What are the odds that the now infamous bigot, Pandit Amit Shukla, does not exist,or if he does, is a paid lackey of Zomato ? What are the chances that this ‘smart’ defence of a Muslim delivery boy serving a Hindu customer ,while working for a Secular Company , is just a big promotional strategy ?
If so, the strategy has succeeded magnificently . And if this is true , Zomato has played with fire by hatching a conspiracy against the delicate social fabric of this country. In one stroke, they have pocketed all pseudo-seculars ,impressed all minorities and appealed to all fair-minded ,law-abiding, compassionate and tolerant people of India . They trended for a whole day ( are still doing so ) and hogged a lot of free mainstream and social media publicity in the pre-Eid-ul-Zuha and Rakhi season.
“Food has no religion. Food is the religion.” This response found millions of takers and a plethora of certificates and encomiums came their way. After yesterday, Zomato is not just another food aggregator (as it painstakingly pointed out ), but is a Company run on secular ethics. Even the halaal-jhatka meat accusation that was directed their way once they started trending could not hurt them much. It was a case of far-Right looney counter-attack in any case. “Take it up with restaurants, we just collect and deliver food.” How does one argue with that ?
Make no mistake , the race to deliver food is becoming cut throat . Compared to 600 million monthly food delivery orders in China, India orders about 75-80 million per month, most of it shared evenly between Swiggy and Zomato. UberEats is a welcome new addition to the mix and gaining fast in popularity. HSBC valued ZOmato at USD 3.6 billion in March as compared with Swiggy at USD 3.3 billion. These companies still lose about Rs 25-30 for every food delivery order, down from Rs 50 last year. The market is nascent and has a huge growth potential. Its about building up your brand and gaining access to customers. UberEats India was in serious talks with Swiggy, but the deal didn’t go through. Amazon seems to be quite interested now . This controversy has erupted at just the right time, and taken ZOmato to every dining room in the country. Possessing social conscience provides you with the next level of publicity, and they have scored one over Swiggy this time.
But in the process, they have also categorised Hindus as narrow-minded , orthodox sectarians ,some or many of whom ‘might’ harbour such whims and fancies with regards to their food. Everyone is aware of the kind of discrimination which is practiced in Mid-day meal kitchens and dining spaces. Till not long back, maids and servants were not allowed in kitchens at homes of so-called upper castes. I read about how Bal Gangadhar Tilak brought his cooks with him to maintain ritual purity when he visited Calcutta from Poona in the last century although he was being hosted by city’s grandees. The incident exposes our scarcely-kept secret and although it has been sold off as a Hindu Versus Muslim issue, it actually betrays the Brahminical obsession to avoid getting polluted by the touch of an outsider ( lower caste, non-Hindus, menstruating women).
But it must alo be pointed out that the concerned twitter handle doesn’t leave anything to chance. Shuklas are Pandits , the most orthodox among the so-called upper castes. To reinforce the insinuation, the title of Pandit is affixed . One cannot remain in doubt after reading the tweet and the title that the perpetrator is an Upper Caste Hindu Male Brahmin , who is liable to practice untouchability, especially during the holy month of Shravan.
The message is simple. It is the Upper Caste Hindu Males, who are practising not just the ‘apartheid of touch’ , but also communalising the atmosphere of the country. As Article 15 (the film) does, they need to be called out on their bigotry, and destroyed anyhow. Discrimination of every kind must be exposed and fought, but I don’t see how an entire class can be painted in the same colour.
Suspicions arise from the manner in which Zomato reacted to the matter.They seemed rather well-prepared for it. Businesses are known to steep lower to achieve their narrow ends . Police must locate this fellow, Pandit Amit Shukla, and book him for inciting communal feelings. This might clear a bit of air . In the meantime, one must not fall into any kind of a looney trap by defending either the tweet or the tweeter, both of whom are disgusting.