People are very well aware of what happened in Uri. Eighteen soldiers. Not a small number by any margin. The terrorists were backed by the Pakistani establishment. With me till now?
I’m from that crop of people who believe that Pakistani artistes should leave India. Most of them have already left and won’t be coming back anytime soon. It’s surprising, I suppose, that someone who likes to call himself a writer (to give his ego a push every now and then) backs such a stand. After all, cricket, music, and films, among other things, don’t have anything to do with terrorism, right? Pretty much.
I’m all for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis and Afghans and Martians and people from the entire Universe coming to work in India but not at the cost of our national pride. Wait, what’s that? National pride? Half the people I meet are Maharashtrians, Tamilians, Punjabis before they are Indians. But, I believe I’m digressing from the issue I wish to speak about.
People like Sitaram Yechury, Karan Johar, Mahesh Bhatt, Darkha Butt (or is it Barkha Dutt?), Sallu (or is it Lallu? I’m really confused) have spoken about how art and cultural exchange is above terrorism and that we should continue talking to Pakistan. Pahlaj Nihalani also backed this but he’s of no relevance. Nor are three of the five people mentioned but anyway. Understandable. A lot of people seem to agree with them. I too, to a certain extent, agree with them. I mean, if this had been a US-USSR face-off during the Cold War, it would’ve been totally acceptable. But who the fuck are we? India. Haven’t we always shown the world that we are stalwarts of tolerance? I mean, our intent to deal with Pakistan firmly has been as serious as our will of losing to them at the Cricket World Cup. So, a lot of people perhaps thought we should chill the fuck out. Only, we shouldn’t and we don’t seem to be doing that. The Indian Army conducted a cross-border expedition where they showed Pakistan-backed militants our mehmaan-nawaazi. Such was the mehmaan-nawaazi that we were done with them before they entered Indian territory with their darling GPSs and weapons.
But, pray tell me, can this art-and-culture exchange exist at a critical juncture like this? We are locking horns with a notion called ‘Pakistan’. We might be engaged in a state of conventional war with them in the near future. But, do we not owe our soldiers gratitude in some other form apart from monetary help, Facebook posts, Tweets, WhatsApp forwards? Or are we just a bunch of assholes who become patriotic on two particular days in a year and on the days that soldiers are martyred? Where is our patriotism the rest of the time? Where is our love for our soldiers when Pakistan needs to be dragged to the ICJ for violating the Geneva Convention? Let’s be frank. It is a very finicky idea for us, patriotism. Stays with us for a very small period of time.
Pakistani artistes may be as good as gold. Hell, Fawad Khan is made of gold the way girls drool over him! The guy’s a fine actor. Atif Aslam, Ali Zafar, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. I could go on. Last year, two Indian actors were termed anti-nationals. Shah Rukh Khan’s Dilwale faced the brunt of his remarks, which weren’t all that off the sweet spot. Shah Rukh tweeted against the Peshwar Attack of December 2014. Shah Rukh tweeted against the Uri Attack of 18th September 2016 and backed our Armed Forces on the day of the surgical strike. Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar were two of the other film stars who commented on the Uri Attacks. But where were the rest? And more importantly, where were the people? We didn’t think twice before condemning Peshawar or Paris but forgot our very own Pathankot. What is wrong with us?! Are we addled?
The Board of Control for Cricket in India has already decided not to play matches against Pakistan. The ICC Champions Trophy, scheduled for 2017, may see a change in schedule. Anurag Thakur, a BJP MP, is the President of the BCCI. Would this have been the stance had the President been a Congress MP? Or an AAP one (laughable as that is)? No. The Opposition and Government are always at loggerheads. Not possible even if roles were reversed, ie: Congress at Centre, BJP in Opposition. But then the chatter began. “What wrong have Pakistani artistes done? Their country is also ravaged by war. Are the artistes terrorists?” A lot of mud-slinging began, courtesy one has-been Bollywood singer who considers it his birthright to open his filthy mouth on every issue. I agree with the fact that Pakistani artistes are not terrorists, they come from a war-zone of a country (if we can call Pakistan one) and that they’ve done no wrong. However, I do consider it weird that not one of them, not Fawad Khan, not Ali Zafar, not Mahira Khan, not Atif Aslam, not Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, not Shafqat Amanat Ali, not one opposed the Uri Attack. After all, our people whole-heartedly supported Pakistan after Peshawar. What stopped all these people who’d earned their bread and butter on our soil to condemn an attack on an Indian Army camp? I sincerely don’t think it was an admission of Pakistan’s involvement in the attack. Their people are in the dark about their establishment’s actions and alliances. A lot of people said that these people weren’t willing to condemn the attack simply because their families would be in danger. Tell me, do we not have ultras in India? Those monkeys who are hardcore radicals in their beliefs regarding religion and nationality? We have our fair share, perhaps a few too many, of those. None of them threatened the famous Indians who condemned the Peshawar attack. They could have, but they didn’t. So what stopped these Pakistanis?
Also, do we not have a moral responsibility to stand by our soldiers? There’s nothing that can be done about Raees and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil‘s release. They had already commenced production before Pathankot and completed production before Uri. Before relations with our padosi had dropped to such a low. No point in banning those films. Fawad and Mahira had valid visas and work permits. Excel, Red Chillies, Fox Star and Dharma couldn’t have seen the attacks coming. The films are ready for release. I am of the opinion that they should release and without any restrictions or violence. Investors will face massive losses if these films are not released. And these investors include a whole bunch of people, not just Karan Johar and Fox. Let them release. Period. But, no Pakistani of any profession can work in India. Why are we just talking about celebrities? Any Pakistani, whatever the nature of their visit to India, should be asked to leave. Even the High Commissioner if needed. Cancel their visas and work permits and send them back. I’ll now back this up. I am a Fauji Brat. My sentimental attachment to the Indian Army is bound to be a factor in what I’ll say but I’m saying it anyway. At this point of time, the quality of weapons and uniforms and rations and living conditions for troops stationed at the LC (Line of Control) is quite poor. This is not confidential information. It is public knowledge. Tomorrow, if there is war, it will come down to these men and so many others to defend our motherland. If their weapons aren’t working, if the rations are terrible, if the uniforms are of no use, they will fall back on something that has a lot to do with the mind: morale. If we say “We are with the soldiers and all but Fawad is hot so he shouldn’t leave”, what will the morale of these soldiers be? Frankly, a large number mayn’t even give a damn about all this and will carry on with their job. Morale plays a major role in war. If this morale is dented, what do we expect our soldiers to do? Should they be as welcoming of Pakistani soldiers as the rest of us are of Pakistani artistes, using the excuse that “They too are simply doing their job”. Will that be acceptable to anyone? No. You’ll be aghast if such a thing happens. Those men have signed up for a highly dangerous job. The least those of us sitting with laptops and smartphones in t-shirts and boxers in the wee hours of morning can do is back them in some way or the other. Getting rid of artistes from across the Radcliffe Line will help raise the morale.
If someone could tell even a single soldier how proud this country is to have a person like them, morale will rise. If our highly-opinionated Bollywood stars can go and spend some time with these brave men (without NDTV, please), morale will rise because, let’s face it, we are very fond of our film stars. If a sportsperson can do the same, that’d be fantastic. Basically, don’t just say you are with the Armed Forces. Do something that makes it seem like you actually are. Write a blog post, a poem, record a video. They ought to know that they aren’t sitting in trenches and bunkers unfit for human inhabitation for a country of 1.25 billion (can we look into that too sometime later?) assholes who don’t give a damn about them. They deserve to know that we genuinely respect them. They deserve to know that it is not only in the event of a natural or manmade calamity that we remember them, those brave men in uniform.
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Varun Bhakay’s Writer’s Block (2016)