On June 6, the social media team of the Kerala Police launched the pilot episode of what was going to be a new series. Titled PC Kuttanpilla Speaking, it was going to be the police’s reactions on social media content posted by people in the state. Several of these posts had been known to be harassing in nature and the police wanted to make it known that they were watching too.
However, the idea had not gone down well with a large section of the people, who found it politically incorrect at places and asked the police why they were not doing their jobs but instead spending time ‘roasting others’.
Following this, the police sent out a release that they were withdrawing the programme. "The official Facebook, YouTube and other social media pages of the Kerala Police have been used to create awareness on various topics among the public. However, the new 'online reaction programme' does not seem to serve the purpose. In its place, a more novel awareness programme would begin," the release said.
What many users found offensive is apparently the inclusion of a woman’s TikTok video in which she calls out abusive names, muted in the video. Countering the police narrative, journalist Jisha Elizabeth in a video asked that police should find and prosecute men who harass women on the internet, rather than make fun of women who were standing up to abuse.
Gibin Gopinath, the policeman who acted as Kuttanpilla in the video, says, “That is the handle of a woman called Dhanya. In the video she is responding to an abusive comment of a user, in the same language. We got her permission to use the video. The reaction we gave is that both the person who commented on the video and the person who responded should remember that social media is not a private space. However, people found it to be anti-women, they made it seem as though I was just telling the woman off.”
The name Kuttanpilla was used since it used to be a cliché for policemen names in popular fiction. There is no connotation of caste in it, Gibin says. “We wanted to show the new face of Kuttanpilla, change the old image that people had.”
There were also comments alleging that Kerala police were turning into moral police. Some asked what if they roasted the Kuttanpilla video to which the police team replied on its Facebook page “Welcome”.
“We were ready to correct all the mistakes. This is a pilot episode and the idea behind the video was to let people know that we are also present in this space and watching it. There seemed to be an idea that they can get away with whatever videos they put out on these spaces, no matter how harassing it may seem. We wanted to change that idea," says Gibin.
The first 24 hours, there were lakhs of views on the YouTube page of the video and many positive comments. But this took a turn the next day and apart from being critical, some comments also turned offensive, attacking the police and Gibin personally.
“It’s really upset me. I did it readily since I am very keen to act and have always been passionate about cinema.”
Gibin is not sure about the new programme that the police would be bringing in place of the Kuttanpilla series. He says that it would have a lot of possibilities and the police in the state would be using the new media like no one else.