When Social media becomes Antisocial!

For the uninitiated, Sudha Raghunathan is an accomplished Carnatic vocalist from Chennai. She is a Sangeeta Kalanidhi – a revered title awarded by the Madras Music Academy. She is a Kalaimamani – an award given by the State government of Tamil Nadu to illustrious artists. She is a Padma Shri. She is also a Padma Bhushan. She has been one of the leading Carnatic vocalists of the country.  And has been in the fore front of spreading this art form world over, for decades now.

All these don’t seem to matter anymore. If you go by what you see on Social media these days! In the past few days, Social media has been flooded with posts and forwards, all centred on the upcoming marriage of Sudha Raghunathan’s daughter to a Christian. It all started with the appearance of the marriage invitation card on Facebook and Twitter which then found its way to myriad WhatsApp groups!

For the conservative South Indian society in general and for followers of Carnatic music in particular, it is as if the earth quaked! “How can the daughter of the venerable Sudha Raghunathan marry a Christian?” was the initial reaction. What started as a general lament on the affairs of the youth these days (of studying abroad and marrying out of community and religion) soon turned into a barrage of vitriol and bile targeted at the singer.

One may recall that few months ago, a few Carnatic vocal singers were caught in a controversy over singing songs on Jesus set in Carnatic ragas.  Singers like O.S. Arun, Nithyashree Mahadevan and few others were targeted for agreeing to sing Carnatic music based songs on Jesus and participating in Christian events. There was a loud call for a ban on these artists and finally the controversy blew over when the concerned artists clarified that they are not going to participate in such events. The issue was also attributed to the Church’ larger design of promoting Christianity by appropriating native culture. Conservative and orthodox followers of Carnatic music hadn’t forgotten that story or forgiven those artists, when this issue of Sudha Raghunathan surfaced now.

In Social media, attempts have been made to explain this as a part of the larger “Missionary project” of evangelisation. In line with this presumption, a fake narrative was also propagated that Sudha Raghunathan and family were getting converted to Christianity religion to facilitate this marriage.

While the news of the marriage along with the invite went viral, there was another audio clip which went viral too! This was of a telephone conversation between Raghunathan (Sudha’s husband) and one Ramanathan belonging to the Rashtriya Sanadhana Seva Sangham. Some have mistaken it for the RSS but this organisation has got nothing to do with the RSS.  In the course of the call, Ramanathan almost questions Raghunathan as to why they are letting the marriage happen. In the entire call, Raghunathan is almost apologetic and tries to explain the situation around the fake news of them converting into Christianity and so on. The height of absurdity is that along with the audio clip, the phone numbers of both Raghunathan and Ramanathan were circulated as well!  This is the same Ramanathan who had called O.S. Arun during the earlier controversy, bullied him over phone, recorded the phone conversation and put it out on social media!  Raghunathan is also heard as saying he has been in the receiving end of many such calls in the past few days!

The matter didn’t end here. Another picture of Sudha Raghunathan and her family ostensibly clicked in some wedding reception started doing the rounds with a caption –“National Integration, Unity in Diversity”. The claim was that, Sudha’s son had married a Muslim before and now her daughter is marrying a Christian! This was again a fake narrative and even if it was true, how did it matter?

In Social media, many were of the opinion and rightfully so, that this was purely a personal matter and not of concern to the music lovers. It is good to see that for every nasty comment, there are equal and opposite comments condemning extreme reactions to the wedding news. However, the virulent reactions of many, including that of calling for a boycott of Sudha Raghunathan, the Carnatic exponent, exposed the faultlines that exist today in our society.

The whole episode raises a few serious questions and concerns.

  • That a public figure and a respected artist is just turned into a much hated figure over night by guardians of culture and religion just because the public figure or his/her family member exercised his/her personal freedom.
  • That any self-proclaimed protector of the Hindu religion can call and bully a public figure over a matter of personal choice!
  • That such calls can be recorded and put out on public domain without an iota of concern or respect over individual’s privacy!
  • That an artist’s credentials can be buried overnight and his/her career stunted over issues not concerning the art form!

It’s high time we as a society realise that it is none of our business to comment or express concern on purely a personal matter involving any public figure.

When Social media arrived in the scene we all rejoiced at the empowerment it gave to all those who wanted to express themselves.  Narrative building was no longer the privilege of a few or so we thought.  However, in the recent times, we have been witness to the ugly face of social media more often than not. This incident involving Sudha Raghunathan and her family is an example of how Social media becomes Antisocial!

One of the most popular renditions of Sudha Raghunathan is the song “Brahmam Okate…”! This song is one of the best compositions of Saint Annamacharya in which he describes the universal truth of Oneness! It’s time we as a society understand the profound meaning of the lines of this song and spare the likes of Sudha Raghunathan, this hate on what is clearly a non-issue!

Image courtesy: Milapfest

0 thoughts on “When Social media becomes Antisocial!”

  1. Thiagarajan Amirthalingam

    Rightly blogged, RSA.
    It is happening not only today, not only for Sudha but for many and happening for long time since Media got hold of technogies like Internet, Satellite TV, Social Networking, etc. There is no discipline in broadcasting or telecasting and Media find numerous ways of making money, one such is exploring, exploiting an individual’s personal life whether she or he is a celebrity or a common human.
    All these things happening because of lack of brotherhood attitude among human beings, not considering the fellow citizen as one’s self or oneness, rather.
    Certainly Media has Social responsibility and it failed to keep it up and has become irresponsible. An its really shame on a developing Nation that it has not only ant-docial elements like terrorism but antisocial media also which kills human minds by spreading unnecessary, unethical news. I don’t know, in what way such inter religious marriages affect the society and on what authority Media comment on the same. One side a lot of voluntary organizations are taking much pain and efforts to created awareness about oneness amoung people and other side such efforts are destroyed by the Media.
    Really disgusting.
    God only can save this Nation and its Social Media.

  2. Well written RASA. !!

    Social media has become a curse now . It us none of the business for the so called Hindu outfits to worry about what an individual would like to do. Hinduism does not propagate such behaviour. I feel terribly sad for Smt.Sudha and family for this kind of treatment in the social media. Appreciate her for restraining patience despite news being circulated .

  3. Balaganesan K

    Dear RSA,

    Very relevant questions and very relevant interpretations.. Nicely articulated.

    I remember KB’s dialogue in புது புது அர்த்தங்கள்.. – பிரபலம்னாலே ப்ராப்ளம்தான்..

    Because it is a proclaimed and accomplished artist like Sudha, there is limelight.. it is just a part..

    The SM rattling is also because of Religious Activism of Minorities.. nothing to do with Sudha.. or her status..

  4. Sad indeed. What modern are we if we are still bothered and shaken by religion and faith issues. Who ever one marries maybe within the caste or outside the caste is their problem. They are not kids and would have thought about this many times and then decided to take the plunge then who are we or the society to judge them. India is still backward when it comes to such matters and God alone knows when would we ever come out of this!

  5. Faith and marriages are based on personal preferences and social media has no right to become a judge to invade personal decisions or preferences. Music and for that matter culture is different from faith and religion and both should not be mixed.

  6. R Muralitharan

    Purely it is individual choice, when the parents agreeing or disagreeing it is none of our business. Being an celebrity does not make them to lose their respect, personal freedom, life choices, let the antisocial media goons understand this. When their Bros/ sist hiers daughters make their life choices like this, they simply show all their ugly teeth n justify their stand making Brahmin community vulnerable in front of others. Idhu oru echa polappu

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