If one takes time to see what is classified as a horror streaming mini-series on the Netflix, one will be surprised if not terrified that it is nothing but reality show depicting our present condition. It was released in August 2018 and is still relevant for us today. The show entitled as ‘ Ghoul ’ that recalls an Arab folklore monster. The web series under our scrutiny takes up issues like rising nationalism, Islamo-phobia and the myth of urban Naxals. The show is set in a dystopian future. The opening of the show informs the viewers that it is set in a near future in country which has been divided and destroyed by sectarian violence. In Goul’s nation ( Goul does not name its country) those who dissent with the Government are classified as traitors/ anti-nationals/ demons. Bold cow vigilantism, crack down on the intellectuals and, human rights defenders and activists as urban Naxals, as well as Corporate-Government nexus are daringly portrayed showing that the dystopian future that is being broadcasted in the web series is nothing but our dystopian present.
Terms like anti-nationals, urban Naxals are normalized by the TV studios and politicians belonging to the ruling party. This portrayal is very much true of our society. We have began living with demons. This engagement with the demonized other has disrupted the moral campus of our society. We seem to be inventing demons/ monsters/ anti-nationals on daily basis. We can also find films like Buddha in Traffic Jam that tried hard to picture intellectuals as urban Naxals. Our political discourse being, thus, contaminated, we are ready to accept the intellectuals and Dalit and tribal activists as naxals. We can see how we are discursively produced through a carefully crafted and constructed narrative. This narrative has a definite nationalist plot where the dissenters are pictured as traitors/demons/ monsters of the nation. Being subjected to this socially engineered narrative, we than give our consent to the arrest and imprisonment of people who are framed as Naxals, tukde, tukde gang, sedists etc. We can, therefore, clearly see that Ghoul presents a profound critique of the current regime depicting a dystopian India that is exceedingly familiar to us.
The immanent critique the flows from the web series that we are studying shows that it is an antidote to Bollywood movies like Parmanu, Gold, Satyamev Jayate , Raazi, Raid, Aiyaary, Kashmir files etc. Although, positioning itself as a fiction, Ghoul sets itself as a counter-discourse to kind of blind nationalism that has taken hold of the showbiz Industry today. Ghoul cleverly presents what goes on in a totalitarian police state and exposes how it is all rationalized through a rhetoric of nationalism. Ghoul, therefore , poses several uncomfortable questions to us. Though the country has never been named in the show , it becomes crystal clear that the entire dystopian saga is nothing but a portrayal of the present dark phase of our country. Indeed, Ghoul is a cautionary tale showing us where we might be headed in the coming days.
We seem to be living in a society that has codified and created an ambient fear. What has happened to Fr. Stan Swamy SJ seems to indicate that we are living at a time of monsters. The 83 year old frail saviour of the tribals was falsely charged of national treason. Hence was painted a demon. From what has now come to the public domain, it appears that he was a victim of a false indictment. It has come to public knowledge that all that was presented as evidence in the Court to arrest and jail Fr. Stan was planted by hackers who even knew when he would be raided and hence were trying to delete their footprints one before the raid. Arsenal Consulting , a digital forensics company has declared that evidence was planted through a malware called netwire. These findings seem to exhibit that we have entered a surveillance state and suggests that none of us are secure. The agency that has recklessly framed innocent persons like Fr. Stan has double task. On one side it has to find the hidden hackers who attacked the computer of Fr. Stan as well as come to bottom of the Bhima Koregaon violence.
We have the challenge to come to terms with the fact that someone powerful is preying on our national anxieties and popular imaginations. Besides, we have to resists with courage the fear that saturates our day to day living and silently prodding us on the path of violence. This is why may be Barrat Jodo Yatra is indeed timely. We have got used to live with specters or demons. These demons are none other than our very own. Maybe our belief in God is disrupted by this new found fondness of demons fueled and sustained by our nationalist rhetoric. This monsters or demons are scapegoated as bearers of social, religious, economic and political anxieties. Beating the demon often gives us a sense of an upright hegemon who then has to create his/her own being by nullifying the existence of the demonized other. This happens because the demonized other who is perceived a traitor/ anti-national monster. Thinking through the prism of the demons puts the political order that thinks that it is only the majority community that naturally belongs to India into question. Hence, we have compulsion that orders that all demons have to be expelled.
We have come to live our citizenship by making monsters or demons as a site of engagement. This is why innocent persons like Fr. Stan and others appear real demons and the enemies of the nation. This perception seems to render the monster as an exception and we readily and uncritically allow the suspension of the law. The demonized other is outside law. Therefore, the response to the monster can only be given outside the law. We naturally align ourself to a thinking that seems to think: the demons being outside law are to be dealt outside/without law. This is why violence or denial of basic rights under detention become acceptable as the force of the law outside law. We can see how mob leanching as well as denial of even a sipper for an ailing Fr. Stan become acceptable to us as a normal actions. The engagement with the demons has actually drawn the worst out of us. monstrosity has grown and blossomed within us. The force of law outside/ without the law seem to have become our weapon to fight the demons that are socially engineered and craftily let loose in our society. We are indeed already living a dystopia.