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There’s little denial to the truth that the actor Anupam Kher has managed to dominate the public discourse in recent months particularly on the intolerance debate.
Just when the central government faced incredible shame and outrage over its inability to reign in the so-called fringe elements, who allegedly represented the hidden agenda of the ruling party in promoting hate and bigotry, Kher positioned himself as real life Dr Dan to rescue a beleaguered prime minister.
However, as is often the case with the villain of Indian movies, Kher has made spectacular progress towards a rapid decline in his prestige even in real life. Much to the pleasure of the Bollywood actor, his falling off the pedestal, didn’t happen in just three hours, as he’s been accustomed to.
If critics questioned his motive while desperately defending PM Modi over the raging debate on the growing religious intolerance in India, the decision to honour Kher with a Padma award provided them with an ‘I-told-you-so’ moment.
Renowned actor Kader Khan, brilliantly summed it up for most Indians, when he asked, “What has Anupam Kher done to win Padma award except singing praises for Narendra Modi?”
The septuagenarian actor though forgot to add one more recent achievement to Kher’s CV that may have played a deciding factor for the government to agree on his name for Padma honours. And that was his ‘passion’ for the plight of displaced Kashmiri Pandits, who were uprooted from their homeland over two decades ago.
Kher’s passion for Kashmiri Pandits, however, has always been a matter of convenience. He’s been passionate alright, who wouldn’t be? But it seems like his concern is only to use it as an excuse to stay relevant in media or the public discourse related to another of his favourite topic- Narendra Modi.
Kher has used the issue of Kashmiri Pandits both as a weapon and shield at the same time. He’s never been shy of invoking the plight of Kashmiri Pandits to ‘expose the hypocrisy’ of intellectuals questioning the rising intolerance in India, while using this as a shield for his idol Narendra Modi from his critics who often accused him of doing very little in controlling the motormouth members of his party and the government.
There’s very little or none available evidence of Kher’s tangible work towards Kashmiri Pandits getting their due justice other than sporadic rants on TV debates or occasional sound-bytes on camera.
Just google to know if Kher’s so-called concern for Kashmiri Pandits has ever exceeded his usual quibbling, and you will be provided with the list of links to reports encompassing his outrage over the issue.
Once again, just outrage and nothing else! And if you were inclined towards blaming yourself for perhaps not using the correct matching key words, then you could try searching this as I did.
This is what I found as his tangible ‘works’ on google when I searched using key words, ‘What has Anupam Kher done for Kashmiri Pandits?’
Once again, the search results comprised of mere outrage and nothing else.
An impassioned gadfly that Kher pretends he has been for the cause of KPs, many would wonder why he hasn’t been able to persuade ‘the best prime minister India has ever had’ to do something meaningful now that Modi has been at the helm of affairs for nearly two years.
In fact this period of two years also includes ten months when his favourite party, the BJP, was in power in Jammu and Kashmir. Many would, once again wonder, why he miserably failed to get justice delivered to the victims of mass migration from their own homeland?
After all, Kher is one of the selected few people who can get an audience with the otherwise reclusive and incommunicado PM at will. The nation saw just how comfortably he could walk into the PM’s official residence at 7 RCR in New Delhi last year while leading the march against the intellectuals who were returning their awards protesting growing intolerance in India.
Why couldn’t he ever use this incredible access to the man who should matter the most in resolving the issues related to KPs in the valley? Why didn’t he ever seek a realistic timeline for the rehabilitation of the displaced refugees? Had his concern been real for the victims of militancy in the valley, now was the time for him start showing his discomfort over the delay in rehabilitating the KPs.
Another so-called prominent name in the list of these self-proclaimed messiahs of KPs is Ashoke Pandit, who would like the world to know him as a Bollywood director but his film credentials severely lack anything to write home about.
And yet, not only do you have to tolerate his incredibly annoying yelling on TV screens but the man finds a coveted position in the film censor board. A shining example of India’s irony; that an individuals growth is never directly proportional to the substance he/she either possesses or displays; but it’s always linked to how you manage to create a favourable perception about yourself. A favourable media, willing to cater to sensationalism and bereft of inability to ask difficult questions, does the remaining work for you.
Without their tall claims of being the flag-bearers of KPs, both Kher and Pandit would have had a torrid time keeping themselves relevant at least on TV screens, let alone securing what once used to be an honourable achievement bestowed upon- the Padma award.
It’s the same classic symptom that also plagues the so-called champions of Muslims in India. Raising the issues of brutalities against Muslims in India have given fillip to many politicians’ career. The usual suspects are there for everybody to see. But, thanks to the education and the subsequent awareness, Muslims are fast beginning to reject these so-called minority leaders, hell-bent on forcing them to remain a community pigeonholed in their identity as nothing more than just a lucrative vote-bank.
Khers and Pandits of the world are doing exactly the same for KPs.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’ve always been a huge fan of Kher. I admired his acting prowess in Karma and his ‘thappad ki goonj’ dialogue in the film. His acting, in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai caused plenty of ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing) moments for me and others. I’m told that he acted equally well in other of his recent releases such as Yamla Pagla Diwana, and Jab Tak Hai Jaan.
But, there are millions for whom Kher has fallen off the pedestal since he made this outrageous transition from being a likeable entertainer to a political individual, who’s now widely being criticised for opportunism, sheer contradictions, endorsing divisive politics and resorting to cheap language in public discourse.