At least twenty Indian Army personnel, including a colonel, were killed in clashes with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on Monday night, the biggest military confrontation between India and China in over five decades. The violence has significantly escalated tensions in the already volatile border standoff in the region.
The Army initially said on Tuesday that an officer and two soldiers were killed. But in a late evening statement, it revised the figure to 20 saying 17 others who "were critically injured in the line of duty and exposed to sub-zero temperatures at the standoff location succumbed to their injuries." Government sources said the Chinese side too suffered "proportionate casualties" but chose not to speculate on the number.
The incident marked the biggest confrontation between the two militaries after 1967. The casualties take both sides into uncharted territory at a time when the government's attention is focused on fighting the COVID-19 crisis.
As news of the violence broke on Tuesday night, Indians were left shocked. At first, there was surprise, then came the anger. And then, of course, social media hate and cancel culture. No sooner had the news gone viral, #BoycottChineseproducts soon started trending online.
Indian Twitter immediately started to trend the boycott hashtag. Many including former Indian criketer Harbajan Singh called for the boycott.
— Harbhajan Turbanator (@harbhajan_singh) June 16, 2020
Incidentally, Singh tweeted the message from an iPhone, which was designed in the USA, but assembled in China. Nevertheless, there were many more calls to abandon products made in China and a systematic boycott.
Every Indian celebrity who endorses a Chinese brand beyond today is taking blood money.
— Kushan Mitra (@kushanmitra) June 16, 2020
Some made detailed lists of all the Chinese items that they wanted to boycott. (The authenticity of these lists remain still unverified.)
This can surely help you. Give your contribution, start from the apps... pic.twitter.com/IeKTqNu0az
— Manav (@neikmanav) June 16, 2020
BOYCOTT CHINESE PRODUCT !
◾Behind your any product
— विवेक मौर्य (@Itsboybadshah) June 16, 2020
— the Narrative indian (@Narrativehindu) June 16, 2020
Time to avoid pussyfooting around China. We must push for a complete ban on trade with China whatever be the cost to us in short term. Chinese hegemony must be resisted and rolled back. #BoycottChineseProducts
— R Jagannathan (@TheJaggi) June 16, 2020
The problem with cancel culture is that it offers symptomatic release from anger and no real solutions or answers to the actual issue. Reducing a serious bilateral issue to a hashtag on social media not only dilutes any relevant discussion on the same but also adds to misinformation and confusion.
In addition, while calling for a boycott is easy on Twitter, following through is just as difficult. Is Harbajan Singh going to toss away his iPhone? The fleeting nature of #CancelCulture also reflects the low attention span of Indians, who move from one outrage to the next with the click of a button.
Cancel culture over-exceeds its expectations in India, where every so often, people, products and organizations are "boycotted" for "offensive" content that managed to "hurt" some "sentiments". Be it Surf Excel, MS Exel, or Deepika Padukone who was banned by Twitterati for standing up against police brutality in solidarity with students in Jawaharlal Nehru University. In fact, Indians even wanted to boycott the soap 'Lux,' because Deepika Padukone endorsed it.
This is not the first time that Indians have called for a boycott of Chinese products. It happened in 2016 when China opposed India's entry to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). It happened earlier in 2020 itself after the COVIDD-19 pandemic.
While cancel culture provides a symbolic release to express anger, it by no means is a solution to bilateral border disputes and military skirmishes. At a delicate time such as this when the United Nations is asking both sides to make efforts to maintain peace, Indians must practice caution on social media to avoid spreading hate and misinformation.
In the case of violent border situations, the focus must always be on de-escalation and peace-building. Reactionary moves such as trade boycotts and economic sanctions may invite further brashness which can not only be dangerous but have long-lasting impacts on India's relations with its neighbors.