- Most of them praise the video by Naveen K. Razak and Janaki Omkumar of Thrissur Medical College for its entertainment value and slam Kerala High Court advocate Krishna Raj for giving it a communal twist to it.
A couple of days ago a video went massively viral on social media, showing two medical students from Kerala’s Thrissur Medical College breaking into an energetic dance routine.The short 30-second video of Naveen K. Razak and Janaki Omkumar dancing to Boney M’s 1978 hit song “Rasputin” in their college corridor became an instant hit after it was posted on social media. The duo was showered with praise for their dance and energy. But now there is a twist — the video has irked many pro-Hindutva elements in the state who have a problem with the dance because the boy’s name is Naveen K. Razak.
A Kerala High Court advocate, Krishna Raj, a BJP sympathizer with a considerable following on social media, however, has introduced an unnecessary communal element in a social media post, where he ‘advised’ Janaki’s parents to be ‘careful’ as Naveen is Muslim. “Janaki and Naveen. The dance by two medical students in Thrissur Medical College is going viral. Janaki M Omkumar and Naveen K Razak are the two students. I smell something wrong here. Janaki’s parents should be careful. And if they are careful, they won’t have to be sorry later, as Nimisha’s mother has proven. Let’s pray for Janaki’s father Omkumar and his wife,” Krishna Raj’s post read.
Nimisha alias Fathima was one of the women who had converted to Islam and left Kerala between 2016 and 2018 to join the terror outfit Islamic State in Afghanistan. Bindu Sampath, Nimisha’s mother, had filed a writ petition with the Kerala High Court in 2018 asking for the Union government to rescue Nimisha and her then 10-month-old baby from the IS and bring her back to India. Nimisha later surrendered with her child to Afghanistan authorities.
A large section had strongly flayed Krishna Raj for his comment, even as he received support from a section of like-minded Sangh Parivar supporters. Groups of medical students have also flayed the communal color being given to the viral video clip. Scores of people took to social media to condemn Krishna Raj and offered their support to the duo. Many doctors also came out supporting the duo saying they don’t treat patients based on their religion.
The IMA-Medical Students Network, Kerala said, “The communal remarks and posts that came out around the video are disgusting and concerned.” The post added that “the mentality of those who set religious standards for people to unite and be united is absolutely condemnable. Such narratives should be strongly opposed. Medical college campuses are a place where all the religious, caste, gender differences created by man become completely irrelevant. It reminds us that we are people who behave, interact, think and speak. Solidarity with both and those who are to come,” IMA-Medical Students Network, Kerala, added.
Many lawyers also slammed Krishna Raj for dragging the religion of the two medical students into an unwanted controversy. As a mark of protests against the efforts to give communal color to a dance video, student unions in colleges are organizing similar dance competitions. The students’ unit of the Indian Medical Association has organized ‘Rasputin Challenge’ inviting video entries on Instagram, and Milma, Kerala’s biggest milk cooperative posted on Facebook a beautiful cartoon of Janaki and Naveen with the caption, “when you set hearts on fire.”
In response to the negativity they received, Razak and Omkumar said that they are not bothered. “We are the new generation,” they said in a comment to Asianet.
American Kahani reached out to members of the Indian American community for their take on the issue. Jissy Jacob of East Hanover, New York, who works in the field of R&D Food Sciences says, “I and all my friends that I have spoken to love the video for its pure entertainment value. In my circle they don’t understand why there is a communal angle to it. It was just an entertaining video!”
Freelance journalist and author Mary Ann Koruth told American Kahani: “Navin and Janaki’s exuberance and spontaneity represents a global and inclusive mindset that has actually been a quality of Kerala since ancient times. Krishna Raj’s comment about ‘smelling something wrong’ and trying to draw parallels between Janaki’s dancing to a totally unrelated incident is just another example of right-wing religious sympathizers trying to sow rifts in a peaceful community of medical students.” She adds sarcastically, “He should try sniffing attar instead. He might like its smell, even if he doesn’t like its origins!”
Forty-nine-year-old Keralite, born in Mumbai, and currently residing in New Jersey, Sanjana Shajil strongly says, “To me it was just a carefree and uninhibited dance video of two college mates that was given a communal angle by the right-wing.” The IT professional, who owns her own IT business with her husband further adds, “I am so glad the college union has given them a befitting reply by kicking off a dance challenge.” With an air of finality, Shajil says, “We need to bring about a drastic change in the perspective of viewing friendship between youngsters. Giving this a communal angle instead of simply enjoying the performance points toward a warped mindset in our society and that needs to change!”
Forty-year-old director of business in New Jersey, Veena Dinesh says, without wanting to focus on the controversy, “It was very refreshing to see medical students having fun, that too in their scrubs! The choreography, synchronization, videography was all awesome.” Dinesh adds laughing, “I’m looking forward for more from the group!”
The hashtag #DanceJihad in support of the pair has been trending on Twitter since April 9.
In response to John, Nath Parbat tweeted:
Yuvarani in response tweeted, “wow …..First time I forget to look their faces..amazing foot work…I wonder why an art needs to know the background of the artist. HINDUTVA???
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also took to Twitter to support the duo.
Tharoor further tweeted, “It gets even better! Now half a dozen other medical students at the same college have come out to dance in their support! #Respect #Applause #danceIsNotjihad
A netizen posted on Twitter, “A specter is haunting haters in Kerala. A Rasputin specter! So these Thrissur Medical College students have come up with another dance video, with mor students joining in to protest hatred. Hatemongers shouldn’t forget that this is Kerala!”
But naysayers have also taken to social media. An intolerant Aham Brahmasmi tweeted, “Entire medical fraternity is at its wits end, busy fighting with Corona, working 20+ hrs a day, and ugly morons from Thrissur medical colleges are busy choreographing ugly dance videos. Would have permanently rusticated these idiots, if I were a Dean there. #COVID19India”
Whether you love them or hate them, you definitely can’t ignore these medical students spreading cheer.
Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters andPhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at OakGrove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.