Why I think banning Pakistani actors in India is utterly ludicrous


A lot has been written, debated and spoken about on the raging controversy on whether Pakistani actors such as Fawad and Mahira Khan should be allowed to work in India. And if so, they have to in no uncertain terms vow allegiance to their karam bhoomi by condemning the Uri attacks.

They were ‘hounded’ out of India by the country’s fraud ‘nationalist’ brigades both masquerading as politicians and journalists. The more the controversy has gained momentum, the more pain it has caused me and million other like-minded rational people in our society.

I’ve always been against the dirty campaign of right-wing thugs in politics and on national TV to drive Pakistani artists out of the country. And with this statement, I have little doubt that I’ve just given legitimacy to the flag-bearers of India’s ‘nationalism’ a right to call me ‘anti-national’. And since I am a Muslim, a jihadi tag for me is just an added ‘honour’.

The politics before, during and after the surgical strikes has highlighted the sheer hypocrisy of India’s ruling party, the BJP and its supporters in the Indian media, particularly the TV channels.

How it started

No sooner had the casualties of Uri terror attacks been reported, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena issued an ultimatum asking Pakistani artists to leave India within 48 hours, failing which they would invite their wrath.

A lesson on ‘nationalism’ from a party, which is known for its thuggery and whose idea of India has never crossed the boundary of Maharashtra, was laughable. This is the same party, which hates non-Maharashtrian Indians. As irony would have it, this ultimatum came barely a fortnight after the MNS thugs were allegedly seen thrashing a helpless north Indian fruit vendor by destroying his fruit worth thousands of rupees. You can watch the video here.

And it was certainly not the first time this militant, anti-Indian political outfit had carried out brutal attacks against people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Social media platforms are replete with videos of their barbaric acts against people, who didn’t necessarily come from Pakistan but from other parts of the same India, they pretended to care so much about.

Who can forget the infamous video of the MNS goons chasing and thrashing students from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, whose only crime was that they had been asked to sit in railway recruitment exams outside their native states in Maharashtra. Watch the video below to refresh your memory.

How ironic was it then, that the political parties with right-wing leanings and their cheerleaders in Indian TV industry leaped on the agenda unleashed by Raj Thackeray’s goons. Times Now, which has lately earned the notoriety of being nothing more than the mouthpiece of the RSS, demanded that the Pakistani actors condemn Uri attacks for them to earn the right to work in Bollywood. The line taken by the channel’s controversial editor-in-chief, Arnab Goswami, appeared to give credence to the widely circulated joke on social media, which went like this, ‘Life of full of changes, Rajdeep (Sardesai) quits CNN and joins India Today, Dibang quits NDTV and joins ABP, Arnab (Goswami) quits journalism and joins Times Now.(sic)”

How hypocritical has it been of Arnab that while he opposed giving employment to Pakistani actors in India, his channel has been willfully splashing thousands of dollars on Pakistani companies and panelists to get them on his noisy show.

Yes, a TV channel usually has to pay thousands of dollars to local companies in order for them to provide facilities for the guests to come on air. Arnab has a problem in Karan Johar using Pakistani artists to provide entertainment to millions, but it’s absolutely fine for Times Now to spend good Indian money on employing Pakistani guests and companies for his daily media soap opera.

Condemnation repercussion 

I’m still not able to understand how by forcing out a few artists from across the border, our pain will become any less or that, it will in any way prevent future terror attacks on our soil.

What happened in Uri was nauseating and blood-boiling but instead of avenging that militarily, it was utter stupidity or, mildly put naivety, by those who felt that the best course of action was to expect Pakistani artistes to condemn the death of 20 Indian soldiers. It simply smacked of their complete ignorance of the ground realities of Pakistan.

Imagine what could happen to the likes of Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan and their respective families if they chose to condemn Uri attacks to provide sadistic pleasure to the blood-thirsty members of the Indian TV industry.

And that’s Pakistan, a relatively irresponsible country compared to India. Let’s look at the potential consequences of disagreeing with the State in a more responsible and civilised country called India.

Here, I as the editor-in-chief of a media outlet was giving my two penny worth, agreeing with the existence of surgical strikes by the Indian army, when I wrote this opinion piece. All I had said that it was wrong for certain pro-government media outlets to claim that this was the first ever surgical strike across the border. And, this prompted the supporters of the ruling party to issue death threats to me on social media.

Even the most patriotic Pakistanis would want the Talibans, Jaishs and other terrorist bodies to be wiped out from their land. That’s because their existence has made an ordinary Pakistani’s life a living hell. So to say that the actions of terrorists from across the border enjoy support of ordinary Pakistanis and more crucially the artist fraternity is ludicrous.

Orchestrated narrative on patriotism 

The entire discourse on nationalism appears to have been carefully built with a design to help the respective causes of fake ‘nationalist’ TV channels and equally fake ‘nationalist’ political parties.

Let’s not be pretentious here and kid ourselves. If the surgical strikes indeed took place, then why not a single poster came up anywhere in India praising the valour of the Indian army? Why is it that within hours of the reports of surgical strikes, posters bearing (56 inch) chest thumping photos of Narendra Modi and his defence minister Manohar Parrikar sprung up in at least two key poll-bound states, Uttar Pradesh and Goa. Parrikar in particular also took it upon himself to get felicitated by his supporters for the bravery of the Indian army.

The motive is clear and well understood by most Indian journalists, but they weren’t and unfortunately will never be reported until at least 2019.

Until Uri happened, even the most optimistic BJP supporter was convinced that the saffron party was all set to lose three key states in the next year’s assembly elections. The looming BJP defeat (in Uttar Pradesh, which gave 71 out of 80 MPs to Modi in 2014, Gujarat, which functioned as a Hindutva laboratory for over a decade and Punjab, which has had the BJP-Akali alliance in power for nearly a decade), would have been a disaster for the prime minister. With the carefully crafted narrative of ‘nationalism’, both the BJP and Modi appear to be convinced that they’ve kind of reversed their poll fortunes in these states.

Just consider this;

Hours after reports of cross border surgical strikes are reported in media, posters bearing (see above) the photos of Modi and Parrikar spring up in Goa and Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh’s most communally sensitive district. In all the posters, desperate attempts are made to project just how brave Modi and his defence minister have been in avenging Uri terror attacks.

This also coincided with reports of hundreds of thousands of people living along the LoC in Punjab being forcibly moved out of their homes allegedly by BJP and Akali MLAs. The Congress party, as reported by Hindustan Times, saw a design behind the evacuation. Dera Baba Nanak Congress MLA Sukhjinder Randhawa accused the Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal of creating ‘panic and playing politics by creating a war hysteria with an eye on the elections.’

Other reports suggested that the BJP had instructed all its MLAs in Punjab to reach border areas in the state to provide ration to people who were being forced to leave their homes. An exercise widely believed to portray the BJP and Akalis in good light ahead of the elections.

Strangely, a similar exercise was not undertaken in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir, even though all three states have BJP in power. Despite these states sharing the border with Pakistan, the party simply did not feel the need to encourage mass evacuation of people from border areas of these states. That’s because there is no immediate electoral opportunities in these states. So, the people living in the border areas in these states are by, definition of electoral politics, safer than Punjab.

Bollywood, everybody’s whipping boy

Celebrities, who chose to voice their opinion against demands to force Pakistani actors out of India were abused, mocked and criticised. Being true to himself, former singer Abhijeet chose to cast aspersion on Karan Johar’s sexuality. Fawad Khan is featuring in Karan’s next release Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. The Pakistani actor was also expected to feature on his new series of talk show Koffee with Karan.

Salman Khan was branded anti-national and his Muslim name suddenly became a bone of contention. As always, it was all because of his name. His years of secular practices of taking part in pujas meant nothing to the right-wing brigade.

Truth be told, Bollywood has always been a whipping boy of the media and politicians of certain ilk. From My Name is Khan, to Aamir’s outbursts on intolerance, the champions of Hindutva politics and their supporters in media know it simply too well that the actors and film-makers are easy targets and they can be arm-twisted by inducing fear of adverse impact on their releases. The agenda is to hit where it hurts most and its impact is great when millions of rupees are at stake.

We haven’t quite heard the last word on the politics of surgical strikes. Rest assured, power hungry politicians and TRP-chasing TV channels will keep all of us entertained until the votes are counted in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Goa next year.