Indian rapper Sofia Ashraf, whose parody music video “Kodaikanal Won’t” went viral last year, has released a second video for the #UnileverPollutes campaign.
Following the overwhelming success of her first video, which was set to the tune of Nikki Minaj’s “Anaconda” and by now has over 3.8 million views, Ashraf remained involved with the city of Kodaikanal’s attempts to receive compensation and clean-up after a thermometer factory dumped 1.3 tons of mercury into a river that empties into the Pambar Shola forest reserve.
On March 9, Hindustan Unilever agreed to pay the medical costs for 591 of its former factory workers, which Ashraf called “one small win.” The agreement came on the heels of immense international pressure from the NGO and internet communities as a result of the exposure gained in part by Ashraf’s music video.
However, the company continues to deny its responsibility to clean up and reduce mercury levels in the area’s soil. In response, Ashraf released a second video earlier this month with Jhatkaa.org in which she addresses Unilever’s justifications for inaction point-by-point.
In the new video, Ashraf utilizes pop culture and memes to connect to a wider Indian and international audience. Referencing Kollywood (Tamil-language cinema) and traditional Indian wedding jewelry as well as Justin Bieber and Austin Powers, Ashraf wryly attacks Unilever’s positions.
The center of Ashraf’s argument is this: In 2001, Unilever agreed to clean up the site of the factory to the “residential standard” of 10 milligram of mercury per kilogram of soil. When Kodaikanal’s citizens demanded the UK standard of 1mg/kg, the state pollution control board and Hindustan Unilever held a private meeting and returned with a “ridiculously lax” figure of 20-25mg/kg.
Ashraf, who fell into her role as an artist-activist last year, remains strong in her protest against Unilever, stating: “We await your response to this video too. Only this time we ask you to look at science, not commerce.” The new bid for international attention has garnered over 26,000 views in just nine days, but it remains to be seen if Unilever will bend under the pressure.