I don’t feel the need to prove my nationality, Kher’s comments unbecoming of Padma Bhushan awardee


Nandita Das

My response to the Pakistan visa issue of Mr. Anupam Kher-

As a firm believer of people-to-people initiatives, I want to very clear that anybody’s visa being denied is detrimental to the process, especially of Artists.

At the time I made my comments, it was not clear if the visa was denied or Mr. Kher had not sent his documents in the first place. For the moment let us assume that the Pakistani bureaucracy came in the way of this cultural event.

As an artist I would separate this bureaucratic roadblock from genuine efforts to strengthen friendship. People’s intention and efforts build bridges and have to be separated from government policies and positions.

This perception of animosity helps no one and those of us who are in the public domain need to be responsible enough to not fan it.

I was disappointed to hear what Mr. Kher had to say on television. If we dismiss those we disagree with as anti- nationals, we risk diminishing the possibility of dialogue and it invites shrill abuses.

I don’t feel the need to prove my nationality in public debates. My work, my life is reflective of my cultural and national identity and we have to draw a line between jingoism and nationalism.

And I only want to reiterate that whenever the two countries have the possibility of artistic exchange we should do our best to enable them. Surely this sentiment is not any different than what the Indian governments recent diplomatic efforts signal.

I have been unwell since yesterday and unfortunately I am unable to go to Karachi. I felt terrible in letting down the organisers but it’s beyond my control.

I had offered to do the sessions via Skype to make sure one can participate and the intent with which the Lit Fest is organised, is upheld.

It is unfortunate that Mr Kher’s reaction and comments in the media on the visa procedures have triggered anger and overshadowed the Lit Fest itself which is an independent event, fostering exchange of ideas, across the border.

Assuming he was denied the visa, without documents, wish what came out of this was pressure on both governments to make the Visa process easier, more transparent and more people friendly.

It wasn’t becoming of Padma Bhushan awardee, Mr. Kher to say on television, “Nandita should be quiet”. Let’s live and let live. Let’s speak and let other voices be heard. Of course all this with utmost civility and with an intention to solve differences, not create them.

(Nandita Das is a celebrated actor and director. Views expressed here the author’s own. The content above first appeared on her Facebook page)

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