to social media has made people (and therefore organisations) more liable to react? A reaction is very different from a response. The former is more or less involuntary. The latter is more considered. It is wise to pause before deciding to respond to an event or a situation.
"People First, Mission Always", is the motto of the Indian Air Force. This simple line puts a high premium on the human resource of a technically-dominant military force. But what does this mean? This primacy of people in the force ensures that all air warriors are respected for their association with this organisation. Respecting individuals within and outside the organisation for their role is inherent in this motto. That allows freedom of expression.
The IAF should not highlight inconsequential issues by responding needlessly. Activity on social media needs to be carefully executed because of its far-reaching impact. The official twitter handle of IAF is for communicating with the masses about work, ethos and values of the IAF. Using it to comment on a movie clip is best avoided. In any case, the paths of the Indian film industry and the Indian Air Force should not have an intersection.
The authors are former fighter pilots of the Indian Air Force. Views are personal
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