Skip to main content

Repression on anti-CAA, NRC protesters: Are 'notable' figures silent? Not any more

By Rajiv Shah
In an amusing opinion piece in “Washington Post” (WP), former "Tehelka" journalist Rana Ayyub  – whose book on Gujarat riots, “Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up”, based on her undercover operations with government officials as a documentary filmmaker, made her famous – has blamed three Bollywood Khans, but most notably Saif Ali Khan, for playing an “off-screen role, enabling the worst impulses of the government.”
The WP opinion piece seemed amusing to me, because, it is doubtful if highly well-informed journalist Ayub wasn’t in know of what was happening in Bollywood, though she lives in Mumbai. There is reason to wonder: When the WP piece appeared, there were no ripples of unease in the Bollywood over the police clampdown.
Referring to “police vandalism and brutality” on anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protesters, especially in Uttar Pradesh, which led to several deaths, Ayub said in the opinion piece, titled “As repression in India gets worse, notable figures remain silent”, that despite the clampdown, Saif Ali Khan along with two other Khans – Aamir Khan and Shahrukh Khan -- “have been playing it safe.”
Confining the notable names to only on three Khans, Ayub said, ever since Modi assumed power, several filmmakers “have been bending over backward to please the Indian right wing”, trying to show how the “kohl-eyed Muslim ruler whose debauched gaze preys on Indian Hindu women, or the evil Muslim sultanate wants to pull India away from its magnanimous Hindu supremacy.”
Giving the instance of a new film, “Tanhaji,” which has Ajay Devgn, a Modi supporter, as the lead actor playing “a Hindu warrior of the 17th century who has to protect Hindu pride from Muslim rulers who seek hegemony over India”, Ayub said, Saif Ali Khan, a Muslim, played “a key role in the film” -- even as playing “another important role off-screen, enabling the worst impulses of the government.”
She noted, “His decision to look away from the abuses is demoralizing. While people from across the country mobilized to protect the rights of Muslims, Khan played it safe, saying he was ignorant about the citizenship bill”, suggesting, this hasn’t happened for the first time – he has “offered cover to Modi before” also.
Ayub regretted, “Others have chosen the same path, including the icons Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan. Both have been threatened by BJP leaders in the past over their opinions of the intolerance in India. However, neither of the superstars has commented on the current nationwide protests.”
Ayub quoted a director who has worked closely with Shahrukh Khan as saying that he is stunned at the hypocrisy. “They are worried about their business, about their films getting adversely affected should they critique the government,” the director says, adding, “What bothers me is that Shahrukh himself is an alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia, where the first crackdown was unleashed by this government.”
Ayub’s WP opinion piece, ironically, came amidst the rattled Modi government’s sharp lobbying with Bollywood stars to garner support for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) even as anti-CAA-NRC demonstrations continued across India, and a masked mob seeking to brutalise students and teachers at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi.
A dinner on January 5 in Mumbai was organized at Grand Hyatt, Mumbai, where Union Minister of Railway and Commerce Piyush Goyal and Bharatiya Janata Party vice-president Baijayant Panda interacted with CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi, Ritesh Sidhwani, Bushan Kumar, Ranveer Shorey, Kunal Kohli, Abhishek Kapoor, Urvashi Rautela and Shailesh Lodha, among others.
The text of the invite for meeting read: “The agenda of the meeting will be to facilitate a discussion on myths and realities pertaining to the Citizenship Amendment Act."
The invite was sent to other bigwigs of the industry, including Javed Akhtar, Farhan Akhtar, Richa Chadha, Kabir Khan and Karan Johar, but none of them turned up for the meeting, say reports. The invite was not extended to actor Swara Bhasker, filmmakers Anubhav Sinha and Anurag Kashyap — all of whom have been vocal about their stand against the controversial citizenship law.
Other Bollywood celebrities who have expressed their disappointment over CAA and NRC include Alia Bhatt, Farhan Akhtar, Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Parineeti Chopra, Richa Chadha and Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Jaaved Jafferi, Varun Grover, and Neeraj Ghaywan. The last in the series who has expressed symapthy towards JNU students by reaching up to them is Deepika Padukone.
Alia Bhatt went out of the way to tweet, “To members of my supposed ‘fraternity’ who were meant to opine and dine with the ruling party this evening – trust you implored them to curtail the violence unfolding across the nation. Or at the very least, as part of the ‘scrumptious’ meal on offer,help yourselves to some humble pie.”
A few of the Bollywood stars even took part in the protest against the mob attack on JNU students and teachers (see photograph below).
Interestingly, the day Ayub’s opinion piece appeared in WP, members of “creative and scholarly community” – Mira Nair, Amitav Ghosh, Nandita Das, Naseeruddin Shah, TM Krishna, K Satchidanandan, Githa Hariharan, Homi Bhabha, Anand Patwardhan and Damodar Mauzo – floated a draft statement against CAA-NRC-NPR and the brutal crackdown on protesters across the country, stating it will be released the Republic Day.
Asking other cultural personalities to support the statement, and send a confirmation email to indianwritersforum@gmail.com, still a draft, and is being edited and updated, before being publicly released, says that "artists, filmmakers, writers and scholars" seeks to "salute" the collective cry for "upholding the principles of the Constitution of India, with its promise of a plural and diverse society."
Even as condemning the Government of India for coming up with CAA, NRC and NPR, the draft states, "The policies and actions of the present government, passed quickly through parliament and without opportunity for public dissent or open discussion, are antithetical to the principle of a secular, inclusive nation."
Enough is enough. Those of us who have been quiet in the past, our silence ends now. We will be clear-sighted in our dissent
Underlining that the "soul of the nation is threatened", the draft says, contrary to the stated objective of the government, CAA is not "a benign legislation", as the "list of exclusions seems to indicate otherwise." It wonders, "Why are minorities from other neighbours like Sri Lanka, China and Myanmar excluded? Is it because the ruling powers in these latter countries are not Muslim?"
 It asks, while taking into account perpetrators of religious persecution, why has CAA excluded "the most persecuted minorities in the region, the Rohingya of Myanmar or the Uighurs of China?" It adds, "This legislation only acknowledges Muslim perpetrators, never Muslim victims. The aim is transparent: Muslims are the unwelcome Other."
Stating that the "response of the government and law-enforcement agencies to the distress of its citizens has been callous and high-handed", and pointing out that "several citizens have been killed while protesting", while "many more have been placed in preventive detention", the draft says, "Section 144 has been imposed in numerous states to curb protests."
The draft says, "We need look no further than Kashmir to see how far this government is willing to go to suppress democratic dissent. Indian-occupied Kashmir is now living under the longest Internet shutdown ever imposed by a democratic government."
It says, "Enough is enough.Those of us who have been quiet in the past, our silence ends now. We will be clear-sighted in our dissent. Like our freedom fighters before us, we stand for a secular and inclusive vision of India. We stand with those who bravely oppose anti-Muslim and divisive policies. We stand with those who stand up for democracy." 

Comments

Uma said…
What about corporates--ever heard even a squeak of protest from them?

What has really impressed me is the way the students have come forward to protest. I travel by suburban trains a lot and the students I saw came across as being selfish, thoughtless, and lacking in civic sense....and now they have proved me wrong. I am sure I will still see individual students behaving as before but I will no longer think unkindly of them. Many adults can learn from them to ignore caste and creed and speak up for each other in things that matter.
The Real Gems said…
yes, we totally agree with this concept of NRC because the National Register of Citizens is the register which contains the names of the Indian citizens. At present, Assam is the only state having such a Register.and after that the govt. of India applied this concept to whole Indian citizens.

TRENDING

'Attack on free expression': ABVP 'insults' Udaipur professor for FB post

Counterview Desk   People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Rajasthan, condemning what it called "insult of Professor Himanshu Pandya" by students affiliated with with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarti Parishad (ABVP) in Udaipur, has said he was evicted from the class where he was teaching after raising "ugly slogans", forcing him to "leave the university".

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Moving towards sustainable development? Social, environmental implications of HCES data

By Dr Vandana Sehgal, Dr Amandeep Kaur*  Sustainable development, the high time agenda, encompasses economic, social, and environmental dimensions, aiming for a balance between all these aspects to ensure long-term well-being and prosperity for all. One of the crucial aspects of sustainable development is consumption patterns. Consumption patterns refer to the way individuals, households, and societies use resources and goods. Sustainable consumption patterns entail using resources efficiently, minimizing waste, and considering the environmental and social impacts of consumption choices.

Enhanced rock weathering leads to 9-20% higher crop yield, help climate resilience

By Aishwarya Singhal, Lubna Das*  Enhanced rock weathering -- a nature-based carbon dioxide removal process that accelerates natural weathering -- results in significantly higher first year crop yields, improved soil pH, and higher nutrient uptake, according to a new scientific paper, released in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed open access mega journal published by the Public Library of Science since 2006.

Will numerically strong opposition in Lok Sabha strengthen democracy?

By Prem Singh*  After the first phase of the 18th Lok Sabha elections, which were conducted in seven phases, it was already indicated that a large part of the country's population had decided to contest the elections against the present government. A large number of unemployed youth and the already agitating farmers played a major role in this act of protest. 

NE India: Creating 'greater divisions', BJP claims to have overcome tyranny of distance

By Makepeace Sitlhou*  In March, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, said at an election rally in Arunachal Pradesh that previous governments had not cared for states that sent only two representatives to the country’s Parliament, as Arunachal and several others in the Indian Northeast do. Modi failed to see the irony of his claim given that he has not visited Manipur, which has only two representatives in parliament, since the outbreak of an armed ethnic conflict that has raged on for nearly a year. The toll from the violence stands at more than 200 lives lost, and many thousands displaced.

Heatwave in Bundelkhand: 'Inadequate attention' on impact on birds, animals

By Bharat Dogra, Reena Yadav*  While the heat wave and its many-sided adverse impacts have been widely discussed in recent times, one important aspect of heat waves has not received adequate attention and this relates to the impact on birds and animals.