Spoof video takes the fizz out of #bycottQatarAirlines hashtag

Two videos, one an earnest call for Indians to boycott Qatar Airlines and another a spoof pleading for withdrawing the call, provided much needed comic relief with many taking the spoof to be genuine

Spoof video takes the fizz out of #bycottQatarAirlines hashtag

Shalini Sahay

There was of course nothing comic about the Twitter trend #BycottQatarAirlines (sic). As is usual, it was an orchestrated Twitter storm generated by Right-wing echo chamber in India as some kind of retaliation to Qatar demanding an apology from India and to reports that Indian products were being withdrawn from malls in Islamic countries in the Gulf.

It was also evident that the script for ‘Bycott’ with the wrong spelling had been shared in bulk with the trolls, presumably paid. Someone by the name Vashudev, who describes himself as a Kafir and has now six thousand followers on Twitter, posted a short video on June 6 calling for the boycott of Qatar Airlines and all products from Qatar.

Upset at Qatar demanding an apology from India for statements made by BJP spokespersons on TV about the Prophet, the Kafir, recording from the terrace of his house, reminds his viewers that it was the same Qatar which had given shelter to MF Hussain and was now sacking Indians from employment and giving ‘Gyan’ to India. It was necessary to respond to a brick with a boulder, he concludes.

He seemed oblivious to the fact that though a small country with a small population, Qatar’s per capita GDP is 25 times higher than India’s and Indian expatriates send annual remittances that is double the valuation of Air India.

He got his 15 minutes of fame as the video was shared widely and while many ridiculed him, BJP’s Kapil Mishra was sympathetic and called upon people to rally round Vashudev, raising the suspicion that Mishra was behind the Twitter storm.

Vashudev, who in the video looked like a school dropout, is clearly unlikely to board a Qatar Airlines flight in the foreseeable future. Not surprisingly, he was mocked by many, blocked by some and followed by others. But the most brutal takedown was posted by a Twitter user using the handle @AhadunAhad.

He responded with a hilarious spoof video, falling back on a genuine video interview given by Qatar Airlines CEO Akbar Al Baker several years ago and a voice over. Al Baker, incidentally, had studied in a school in Panchghani and graduated from a college in Mumbai. He is the CEO of Qatar Airlines from 1997.

In the spoof video, Al Baker is heard pleading with Vashudev to take back his boycott call. While the voice over gave away that it was a spoof, many in India took it to be genuine. Some asked fact checkers to check its veracity while others responded to the user by posting the original interview and warning Ahad not to share doctored videos!

“Vashudev habibi, we are willing to give you one whole plane to make your TikTok videos, or maybe we can give you two litres of petrol free so you take this call for boycott back otherwise how will we survive?" Akbar Al Baker looks like saying.

"I cancelled all my meetings and flew straight to Qatar because Vashudev is our biggest shareholder. And he decided to boycott our airlines from his headquarters which is the terrace of his house," he is heard declaring, "he was having a power cut at that time in his neighbourhood…”

"Vashudev is our biggest shareholder with a total investment of Rs 624. We don't know how to operate anymore. I have grounded all the flights. Our flights are not operating anymore. We are requesting Vashudev to take this call for boycott back."

As panelists pontificated or outraged on TV channels on the diplomatic fiasco, Vashudev and Ahad deserve to be thanked for providing some much-needed comic relief.

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