It is truly disheartening to read the news that Shrey Bhargava has been questioned by the police over a Facebook posting he made last Saturday. It is also equally disconcerting that some have resorted to racist comments to attack him.
All this is in response to his social media post in which he decried having to do an audition for Ah Boys To Men where he was asked to act as a “full blown Indian man.”
You may agree or disagree with Shrey’s views of things or his account of what had allegedly transpired at the audition, and it is your right to do so.
But it is not your right to cast racial slurs at him, or to demean his person.
That is vile, and shameful, and unbecoming.
Now, there is someone – or perhaps some people – who have lodged police reports about his posting. That is all we know about the complaint filed with the police.
We do not know who filed the reports, or his reason for doing so.
As far as we can tell, there is nothing wrong in Shrey’s lament of his experience at the casting call. He is well within his right to speak his mind.
So, what is the police report all about?
To silence him?
To intimidate him?
Or was there really something so disagreeable, so terrible, so dangerous, that we need the police to step in and take a look?
Again, as far as we can tell, there is nothing of the sort in his post.
Often, we hear cries that our so-called “racial harmony” is just a façade, a superficial veneer held up by nationalistic songs and plastic smiling faces on posters around the neighbourhood and in school textbooks.
Yes, we scream out for something more authentic.
We sing songs declaring that we are “one people, one nation, one Singapore”, waving the state flag as adrenalin pumps through our veins, making us feel that yes, we are Singapore – regardless of race, language or religion.
But alas, some among us have skin so thin that mere words, even innocent ones expressing true feelings, are like sharpened knives, dangerous and evil and require force to remove, to put down.
We are unable to accept that the other person has the right to speak, just as we have the right to rebut – with our own words – when or if we disagree with him.
We are unable to move beyond being hurt by the slightest perceived provocation, preferring instead to give in to the ghost of fear at each turn, even as the shadows are nothing more than just imagination.
When, Singapore, will we learn to talk to each other, without resorting to the short-cut of cutting off dialogue?
When will we realise that putting up barricades does not build bridges but burn them instead?
When will we see everyone else as ourselves, no matter the colour of their skin, or the faith they adhere to?
But despair is not the solution, for the majority of us, I believe, are better people than those few who, in the words of our former minister, S Rajaratnam, are the hysterical minority prone to extreme conclusions because of irrational fear.
So, when some anonymous person or persons make a police report over such things, we should reject such behaviour and say so. There is no need to burden our police officers over such matters.
The only way for us to mature as a society is when we disagree – especially times when we do so vehemently – and yet be able to move past this and forge forward because the goal is better understanding, not silencing of the other.
The police, to its credit, seem to have taken the police report against Shrey in their stride. It is right for the police to speak to Shrey once such a report is made. But it is also within the police’s powers to – also rightfully – not go further than the interview it has conducted with Shrey.
And for those who are resorting to racist attacks against Shrey, it is about time you stopped.
He is a Singaporean, with every right to speak his mind, just like any of us. There is no reason for him to shut up, or to be intimidated.
You do not have more right than him to speak.
And you certainly have no right to intimidate him.
If nothing else, Shrey has shown how some of us have a long way to go to become civilised persons. For if you cannot even engage with words to express how you feel, and instead resort to force to silence him, then you are pathetic indeed.