Legal hassles seem to be the keynote of the season for Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni who courted trouble with his Vishnu avatar cover image that Business Todaymagazine published over a year ago. Ever since, the skipper has been spending days of anxiety over the image.
The image in question is said to have offended the sentiments of scores of Hindus who worship Lord Vishnu. He is their god while Mahendra Singh Dhoni is considered the demigod of cricket in a country that swears by its cricket frenzy. It is not often that one gets to see a deeply religious country being equally consumed by cricket fever.
So how did the demigod who posed as god, turn into a villain?
All cricket stars in this country bag endorsements worth much more than the moolah they make from the game. Mind you, they are not mere sportspersons. They embody the collective success of a nation that awaits its resurrection across various fronts. In a country like India where one finds so much of diversity, tolerance and also contradictions, heroes and zeroes are often compelled to swap places under strangest of circumstances. That Dhoni stood there like the raja (king) of big deals, endorsing several products and holding several consumer goods in his many hands (in his Vishnu avatar, he has many hands and even holds a shoe in one of them) did not go down too well with his fans and also with the Hindus. Cricket might be treated as a religion here; but this incident showed cricket can never take the place of a religion. Also, taking liberty with sentiments, no matter how popular one is, won’t please the masses.
As soon as the magazine hit the stands, Hindu followers moved the court, saying that depicting a mere mortal as the god they revere is hurtful, mischievous and insulting. When the court admitted these cases, things turned a little serious for the magazine, as well as for Dhoni’s team of legal experts.
Dhoni remained silent about this hullabaloo. A court in Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh issued a warrant against him, against a private complaint stating that Dhoni had hurt the religious sentiments of the Hindus.
Actually, the protests connected to the incident were too widespread and immense. Although no violence followed this display of anger, the rage and resentment of people could not be ignored.
That the complainants, Gopal Rao and Shyam, are rumoured to belong to a Hindu right wing organisation could be coincidental though, without connecting to the fact that there is a right wing government at the Centre.
The police, who submitted a subsequent report stating that the cover page was a creation of clever artistry, using Dhoni’s face to depict his success, did not hold much water. The fact that the image was ‘animated’ had little to do with pacifying the frayed nerves and could not even ensure a legal margin for the accused to protect Dhoni later. However, the police recorded it and presented it to the court.
What followed the controversy was something different. The court issued summons to MS Dhoni and to the said magazine. But when the representatives of the magazine appeared in the court with no representation from Dhoni’s side (he did not appear in person or sent a lawyer), the court didn’t take it too well and issued a warrant of appearance against the cricketer. Although the warrant was for appearance, it has somewhat upset the applecart of business, cricket and media.