Misplaced Nationalism

Main nahin kehta ki deewar gira di jaa sakti hai par kyun na ek do eentein khiska di jaayein, taank jhaank ho’

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said this in a function held for Pakistani poet Hafeez Jullundhri in Delhi. The entire crowd including Hafeez who wrote the National anthem of Pakistan was moved. What’s interesting is that this was said by one of the tallest leaders of the Indian right and what’s even more interesting is that he would have been abused and called an anti-national had he said this today.

Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is making a lot of noise of late. While many like me are appreciating the music, the excellent chemistry between Ranbir-Aishwarya and eagerly looking forward to the film, there is another lot which is demanding a boycott/ban of the film and the regional party of Maharashtra, MNS is threatening to break the multiplexes if it is released (As I write this, there has been a truce). The reason being a ‘cameo’ by Fawad Khan in the film who is a Pakistani and this comes under the wake of Uri attack by Pakistan where more than 17 Indian soldiers were martyred.

There has been a lot of debate going on and I have had heated discussions on Twitter and Facebook where many support the boycott/ban while many agree with me and are against the same. People are now giving certificates of patriotism and nationalism depending upon which side you are on. I have serious ideological issues with this and I couldn’t help but write this post.

Silence doesn’t mean we don’t love our soldiers

I read a dramatic post recently, where the author argued that Bollywood had remained silent on the Uri attacks. I was frankly quite amused when I read this argument. Terrorism is one of the gravest issues that we face as human beings and we often read about our soldiers getting martyred in sensitive areas like Kashmir and the North East. We also read about the riots that happen in various parts of the country and there is never a day when we don’t read about rape of girls. Precisely, there is a lot of wrong that’s happening around us. But when did it become a norm that we HAVE to tweet or talk about it to earn our certificate of patriotism and if we don’t then it means we don’t love our country and army? A quick introspection would tell us that we haven’t criticized or condemned every attack that took away the life of our soldiers but that does NOT mean we don’t care for them or are not patriotic enough. The same people sometime back argued that the PM cannot speak on all issues (Dadri or Gau Rakshaks) but that doesn’t mean he approves them. How times change! Every Indian irrespective of the political ideology, feels bad at the sight of dead bodies of soldiers wrapped in tricolor and every Indian acknowledges the immense contribution and sacrifice they make to keep us safe. No one, I repeat, no one should question that. We all love India. PERIOD!

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Banning Pak Artists is silly!

Many jingoists have made the argument of ‘economic isolation’ while trying to justify the banning of Pak artists but as they make this argument, India continues its exports and imports with Pak and the Indian businesses continue to trade with Pakistan. India has neither sent back the Pak High Commissioner and nor has it called its Commissioner back. So, why should only artists bear the brunt? As artists rightly say, they are easier targets. I would have happily supported the ban if it helped us in controlling terrorism but we all know that this makes absolutely NO difference. More so, when trade and commerce is going on as usual! I also cannot fathom what on earth means keeping ‘India first’. Because if a Pakistani actor acts in a film, your country becomes second? Who peddles this non sense?

A boycott/ban will hurt Indians     

Though people have made noises about banning the film, thankfully there hasn’t been a ban on the film and while boycotting a film is well within the rights of every individual and everyone is free to do it but it makes little sense. Barring an actor or two from Pakistan, majority of the cast & crew of the film is Indian. If the film doesn’t do well because of the boycott then it affects only Indians who have put in their heart, soul and money in the film. The producers, exhibitors, studio all lose money because of this. Why would any ‘patriotic’ Indian want to do this to fellow Indians? The movie is backed by Fox Star which is a joint venture between 20th century Fox and Star. At a time, when our government is trying to get foreign investments what message do we want to convey to a studio like 20th Century Fox who is investing in India and other potential investors? Doesn’t this hurt the country?

Karan Johar is not a hypocrite

I was deeply disappointed when Karan Johar came up with that video justifying his patriotism and saluting the armed forces. No one should be asked to prove his patriotism and it’s a pity that he had to do so. People who till now had been asking for him to speak up brushed this aside as drama but they were happy that they had ‘won’. As someone who has crores riding on a film and with goons threatening to stop the release of your film, what other option you have but to bow down? It’s easy to sound idealistic and say that he shouldn’t have done this but practically speaking, maybe I would have done that too. When you know that the state cannot protect you, what other option you have? And yes, he is a businessman at the end and he has to save his film!

Banana republic

The Chief Minister of Maharashtra recently arranged a meeting between Karan and MNS. It was agreed that producers will not cast any actor from Pakistan in future, producers who already have Pak actors in their films will pay 5 crores to Army Welfare Fund and Karan Johar will have a disclaimer before the film that pays homage to the martyrs of Uri. More than angry one feels sad about the state of affairs in this country and it sets a dangerous precedent. Tomorrow, any Tom, Dick and Harry under the garb of nationalism will threaten anyone and will even get away with the non-sense because it’s a new fad now. It is still not a crime to work with Pak actors in India. MHA has not denied visas or issued any advisory that prohibits anyone to work with them. MNS with zero authority in the state of Maharashtra acts like a Goonda extorting money from the producers and what’s pathetic is that the producers association even agrees to this crap. Running a disclaimer before the film honoring the martyrs is also good but I have a problem here because this is FORCED nationalism. Why on earth should anyone be doing this? I am no expert here but I believe that this could have been totally avoided had government taken a strict stand.

I strongly believe that people should be free to work with anyone they want to work with and ADHM and all other films which have Pakistani artists should be released peacefully. But this doesn’t make me any less Indian than the hyper nationalists and it’s high time we stop this stupidity.

India is one of the world’s largest democracy. This was achieved after a lot of sacrifice and our freedom fighters have laid their lives to ensure that we live in a ‘free country’. Though we are not a perfect country when it comes to freedom of speech and expression but we are in a much better space when we compare ourselves to China, Pakistan, Korea and many other countries where the rights are hampered. We should value the freedom that the architects of this nation gave us and we should strive to strengthen them with each passing day.

What better way to end the post by quoting Tagore:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments

By narrow domestic walls

Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way

Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by thee

Into ever-widening thought and action;

Into that heaven of freedom, My Father, let my country awake

On that note, #BoycottADHM #BanADHM #ADHMFDFS

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In defense of Haider

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” — Hamlet, Act II, Scene II

Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider has been in news for more than one reason. On one hand people (like me) are talking about the brilliance of the film, the excellent screenplay, the soothing music and the powerful performances. But, on the other hand there are voices of dissent calling for a ‘Boycott’ of Haider claiming the film is anti India and disrespects the army.

With my leanings towards the right and being a staunch supporter of the Indian Army I expected to be offended when I entered the movie hall but surprisingly I wasn’t.  On the contrary I loved it. However, I was not very convinced of the criticism thrown at Haider; so I decided to pen my thoughts on the film. I am neither a film critic nor an expert on Kashmir; but I love films. So, let’s call this a piece in defense of the ‘film’.

Haider

It tells only one aspect of the Kashmir problem

First things first, Haider is NOT a documentary on Kashmir & its problems. It is a film on Shakespeare’s Hamlet and that’s about it! Yes, the backdrop is Kashmir. Now, there are several narratives to the story of Kashmir. There is a Kashmiri Pandit perspective, another is a Kashmiri Muslim one and last but not the least the army perspective. However, what is common in all the three is the suffering, pain and loss. Haider chooses to tell one of them.  So, what is the problem in that?

Director Onir’s 2011 film ‘I am’ had a short story on Kashmir where a Kashmiri Pandit (Juhi Chawla) returns to the valley to sell her ancestral home. Though the film never made any sweeping political statement but it did put the story of Kashmiri Pandits on-screen. The character was loosely inspired from actor Sanjay Suri’s mother who lost her husband in the insurgency of 1990. Similarly, Ashoke Pandits’ 2004 film ‘Sheen’ was based on a Kashmiri Pandit family and their exodus. Interestingly, no body accused Onir and Ashoke Pandit of putting their ‘agenda’ on screen and ignoring the plight of civilians and telling a one-sided story. I doubt if most even know about these films.

It is anti-India and anti-Indian Army.

Now, we all would be stupid to believe that our Kashmiri brothers love India and take as much pride in saying ‘Jai Hind’ as we do.  Also, we would be naive if we deny the fact that Army crackdowns and interrogations never happened (Happens?) or that there were no detention centers or that there are no half-widows .

The infamous ‘Papa II’ (Mama II in the film) detention centre was our very own Guantanamo Bay. I read about it few years back in Basharat Peer’s book and it made the ‘Indian’ in me uncomfortable. Of course these centres were supposed to detain ‘militants’ but on more than one occasion they detained ‘suspected’ militants (read civilians) and they were subjected to third degree torture. Those who did not die or mysteriously ‘disappeared’ and were lucky to come out alive have narrated harrowing tales – electric shocks to their genitals, being thrashed naked with bamboo sticks, their nails being pulled out and much more. Today, Papa II is the  official residence of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti of PDP, another detention centre ‘Cargo’ serves as a cyber police station while ‘Harinawas’ is converted to a guesthouse.

One of the most powerful scenes in the film is the one involving gravediggers. The song ‘Aao Na’ playing in the background matches the tempo set by gravedigger’s shovel sends shivers down the spine. As a matter of fact, the ‘real’ is not very different from ‘reel’. Mass graves of disappeared people were found in the valley years ago and till date it’s a blot on India. According to the Human Rights Report 2,900 unmarked bodies were found and unlike the claims by Army; not all were militants.

Barkha Dutt did an excellent story on the ‘half-widows’ of the valley. Many of the Kashmir’s missing people are believed to have been killed in custody. Official estimates put the number at more than a thousand. Unofficial estimates say the number could be three times higher! Watch it here Half Widows

It ignores the plight of Kashmiri Pandits

Hell No! The exodus was unfortunate and it’s a shame that Indians are living like refugees in their own country. But, the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits happened way back in 1989-90 whereas the film is set in 1995. How can they be a part of a film which is set in a different time period? Just because the film doesn’t talk about one issue; doesn’t mean that the makers approve of the killings of Pandits. Moreover, even if Vishal has ignored it as some are saying, then it is HIS CHOICE! Why not make a film and counter Haider.

Haider is one of the finest films to have come out this year. It is also one of the most political film to be made with Kashmir as its backdrop. Beyond the beauty of Dal Lake, Chinar & Gulmarg; there is more to Kashmir and Haider shows you that. It is disturbing but a must watch; if not for the politics, then for the brilliant cinema!

 

The fall of a Leader

I still remember watching Sushma Swaraj’s campaign trail in Delhi on news channels in 1998; her fiery speeches attacking the Congress, reaching out to the refugees in transit camps, the tongue in cheek statements drawing thunderous applause from the audience and being thronged by women as she campaigned through the bylanes of the capital. She was the star campaigner of the party and had enormous mass appeal. Taking a jibe towards the ‘Italian’ Sonia Gandhi, she once told NDTV that ” Ordinary women connect with me because I dress and speak like they do”; which was indeed the truth.

When she took over as the Leader of Opposition in 2009, it was almost certain that she would be the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. We all saw a mellow and mature Sushma Swaraj compared to the feisty Swaraj of the 1990’s. Though she never talked about it but it wouldn’t be wrong to say that she was preparing herself for the larger role. However, Narendra Modi led BJP’s victory in 2012 Gujarat polls altered the situation. The entire BJP cadre saw Narendra Modi as the BJP’s PM candidate and given his Sangh background he was also the RSS’s blue-eyed boy. Fighting all the internal tussles and differences, he was finally declared as the Prime Minister candidate.

Sushma Swaraj has had a remarkable career. She has many firsts to her credits as being the youngest ever Cabinet Minister in the history of India, first woman Chief Minister of the capital, first woman spokesperson of any political party and of course BJP’s first woman Leader of Opposition. She has won elections in Haryana, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh with remarkable margins. Though she lost the 1999 Bellary elections to Sonia Gandhi, nobody can deny the fact that she had put up a great fight and secured massive 3,58,000 votes in just 12 days of campaign.

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As a Union Minister in the NDA government she handled various portfolios and brought radical and important changes in the ministries. She can be credited with establishing six All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) across India; an initiative she took as the Health Minister aimed towards providing economical yet efficient health services to people. As the minister of I&B and Telecommunications declaring Films as an industry was a milestone step as it made the industry eligible to get loans and be financed by banks which was otherwise funded by underworld. She freed the industry from the control of underworld and ironically the same industry now takes out petitions against her party. She can also be credited for much of the ‘radio boom’ in the country as she encouraged community radio services which enabled colleges and universities to start their own FM stations.  In a span of over 3 years she brought the radio and cable services to a large population in the country. Her popularity can be assessed by the fact that Multiple System Operator (MSO) wanted Sushma Swaraj back as I&B Minister when she was moved to another portfolio.

Though her party has produced many women netas but it is Sushma Swaraj who is a feminist in true sense. It was due to her efforts that two thirds of the seats in BJP were reserved for women. Smriti Irani who is often touted as the next ‘Sushma Swaraj’ acknowledges this and thanks Swaraj for pushing through the reservation. She has been quite vocal about women equality & security. I still remember her Lok Sabha speech on International Women’s Day where she talked about increasing crime against women and urged that irrespective of political ideologies, the political class should ensure that women are safe in the country. She is also one of the few BJP netas to have come out strongly against the moral policing by organizations like the Sri Ram Sene. She has stated that her daughter who studies in Britain often visits pubs and it is up to her to decide whether she wants to celebrate Valentine’s Day or not. However, it’s unfortunate that her critics still view her as a traditional (may be orthodox) Bhartiya Nari who vowed to shave her head if Sonia Gandhi became India’s Prime Minister.

As the leader of the opposition, Swaraj has been brilliant in the Lok  Sabha. An articulate and forceful speaker, she managed to keep the ruling party on its toes and successfully brought the agenda of the opposition on the table. Some of the outstanding debates in the parliament saw speeches by Sushma Swaraj; especially on price rise, LokPal Bill, Coalgate , Cash for Votes and the FDI. Whether it is the ‘sher-o-shayri’  with the PM or advising the young Manish Tiwari to learn ‘vinamrata; she has been one of the finest Lok Sabha speakers that the country has seen.

sushma

However,  it would be wrong to blame the party entirely for this fall of hers. As a senior leader and a seasoned politician, Sushma Swaraj (after her initial sulk) should have come to terms with the fact that Narendra Modi enjoys immense support from the party cadre. She should have accepted him like her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha who might be the Deputy PM if NDA comes to power. Instead, she chose to rebel and brought out the differences out in open. She took to twitter to talk about her reservations on the inclusion of Sriramulu in the party who is a close associate of the Reddy Brothers whom she was once closely associated with. Her rift with Nirmala Sitharaman on the Telangana issue was also out when she retweeted a tweet that criticized Nirmala. Today, the usually vocal Sushma Swaraj is silent. She hasn’t campaigned much beyond Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. An active twitter user who tweeted even when she was detained by J&K CM has gone offline. She looked lonely when the BJP released its manifesto and hasn’t given any interviews of late.

Today, she is often ridiculed on the many satirical websites in the internet space and many even accuse her of being a part of fictional ‘Club 160’ in BJP  that is working against Narendra Modi. Without any backing from a God-father, she emerged as a top BJP leader solely because of her hard work and capabilities. It is indeed sad that one of the tallest woman leader of the country and her party has been pushed into oblivion. A leader of her stature deserves more!

 

 

Politics? HELL YEAH!

“I hate it/ Not interested/ Sucks/ Apolitical/ Not interested/Fuck Politics” These are some of the common answers which one gets to see under the ‘Political Views’ column if you visit the Facebook profiles of your friends or acquaintances. First I thought it might be a problem with my friends. In order to be sure; I stalked (Yes, I did) random profiles and interestingly the answers remained pretty much the same. And that exactly is my problem – The growing apathy of the youth towards the politics of the country. Politics/ Raajneeti has become what film line was years back; good people don’t enter it. While the people consider cribbing about the state of affairs in the country as their right; they don’t remember their duty when it comes to voting. And what’s even more worrying is the percentage of voting being less in urban centers than rural. So, the same youth who wore the ‘cool’ Anna Hazare caps doesn’t like to stand in the ‘hot’ sun to vote.

no-politics

A recent survey indicated that India will become the youngest country in the world by 2020 with the median individual age of 29 years.  If the young population of world’s largest democracy show such detachment from the politics of the country, we are in grave danger. Whether you like it or not but politics in any country is closely related to its development. The policies, procedures, laws determine to a large extent the way an economy moves.  Governments need to do lots of things to encourage development – they need to build and maintain infrastructure, and raise and spend finance wisely, on the right projects. When governments are inept at managing infrastructure, development is impossible. Today, we stand at a point when the economy is in shambles and market is down. As a country that already faces high rates of unemployment, we will be faced with even more unemployed people in future.  Mining, exploration, industry in the country is dying. We have made a world record with the number of scams that unearth everyday. Isn’t it important for us as the young brigade to understand politics so that we can vote wisely? Isn’t our future at stake?

Call me sexist but this ignorance is more in females. I still remember that my best friend who is from Uttarakhand didn’t know the Chief Minister of her state! Don’t you think you do grave injustice to the country when you vote by looking at how deep someone’s dimples are or how fluent one is in English or even the style with which one flips hair? It is NOT a Mr. India pageant! You are bloody deciding who will govern you for the next five years!

As our government plans to launch the Food Security Bill scheme in the country, how many of us even know what it is all about? Do we understand how this populist and non-sense scheme will impact the already weak economy? Do we understand that it will worsen the fiscal deficit situation? Do we understand that India’s trade deficit will be hit hard as the programme will require 70-80 million tonnes of more food grain every year. India which does not produces that much will have  import in order to meet the requirements! Isn’t it vital for us to understand what is going on in the country?  Why can’t we discuss this with friends along with our many discussions on films, fashion, cricket and music?

What sort of individual you are if you don’t have a political view? You are 18 years old and you don’t know what’s your political ideology? What are your views on economy, markets, social stratification? How can you be ‘Not Interested’ in the politics of your country when it impacts us immensely? How can you be more interested in knowing who will head the cricket team rather than knowing who will head the country? Having a political view is much more than supporting a particular party.  For example; I am a rightist but I don’t entertain the idea of ‘Ram Mandir’ which the ‘Indian Right’ party proposes.

Arguments against Politics!

  • Politics is Boring– Are you kidding me? Just listen to any of the sessions in Parliament and I bet that you will not find anything more entertaining and gripping. Our parliament (when functions) sees some brilliant debate. Not to forget the drama. It can shame any of our ‘saas-bahu’ sitcoms.
  • Nothing is going to Change – For heaven’s sake, every single vote counts! What if everyone were to say “Oh it’s not important”?  We wouldn’t get anywhere in the world.
  •  All politicians are corrupt – For every Lalu Prasad Yadav, we have a Manohar Parrikar. For every Advani, we have a Vajpayee.
  • Don’t like the candidates – India doesn’t give you the option of ‘No Vote’ so please go and vote for the lesser evil. Your not voting will not make any difference but your vote will!

The success of every democracy and the making of a responsible government is directly proportional to the voting power of the citizens. A stronger democracy can be built with greater participation of people! Okay, it’s going very preachy and I should stop but with the hope that the ‘Y’ generation will say a big YES to politics and get involved in bringing a change!