The ethical duality of celebrity deprivation

There is nothing more morally dualistic than a refugee crisis as a consequence of terrorism, ethnic cleansing and regional instability.

Published: 27th May 2018 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th May 2018 06:38 PM   |  A+A-

Priyanka Chopra with displaced Rohingya children

Celebrities feed off tragedy as cause-promotion PR. Last week, two photographs of Hollywood immigrant Priyanka Chopra dominated social media. In one, she wore a ladies-who-lunch Vivienne Westwood lavender suit and a feathered Philip Treacy hat at the wedding of Prince Harry and her best friend Meghan Markle. The other photo op showed her smiling and chatting with displaced Rohingya children in a refugee camp, her head modestly covered as not to offend religious sentiments. The Baywatch actor tweeted her support to UNICEF: “In the second half of 2017, the world saw horrific images of ethnic cleansing from the Rakhine state of Myanmar. This violence drove nearly 7,00,000 Rohingya across the border into Bangladesh—60 percent are children!”

This week, Amnesty International reported that Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, an Islamic terror outfit fighting for an Islamic Rakhine state in Myanmar, committed genocide on 99 Hindu civilians. Most of them were children. They were killed execution style and their bodies were thrown into a mass grave in the Islamic State fashion. No celebrity has mourned them so far.

Every crisis has a binary identity. There is nothing more morally dualistic than a refugee crisis as a consequence of terrorism, ethnic cleansing and regional instability. It fires the neurons of binary politics in the Age of Nationalism versus Beleaguered Liberalism. The Rohingya Question is one among similar tragedies today that evoke international outrage, but also assume ethical duality. In September last year, corpses of 45 Hindu villagers were discovered in mass graves in the north of Rakhine state in Myanmar, sparking violence and causing an exodus of Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh and India. Many of them now live in Delhi, Hyderabad, Kashmir, West Bengal, and the Northeast. As pathetic photographs flooded the world media, the Rohingya refugee became a humanitarian cause celebre. However, the untold story is of Hindu refugees who have fled Myanmar from Islamist violence.

In Myanmar, Hindus are a minority. In Rakhine, there are just 9,791 Hindus in a population of two million. Of these, 8,000 have fled their homes and the remaining were forcibly converted into Islam by terrorists.
Indian security agencies see a credible terrorist threat from Rohingya refugees. Recently police unearthed a network of touts operating in Kolkata and Guwahati, which has been helping Rohingya infiltrators with fake Indian IDs, Aadhaar and PAN cards. The illegal settlers are supported by local Muslim organisations who prevent their questioning and subsequent deportation.

The sight of any child victim sends a subliminal message that questions the very future of mankind. The horrifying pictures and footage of dead or wounded kids in Syria and Gaza haunt the world’s conscience. But somewhere lost in the pages of that macabre album are faces of dead children from other faiths and countries. In Hindu majority India, it is often forgotten that Hindus are a persecuted minority in other countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Hollywood stars might want to spend a day with them, too, to gather some attention for their plight. Otherwise, cause-hungry celebrities are guilty of selective hypocrisy that smacks of publicity privation.

Ravi Shankar

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