MC Kode aka Aditya Tiwari, a New Delhi based rapper has been missing since June 2nd, 2021, after receiving death threats for an old battle rap clip that went viral. His Instagram post hinting at suicide was disturbing and alarming but right-wing trolls continued to bay for his blood and poke fun at him. In this report, Kanishk Srivastava points out that Kode had apologised for his rap clips made as a teenager and had even requested a takedown of his music from all platforms to make amends. He had also lost all sources of income as well as offers for work. Yet, online mobs continued to target him.
On June 2, 2021, he posted what appeared to be a suicide note in the aftermath of public outrage and social media trials in a politically sensitive case where his statements from 2016 resurfaced and appeared to hurt some people’s religious sentiments.
In the Instagram story, Kode mentions that he is, “..standing at an isolated bridge overlooking the Yamuna river..”. He goes on to say, “I could only ask for your forgiveness as my selfish actions will definitely cause a great amount of grief..”.
Following this Instagram story, concerned friends and volunteers organised and went out to look for him based on the vague description mentioned in the Instagram story. The search went on all night as volunteers searched a list of locations being updated in the digital space to no avail. In an effort to grab the attention of Delhi Police, people were already tagging official social media handles of Delhi Police along with the hashtags #FindMCKode and #SaveMCKode.
The following morning, Mumbai rapper and songwriter Siegen Moopanar aka The Siege who has been in touch with the volunteers on-ground posted an Instagram story stating that “..local police isn’t responding anymore”.
Attack by Hindutva trolls for remarks on Bhagvad Gita and Mahabharat
In the battle rap clip from June 2016 which started the whole controversy, Kode is heard making remarks about the Bhagvad Gita and Mahabharata; which when resurfaced towards the end of May 2021, brought on a huge audience which was offended by the remarks.
Kode was labelled a ‘Hinduphobe’ by the hundreds and thousands of followers of the people who were driving the controversy’s narrative. The echo chamber of these hateful comments is full of misinformation, false assumptions, and manipulated media. People took a dive into Kode’s online existence and started falsely assuming Kode’s religion based on a single screenshot containing what seems to be a christian cross in the background.
Subsequently, other heavily edited media started circulating misrepresenting statements from the rapper’s livestreams. Most notably, clips of him “disrespecting” the indian army, the indian flag, and the national anthem surfaced. All of these clips have simple explanations when the context of these clips are made clear. In the clip about Indian Army, Kode is merely talking about holding the armed forces accountable for their actions.
The indian flag that was placed on a shoe in his album art was placed there with his late father’s name ‘Shashi’ and the artwork’s creator – digital artist Jatin Prabhakar – explains that “… the idea of putting the Indian flag brings about the idea of belongingness and signifies that the person belongs to Indian nationality and is even proud to be one. Thus, people must understand that such artworks and metaphors should not be taken seriously, instead open their creative side and embrace people’s different ideas.”.
The National Anthem clip where Kode is seen to be drunk while playing the national anthem was played by him to check if Instagram would give him a copyright strike for playing it. The rapper has since commented on the video which was reuploaded to youtube from an alternate account where he is seen apologising for unintentionally hurting the sentiments of people while he was inebriated.
Complete Indian Army Clip:
National Anthem Clip:
Context for the National Anthem Clip:
Following the initial viral clips, more influential people started stepping in to create a movement calling for the arrest of MC Kode. These people who were amplifying the usage of #Arrest_MC_Kode included the likes of BJP Haryana’s State IT & Social Media Head – Arun Yadav, State Spokesperson of BJP – Gaurav Goel.
Arun Yadav Tweets:
Gaurav Goel Tweet:
Kode has since apologised sincerely for the comments he made as a teenager, and has lost all sources of income as well as offers for work. He had personally requested a takedown of his music from all platforms as an apology. He has been targeted by mobs and other angry individuals wanting to hunt him down and has had a bounty placed on him by extremist groups instead of following the due legal process.
Trolling continues unabated
While one might expect some humanity from people after realising that their words might have driven someone to commit suicide, instead what we see in the toxic echo chambers of right-wing social media circles is quite the opposite. An instagram user @maheshpatilshinde108 shared Kode’s address and contact information along with the statement, “only lynching chalegi”
Notable figures in these parts of the digital space continued to empathetically make a mockery out of the situation. We see people like Ankur Singh – a Twitter user followed by Narender Modi, BJP IT Cell Chief Amit Malviya, and several other BJP politicians – posting insensitive attempts at humour as the news of Kode’s suicide thoughts broke out. Between Ankur’s tweet and an instagram story put up by ‘ThePlacardGuy’ making fun of Kode’s disappearance, a new wave of trolls started to infest the spaces which are seeking to find the rapper.
Ankur Singh Tweet:
PlacardGuy Instagram Story:
Hours after the news of Kode’s disappearance started doing rounds around the internet, misinformation started to brew. While some people came up with manipulated screenshots of messages from Kode, a now deleted Twitter user named Monishism (@MonishJourno) – intentionally or unintentionally – shared an image of what he claimed to be the missing rapper’s dead body. This image was proven to be false by another Twitter user named Ankit Jain who decided to politically charge this narrative by making the focus of the argument that the user spreading false news is a “Social media team member of Aam Aadmi party.
Ankit Jain Tweet:
As the issue gains more traction it is important to note that battle rap is an event where the primary goal of participants is to say things which get a rise out of your opponent. It is commonplace to say scandalous and intentionally triggering statements which the opponent is expected to counter during their verses. When someone participates in battle rap they consent to this practice. Kode himself often got opponents who brought up his past, his father’s tragic suicide from when he was only two years old, his mother’s mental illnesses, and much more during such competitions. All of this is done within the confines of the battle and are never meant to be taken personally.
Even if one disregards that aspect of battle rap, Kode still didn’t stand for the opinions he spewed four years ago as an angsty teenager and profusely apologised for the same.
Kanishk Srivastava is a visual designer and is associated with hip hop/rap culture. Kanishk is based in the Delhi NCR region. He tweets at @kaaanishk.