By Chris Emmanuel
Mar 13: Over the last eight months or so, there has been a widespread cry all over the world on India's path towards intolerance and extremism. Several incidents during the period have amplified the view of those sceptical of India's secular plural image. There has been a constant effort from RSS and many other Hindutva groups to infiltrate and penetrate their ideologies into institutions that have been guardians of secular non-partisan ethos of the country for years. In the same breath, there are hardline Islamists like the Owasi brothers, who have played a more than equal role in divisive and hate politics.
This had a tremendous blow at the premier Film Institute at Pune and the Far Left leaning JNU at Delhi. The JNU episode was particularly chilling and disturbing, because it revealed many skeletons hidden in the closet. It was horrifying to learn that noise polluting 24x7 TV media like the Times Now and Zee News doctored and manipulated the content of the speeches made by JNU students at various protests against the government.
Despite such heinous misdeeds from the media rogues, a star was born, a son of a poor peasant from Bihar, Kanahaiya Kumar. Kanhahiaya, a PhD student in African Studies at JNU was arrested for sedition (falsely alleged by the factions of the government) and was later released, and his post-release hair-raising speech, eventually turned him into an anti-establishment icon and put the government and its media allies in shame.
On the other hand, film personalities like Anupam Kher, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan have been giving conflicting and naive views of the nation. Anupam Kher’s standpoints have been as bad as his directorial debut Om Jai Jagadish, a pathetic melodramatic movie, where he had cast terrifyingly bad actor Fardeen Khan to play the role of Jagadish (so hard to imagine). SRK and Aamir Khan have been saying repeatedly, that the country’s tolerance level is getting worse, despite the fact that the same country reveres and worships them as Idols.
The Bollywood superstars have never bothered to bring pathbreaking social realism into their movies. In all these years, they never dared to take a position on politics or terrorism or any aspect that have affected the nation. Mere blanket statements on the trajectory of the country doesn’t help when resting on a King's chair. The stars have to come out into the streets and witness the ground reality, to get the remotest understanding of the country. SRK's and Aamir Khan's recent films suggest, that they have been feeding the audience with filth and garbage. Here Anupam clearly emerges as a winner. He has played the toughest roles in almost all of his movies with wit and humour and has been the cornerstone of Indian cinema for the past thirty years. No superstar could match his influence in Bollywood.
There is no heaven left in this planet. No country is free from crime, injustice, bigotry, extremism, violence, intolerance and inequality. This is not the time for people to term the entire nation as extremist, at the same time, it is wrong and immature on the part of the government and the right wing groups to label any kind of scepticism and questioning as 'anti-national'. One cannot ignore the threat from ISIS (Islamic State) to India's security, culture and comity. Many politicians and media figures have downplayed the threat of ISIS, for reasons better known to themselves, but the arrests of more than thirty people involving ISIS links is very disturbing. And the question bothers, does India stand prepared against this Draconian wave?
India is going through a transitional phase. It has been close to 70 years of Independence and 25 years since the opening of the economy for foreign investment. There is tremendous capacity for intellectual debate and argumentative skills among Indians from all walks of life. The best place to get information about news and opinions is at the barber shop. One thing should never fade away from now, and that is the free exchange of ideas, which would eventually push India towards triumph. One should understand that a man charged for sedition and jailed, would only be released and hailed as a National Hero, in an open, free democracy like India.
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