A petition against Pokémon Go raises serious questions about judicial overreach in a country where storms brew in teacups.
If modern day Indian vocabulary was to be documented, the most popular word will undoubtedly be ‘religion’. For us religion is paramount, surpassing logic and at times common sense.
Consequently, trivial matters create massive issues, ending in public shaming, sometimes in lynching. The justification for such actions are ‘hurting religious sentiments.’ You can do anything in the world – you can rape a woman and kill her, you can abort a girl child, you can burn a house – just never, ever hurt anyone’s religious sentiment.
Exhibit A – Pokémon Go. The hugely popular game was recently dragged to court for showing virtual reality eggs inside places of worship, hurting religious sentiments of some communities. The petitioner said, “Eggs are considered as non-vegetarian food, and it is blasphemous to carry non-vegetarian food inside a place of worship of Hindus and Jains.” The company and the game developer was sent a notice to appear in court. This is not the first time Pokémon Go caused religious turmoil. The General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars said it had revived a 2001 decree against a Pokémon card game in response to queries from believers. Saudi Arabia’s top clerical body argued that the mutations of the creatures in the game, who are given specific powers, amounted to blasphemy by promoting the theory of natural evolution. In August, a fatwa was issued against the game by an Islamic body in Uttar Pradesh. The decree terms the game anti-Islamic and “one which promotes violence and the devil’s schemes”.
Some countries such as Indonesia have restricted public officials from playing Pokémon Go. Russia has banned it due to its western connection. It is amusing to know that in India, the game hasn’t even been launched officially.
Coming back to the virtual egg issue, if we follow the logic of petitioner that eggs are non-vegetarian food, what should we do with the problem of actual eggs – the ones that bird lays in nests on parapets of temples and mosques? Shall we ban the birds from entering or flying over holy places? We may have to put signs to the effect that “Non-vegetarian food layers not allowed!”
The people over at Niantic, the developers of this game changer, must be laughing out loud at us. Who blames them, it is indeed outrageous. No God or religious hospice can be polluted by a virtual egg. If there is anything that can pollute them, then it’s the unchecked entry of rapists, murderers and terrorists in the holy places. Why don’t we file a petition against them? Or produce a fatwa against parents not sending their daughters to school? Religious sentiments have surpassed basic human logic, again.
We have been consumed by so much negativity that we refuse to see all the good that the game has done. It has brought together people from all religions together. The game does not preach anti-religious sentiments. In a world where our social activity has clumped inside a 5-inch screen space, Pokémon Go is just a way to bring people together. The game has encouraged small children and young adults to go out, meet people and learn things they never did sitting at home.
It is time we move on from trifling matters and look at the bigger picture. A virtual egg inside a holy place isn’t going to affect a deity, but a mindless thought will. A chubby fictitious creature does not promote “devil’s schemes”, an armed terrorist with a polluted mind!