Shobhaa De’s tweet fat shaming a policeman sparks weighty issues

Daulatram Jogawat, Madhya Pradesh policeman who was fat-shamed by author-columnist Shobhaa De on Twitter, is the most recent victim of emotional scarring


A file photo of author Shobhaa De. Photo: HT
A file photo of author Shobhaa De. Photo: HT

Emotional scarring is a dark phrase. But beneath the freedom to spew opinions that’s used like a right and rite on social media, what’s piling up is the debris of emotional hurts a society gathers through its choices. Emotional scarring of the kind inflamed by Twitter feeds has created a visible and visceral bonfire of human sensitivities (vanities too).

Daulatram Jogawat, the policeman from Madhya Pradesh’s Neemuch town who was fat-shamed by author-columnist Shobhaa De on Twitter on Wednesday, is the most recent victim of emotional scarring. De is only the trigger but Jogawat’s predicament is an inadvertent consequence of how we have defined freedoms on social media. Let’s not turn a blind eye to our collective love for fast-track moral outrage or the fact that tweets such as De’s snugly fit into the current chips of observation that are much “liked” on social media.

The unfortunately obese Jogawat is only another incidental casualty.

The biggest onus of insensitivity lies with the Mumbai Police who tweeted back saying that De’s pun was “misplaced” (she had said there was heavy police bandobast.) adding that “Uniform/official not ours”. Police is a state subject in governance but an Indian policeman is first that, an Indian policeman, whether he belongs to Madhya Pradesh or Goa. But instead of standing up for one of their own, the Mumbai Police just disowned Jogawat. De apologised and corrected herself but the Mumbai Police continue to sit smugly in assumed superiority of not being responsible for Jogawat.

Saving your own skin while others face the heat may be the rehearsed response of a society like ours, numb to disparity, but it is also exactly what social media fattens up as a tactic.

Since Jogawat has gone on record to some newspapers about his gall bladder surgery and the insulin imbalance that led to his weight gain, this issue opens itself to a bunch of other arguments. For one, it would hopefully alert all of us to the reality that even men who don’t model for a living are conscious of their body. Body-shaming is largely seen as a feminist and gender discrimination issue, symptomatic of the clichés that rule fashion and movie stars. But it is clearly a broader concern. It also damages people across class and gender who may never have perfect bodies nor read glamour magazines, yet slip into enormous stress agonizing over influences that filter down from the Twitteratti and the chatteratti.

The other bit is about social influence. As someone rightly said, would the Twitteratti or De herself make a similar comment about the weight issues of a powerful political leader or a leading industrialist? The police, who a majority of us treat with a toxic mix of dread and disdain, have been scarred by a number of not so respectful comments over the years. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal calling them thullas (thugs) to politicians such as Punjab minister Sikander Singh Maluka, who abused a policeman at a function in Bathinda in November during the PM’s visit to lay the foundation stone of an All India Institue of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) are two recent instances. Lack of respect for police is not an easy issue to debate and it will likely remain grey and gagged given the country’s embattlement with the law and order situation. But that shouldn’t stop us from reflecting yet again on what we really think of policemen.

Beyond all these urban and urbane body image and power issues lurk more fundamental questions. Do police officers have medical insurance? Where did Jogawat get his gall bladder operation done? Was he given post-operative dietary guidelines? How does he currently manage his insulin? Does he understand the attendant risks of stress-provoked diabetes? Occasionally we write stories about de-stressing yoga and meditation workshops for our drained and distressed police force. But we may know very little if any about the medical support that they get.

Jogawat’s statement to Hindustan Times: “If Madam (De) wants she can pay for my treatment...” points to the Indian problem of unequal healthcare.?

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