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The subreddit’s scope is “making fun of people with minimal comprehension”

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However, what Kjellberg’s video, and most other videos like it, focus on the most is r/indianpeoplefacebook’s screenshots of South Asian men being sexually aggressive in online interactions with women.

For example, one of the most popular posts on the subreddit is a screenshot of a Facebook Messenger conversation in which a South Asian man asks a woman to “Send me ur vegana pic”; another popular post shows a Facebook conversation in which a man tells a woman he has “Anudeispedia”, a “rare disease” which requires him to see women naked or he will die—“you can’t find on google don’t search,” he says, and tacks on a “Just send bitch” at the end, for good measure.

What are the sleazy interactions?

Such content would not be out of place on other subreddits that spotlight sleazy interactions with women, such as r/CreepyPMs or r/nice guys. Posting these types of conversations on a subreddit named r/indianpeoplefacebook, however, has undertones of racism, implying that there is something inherently “Indian” about such behavior. The fact that many of the individuals who post and comment on this content are not South Asians only compounds this issue.

The moderators of r/indianpeoplefacebook themselves have attempted to address these problems. In a stickied post at the top of the subreddit from 10 months ago, they announced that they would be “tightening down on the type of content we allow because frankly looking at this sub can be horrifying at times and we want to change that”.

The post clarifies that contributors to the subreddit should seek to “laugh with the subject of the submission, not to laugh at them”, and that “We do not want to promote racist stereotypes.” The subreddit, the moderators remind people, is “not r/CreepyPMs or r/cringeanarchy”. They claim that those who post racist content will be temporarily blocked from contributing to the subreddit, with the worst offenders receiving permanent bans.

But despite this assurance, some of the rules of r/indianpeoplefacebook seem to curl in on themselves in contradiction. For example, one rule—titled “Racism is forbidden”—declares that “while the scope of this sub dictates that we are making fun of people with minimal comprehension of the English language and the resultant culture barriers, we don’t allow racial slurs or any other forms of discrimination”.

It’s hard to see how “making fun” of people struggling to deal with cultural barriers would be non-discriminatory.

‘Viral serendipity’

Many of r/indianpeoplefacebook’s posters seem unbothered by the brushes with racial prejudice that the subreddit may have.

A Reddit user named “Bhundcollector” has frequented the forum for around three years. Bhundcollector is of Pakistani descent, but, he said over messages, his heritage had little to do with his discovery of the subreddit—he was living abroad when his Syrian roommate first showed it to him.

When asked whether he believes the subreddit has a racism problem he declined, saying that overall, “being a strong opponent of PC [politically correct] culture I must say people need to chill”. He said he believes “Pakistanis and Indians do fit the sexually regressive stereotype prevalent in the sub for the most part, due to the inherent effects of cultural and socio-religious norms therein.”

What was the conversation?

Bhundcollector was, in fact, the person who first posted Rana’s “Friendship Ended With Mudasir” image to the forum. He did so after seeing the post on his Facebook feed; “I guess it was one of those ‘perfect storm’ moments when Reddit publicity is ripe for the taking,” he said. “A ‘viral serendipity’ of sorts.”

Although the image became extremely popular, garnering Bhundcollector lots of “karma” (Redditors aggregate points based on the number of “upvotes”—similar to Facebook’s “likes”—their posts and comments get) he believes it’s not a particularly funny meme at all.

He speculated that it became incredibly popular because “the goray [white people] aren’t really exposed to this type of thing on a daily basis”. He, on the other hand, said he sees “this kind of thing on shitty fringe/cringe desi meme pages all the time”.

 

How secure are India’s museums?

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Stegodon Ganesha, whose plaque simply reads “Animals that lived millions of years ago”, is one of 1,700 fossils in the Siwalik Gallery. The air is musty, punctuated by the scent of aging furniture. Walk into the colonnaded courtyard and the unmistakable whiff of bat guano hits your nostrils. Go out the main gate, and you’re hurtled from past to present by honking cars, the aroma of Kathi rolls and Kolkata’s mugginess.

Siwalik is one of 32 sections in the 30,000 sq. ft Indian Museum. “Jaguar” (house of magic), as the museum is locally called, isn’t just a custodian of antiquities. It watches, as quietly as Stegodon Ganesha, the shapeshifting world within and outside its walls.

At 204, this is India’s oldest museum. And also its most controversial.

A train of blue tarpaulin runs nonchalantly along its perimeter. For the vendors of Chowringhee who sell everything from jhalmuri to crockery to terracotta jewelry to T-shirts, Jadughar’s visitors matter more than its chequered history. A history that includes a Gupta-era sculpture heist in 1974.

A stolen Buddha bust in 2004. Allegations of pilfering and the display of fakes. A whistleblower missing for four years. “That case is sub judice and we can’t say anything. But we pray for his return,” says administrator Nita Sengupta about Sunil Upadhyay, the preservation officer who disappeared in 2014.

Here 28 years now, the woman in a crisp taant sari and the neat ponytail is no mood to hear ill of the Indian Museum, and neither are the three men accompanying her. As evening sets in, a game of factual ping-pong unfolds in the museum security office.

“Sunil had been offered Rs 90 lakh days before he disappeared,” I remember a museum worker telling me (requesting anonymity). “I suspect that more than half the originals in this museum have disappeared.”

Assumptions made

I wonder what Sengupta and the company make of this. More on that later.

On the face of it, Upadhyay’s case seems limited to rampant corruption. But look closer, and a common thread emerges, connecting seemingly disparate dots of mismanagement, artifact smuggling, and tedious repatriation.

That thread is security.

India has no official protocol regulating the security of our cultural heritage. When museums are woefully understaffed or have untrained guards, it’s a cakewalk for the mice, both within and outside, to come out and play.

The only official report quantifying the state of our museums is the 2013 audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). It’s still relevant because museologists will tell you little has changed in years since.

And if Indian Museum and Delhi’s National Museum (from where the famous General Niazi’s pistol was stolen in spite of being protected by the CISF and the naval guard) had it bad, what would you expect of the Nizam Museum?

Stealing the Nizam’s lunchbox

Mohammed Ghouse Pasha, 24, was a mason by profession and burglar by choice. So when his friend Mohammed Mubeen told him about a sitting duck in Purani Haveli, he couldn’t resist.

Located in Pathar Gatti, old Hyderabad, Purani Haveli once housed the Nizams. It is now home to the Nizam Museum, which has some 1,000 artifacts that belonged to Hyderabad’s last ruler, Mir Osman Ali Khan Asaf Jah VII.

It also had creaky, wooden ventilator grills, CCTV cameras that didn’t work, multiple entry points, and insufficient guards. None of this escaped the gaze of 23-year-old Mubeen, who’d stepped into the museum as a visitor.

A plan 40 days in the making bore fruit in the twilight of 3 September 2018: the wiry men broke in, forced open a wooden almirah and stole a solid gold, diamond-encrusted tiffin and a gold cup, saucer, and spoon. A gold-encased Quran was also on their list. They’d have had it too if they hadn’t been unnerved by a call for namaaz from a nearby mosque.

But there’s a difference between good and meticulous preparation.