Unabashedly Frank: Do You Have Proof?

Recently, India has seen a rise in demand for proof. Evidence. Saboot. Certification. The majority (Hindus) needs to prove that it is secular and the minorities (mainly Muslims) need to showcase their patriotism or, better still, provide certification for it.

The other day, the MoS Minority Affairs for the state of Uttar Pradesh Baldev Singh Aulakh was arguing on a news channel for the singing of Vande Mataram to be made mandatory. Yet, when asked to lead by example, Mr. Aulakh was unable to get going. Maharashtra MLA Raj Purohit – another flag bearer of the suggestion – went a step further and mutilated the song by forgetting half the lyrics, going terribly out of tune and basically making a joke of himself. The man’s been in state politics for a quarter of a century, by the way. Samajwadi Party’s Mavia Ali decided to thrown in his two paisa on the subject by saying, like a lot of hard-line clerics, that he was a Muslim first and an Indian second.

Nationalism today has taken on a form of extremism (thank you, BJP). We’re ready to jump at one another’s throats over it. And there is nothing more shameful for a country as unique and as diverse as ours. Let’s face it: singing Vande Mataram does not make anybody more patriotic than someone who doesn’t. There are those who have sung it at some point of time in their lives and then gone on to betray their country. The same applies to the National Anthem. I’ll admit that I love singing it. I am gung-ho about it. But I wouldn’t ask anybody to sing along just to ascertain whether they’re truly Indian. That’s bollocks. Respect doesn’t have one standard procedure in regards to how it is conveyed. And nobody has the right to decide how patriotic someone else is. One shouldn’t have to prove their nationalism to any of the trolls on the internet, quite a few of whom are part of the ruling party’s IT cell. Being patriotic is subjective. Otherwise one would say that only people in government jobs are patriots. No. A software engineer working for an MNC can be just as patriotic as someone who is in the Armed Forces. His/Her way of loving and serving his/her country is just different from what is deemed the ‘real’ method.

As a new atheist (a form of atheism), I’d probably shut my trap on religion but I won’t. The Constitution gives every citizen the right to practice their religion freely. Do it. Please do. Hindus shouldn’t have to prove they’re secular. For the longest time, secularism has meant minority appeasement (thanks, INC) and that is totally and completely wrong. Why must Hindus have to prove that they’re pro-minority? Can they not be without having to yell it out, just like one can be a nationalist and a patriot without yelling about it on all possible social media forums. Is it wrong to want equal treatment with the minorities? Why must they feel slighted each and every time? And why should they keep quiet each time and take all that is being heaped on them?

On a slightly different note, people should be willing to take criticism about religion too. This applies to all religions (looking at you with a death-striking glare, supporters of Triple Talaq). Even religion requires updating. It requires criticism. Culture needs to move forward, instead of staying in the 18th century. That’s the way forward.

This paragraph is dedicated to the upholders of religion and law and order, the biggest, most nationalistic patriots the world will ever see. You know who you are. POLITICIANS! (And your stooges). Know what? Stop bullshitting and get some work done. Appearing on media channels and making a fool of yourself every once in a while is nice, but it gets irritating when you turn up every evening. And stop certifying people. Or people will start cutting you, a la Pahlaj Nihalani. The day is not very far when the people of India get restless and barge into Parliament House to thrash the living daylights out of the politicians. Even the police won’t protect them because they’ll be just as fed up as the rest of us and may just join in. Politicians have no right to decide who is a nationalist and who isn’t. And they’re the last people who should give sermons on that topic. We know they’d do a deal with the devil to fill their pockets. Hey, you! Politicians! You are supposed to do a particular job. You are elected to office for a purpose. You don’t receive votes to decide who goes to Pakistan and who goes to China and who goes to Timbuktu. Kiren Rijiju, a Union Minister, commented about the entire Gurmehar Kaur incident without having watched the video which started the entire tamasha. Is that how a Union Minister should behave? Knee-jerk reactions like Rijiju’s boost the morale of online trolls and give them validity. Inciting people, not reigning in your supporters, talking rubbish….all of this has a greater impact on the country than you’d think (or we’d hope). You are ruining what our ancestors most tried to preserve: our country.

If you pay your taxes, if you don’t commit a crime and if you’re genuinely a good citizen of India, you’re a nationalist. You are showing your love for your country by not throwing garbage on the streets, not by roughing up people in the darkness of a movie theatre.

Our strength as a country has been our diversity as people. Nowhere in the world is there a nation wherein reside people from so many occupations, religions, ethnicities, regions. Politicians and internet trolls and news anchors are dividing the country. Today, you have Hindus and Muslims, Nationalists and Anti-Nationalists, Communists (or as I, ever the Commando fan like to call them, the Reds) and Right-Wingers, UPites and Maharashtrians. In the midst of our religious beliefs, political ideologies and regional loyalties, we’ve forgotten that we’re Indians. We’ve allowed ourselves to get pushed into a corner where we are punched by the powers that be, constantly. And we have refrained from reacting till now.

On the seventieth anniversary of India becoming an independent nation, I want to thank each and every sensible Indian who has done their bit for the country (or will do, in the future).

Varun Oak-Bhakay

Independence Day 2017

UNABASHEDLY FRANK is going to be a series similar to CINEPHILE STOCK. The piece ‘Unconsciously A Feminist….Until Recently’ will be out on August 29, after which the series will be updated every Sunday. Cheers.


Kashmir: A Fiery Vale

I do not claim to know all about Kashmir and its problems. I do, however, have a decent bit of an understanding of the issue, which is why I felt this piece, at this time, would be appropriate.

The Kashmir Conflict – or at least the situation today – has been on for close to thirty years now. Cordon-and-searches, weapons, the Pandits, innocent people, the Army and the CAPF, the wily politicians, the militants and their bosses and of course, the violence-prone protesters.

A couple of days back, a video of a man tied to the bonnet of a jeep in a Quick Reaction Team moving out of an area in Beerwah went viral. It had a polarising effect. Some felt that it was wrong of the Army to use a human shield while moving through an area whereas others felt that this will serve as a deterrent to other stone pelters. I belong in the latter camp.

This nonsense has been going on for too long. Games have been played by all four sides who are party to the issue: the Islamic Republic (de facto Military State) of Pakistan has pumped in weapons and has misguided and trained large numbers of Kashmiri boys in the art Pakistan itself has mastered over the years: terrorism; the Separatists, funded by two governments, have taken pride in inciting people to pick up weapons. They have bribed youngsters and taught them how to throw stones into vehicles. That senile old codger Syed Ali Shah Geelani (who draws pension as a former MLA) has been at the forefront of this, ably assisted by the likes of Asiya Andrabi, surrendered militant/murderer and JKLF honcho Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, whose father the late Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq was perhaps the last prominent Moderate leader in the Valley; the Kashmiri politicians, beginning with Farooq Abdullah, who betrayed his own people by resigning at the very beginning of the militancy due to personal differences with then newly appointed Governor Jagmohan Malhotra, with whom he had had a tiff in the latter’s previous tenure as Governor, and who notoriously rigged the ’87 elections, which are seen as the cause of the situation today. That election was followed Syed Mohammed Yusuf Shah’s imprisonment. Shah crossed over into PoK after being released, adopted the name Sayeed Salahuddeen, and became a part of the Hizbul Mujahideen, which he is the head of today. Abdullah is a chameleon who has switched sides so many times that it is tough to keep track. He panders to the Militants, the Separatists and the Congress in equal measure but has never managed to be a people’s leader. The man is a traitor. He has betrayed his people, left them high and dry when they most needed him. He even got Salahuddeen’s son a seat in a medical college in Kashmir! The Muftis, who have been unable to deal with the militancy but know how to talk. Omar Abdullah, sometimes smart, sometimes silly; and lastly, the Indian Political Leadership. I’m not getting into Congress or BJP here. Everyone has made mistakes, beginning with Nehru, who dragged Kashmir to the UN instead of solving the problem internally. The United Nations Resolution 47 pertaining to Kashmir ordered a plebiscite, which has not been held till date. This is because the plebiscite was subject to Pakistan’s withdrawal from the parts of Kashmir that it occupied, following which India would have to call back majority of the Army and other forces, leaving a skeletal force to control law & order, after which the plebiscite would be held. Nehru, at least where Kashmir was concerned, was indecisive and imprisoned Kashmir’s most-loved leader Sheikh Abdullah when he became vocal about Kashmir’s independence (while the move mayn’t have been incorrect, it put paid to Nehru’s popularity in Kashmir), his inability to work with his Cabinet colleagues (eg: Sardar Patel) and his inability to take decisions in time proved fatal. His daughter Indira Gandhi threw away huge political and military advantages gained in the ’71 war in Simla. She and her political chums gave up thirteen thousand square kilometres of territory and at least 93, 000 PsW (Prisoners of War). At least 54 of our own soldiers were not returned by Pakistan and subsequent governments took no overt action to try and bring them back. Morarji Desai told Zia about the R&AW’s intelligence network in Pakistan and that we knew they were developing weapons of mass destruction in Kahuta. Rajiv Gandhi turned a blind eye towards Kashmir and aided Farooq Abdullah in his mischief of rigging elections. V.P. Singh, one of our more respected PMs was helpless due to the fragility of his government but did his best, given that Rajiv had already conducted his Waterloo by then. It was in his first two months as PM that the Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of there homes in the Valley by the radicals. That was where the major flaw in V.P. Singh’s government lay: the Army and the CAPF were given orders against taking action, and the exodus happened just the way the radicals wanted it. P.V. Narsimha Rao’s tenure saw the recently deceased Gary (G.C.) Saxena, former Secretary of Research (Chief of R&AW) take charge as Governor, which he was till 1993, and again from ’98 to ’03, which is when he reactivated the State Police’s intelligence network. The militancy hit its peak in the mid-90s, transforming into the monster nobody foresaw. The 1996 elections saw Farooq Abdullah return to power. He stayed in the hot seat for the full term of six years. The early years of the twenty-first century brought a new dawn for the state, with militancy having been reduced significantly.  In 2002, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed took charge as CM after the PDP won the elections. Sayeed turned out to be the man who got the Centre to sanction pensions for the families of militants killed in encounters! What a preposterous suggestion! He also interfered with the positive steps taken by the Governor, Lt. Gen. S.K. Sinha (Retd), to improve the Amarnath Yatra. In fact, Sayeed and Gen. Sinha were at constant loggerheads because of Sayeed’s pandering to extremists. In 2005, Sayeed was ousted and Ghulam Nabi Azad became CM. Five years of relative peace followed. In 2010, there was a violent uprising, caused by the notorious Machil fake encounter, which would result, in 2015, in the court-martial and life imprisonment of the six Army officers, NCOs and ORs involved in the murder of three young Kashmiri men. The 2010 unrest resulted in 120 civilian deaths. There was a hue-and-cry over the fact that violent protesters had been fired upon. The fire died out in a few months, only to be reignited by the killing of Hizbul militant commander Burhan Wani in 2016. Protests again. Violence again. The use of pellet guns by the security forces was criticised widely. But who called out the violent agitators? Who called out their flinging of petrol bombs and their sheer audacity of disrupting public order? The Army today is being accused of using a human shield by tying that idiot to the bonnet of a jeep, what about the people who brought five year-old Zohra Zahoor to a protest, which resulted in her getting injured! Of course, one will say that the forces should be disciplined, but they too are human. They have taken shit from boys not old enough to drive a car. And they have had enough, just like the innocent Kashmiris who are stuck in limbo, thanks to politicians and militants.

I am personally not a fan of generalisation. I do not subscribe to the idea at all. Which is why I do not believe that all Kashmiris are violent protestors, just like I don’t believe that all Army and CAPF personnel in the Valley are perpetrators of torture and brutality. There are cases. These are not, by any standard, few in number. There are Kashmiris who believe that kangris and stones and the like are the way of protesting. In the same way, there are personnel who are guilty of excesses, whether it is Machil, or the Kunan Poshpora mass rape, the detention centres which were playgrounds for torture, the massacres at Gawakadal, Bijbehara, Sopore, instances of rape, instances of extra-judicial murder. Have such incidents taken place, perpetrated by certain personnel of the forces? YES! However, and this is a large however, there is the flip side too. One that stone pelters, human rights activists and politicians who have the universe to gain from blaming forces refuse to see. Or don’t know about. The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. A whole community disappeared, but not overnight. Threatened by radical and extremist groups for quite some time, things reached a head on Jan 19th, 1990. Slogans like “People’s League ka kya hai paigham? Fateh, Azadi aur Islam!”, “Kashmir mein agar rehna hai, Allah-ho-Akbar kehna hai!”, “Dil mein rakho Khuda ka khauf, Haath mein Kalashnikov!” were being chanted. Muslims were threatened to make sure they didn’t shelter Pandits. Men were told to either leave or convert to Islam by the radicals. Those who chose the former were told to leave their wives and other women who were a part of the family behind. Houses of Pandits were marked systematically. People fled to Jammu and subsequently, to cities like Delhi and Bombay. Those who didn’t leave underwent a traumatic experience. Women and children were raped by those monstrous militants, people were gunned down without mercy. Was this not a violation of human rights? Sangrampora, Wandhama, Chapnari, Prankote, the Amarnath Pilgrimage massacre in 2000, Kishtwar, Chalwalkote, Qasim Nagar, Kaluchak, Nadimarg, Teli Katha, Doda……recorded instances of militants having killed innocents. And not surprisingly, these militants not only killed Hindus and Sikhs but also Muslims, the very people they claimed to be protecting. What about the human rights of these people, and of those personnel killed by stone pelters and those tortured by militants?! Militancy has no religion. It understands only one language: the bullet.

Arguably one of India’s more controversial pieces of legislation, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, came into being in 1958. It was enforced in Kashmir in 1990. It is enforced in an area that has been declared ‘disturbed’. Basically, it is to be enforced in an area where local police and civil authorities have failed to control law and order or where menaces are too large in number and impact for the authorities to control. A commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the Armed Forces may fire upon an assembly of people after having given due warning as he may deem necessary if he feels that they are acting against the law and are disrupting the environment of the area. A house can be searched and seized; a person can be stopped, searched and arrested and a vehicle can be stopped, searched and seized; all without a warrant. Supplies and arms from a dump can be seized or destroyed without a warrant. Any person arrested and taken into custody under this Act shall be made present over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station with least possible delay, together with a report of the circumstances occasioning the arrest. Service personnel have legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under that law. Nor is the government’s judgment on why an area is found to be disturbed subject to judicial review. In 2016, the Supreme Court revoked the protection personnel enjoy from prosecution and said that FIRs need to be filed for every encounter killing. The Centre has taken the issue up with the SC, with AG Mukul Rohatgi stating that the Army has to, in given circumstances, take quick decisions which cannot be dissected later on like an ordinary murder appeal. In other words, the scope of judicial review against active military operations cannot be on the same parameters as in other situations. Therefore, action taken by Army during operations cannot be put to judicial scrutiny. The Centre’s curative petition said, “If an Army personnel remained apprehensive about using force fearing a militant’s death as that could lead to registration of FIR against him, it would be difficult to win the battle against insurgents and militants, who aim to secede territories from India.” While I agree with the AG and the Centre, it has to be made sure that cases of excesses are dealt with as severely as possible, as was the case with Machil. This is a democracy and there has to be accountability. After close to three decades of disappearances, this is the least that is owed to the innocent locals: an explanation from the Centre and the State as to where their loved ones are and as to whether they were militants or not. Excesses need to be evaluated individually and investigated thoroughly. At the same time, stats tell a very different story, one that’ll be hard to swallow for those against the Army in regards to the AFSPA. As of 2010, close to 97% of the cases filed against the Army were found to be false or baseless. All the cases which were found to be true were dealt with by the Army, resulting in the punishment of 104 personnel, including 48 officers.

Coming to the video of that dude tied to the jeep bonnet, a lot of people have lashed out at the Army for using a human shield without knowing the full story. So here it is. Apr 9th, 2017. Personnel of the J&K Police and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police were guarding a polling booth for the by-elections in Beerwah when the booth was attacked by some nine hundred people, armed with not only stones but also with much larger, rock-like objects. Nine versus nine hundred. I’d love to see Omar and all those echoing his sentiments in such a situation. Those protesters had one intention: to prevent polling. The personnel sent out an SOS to a nearby Rashtriya Rifles battalion. A seventeen member-QRT was sent. Three vehicles. The QRT commander decided that opening fire on nine hundred people would trigger violence. Hence, one of the protesters was tied to the front of a jeep and the QRT passed through the area without any untoward incident. So, the question is what would the opposers of this technique have preferred: bullets sprayed through 900 protesters or the lynching of those nine personnel? Only an idiot would think they’d pick the former. As a lot of Indians have proved time and again, personnel of the Services and the security forces are disposable assets until something hurts the butts of those nitwits.

Another point for those who criticise the retaliation by the Army in the Valley: have you heard of Operation Sadbhavna? It is a ‘WHAM’ doctrine. ‘WHAM’ stands for Winning Hearts and Minds. The Army, in 1998, took a call to try and build a rapport with the locals and to bring the insurgency-stricken Valley back on its feet. Let me enlighten those of you who are unaware of this particular goodwill program.

  • Regular health check-ups are conducted in remote areas where civil doctors are not present or small in number, by the Army Medical Corps.
  • Army Goodwill Schools, catering to Kashmiri children, are in place all over the Valley. Attendance of teachers is closely monitored, laboratories are in place, as are playgrounds.
  • Kashmiri kids are offered a chance to visit places and cities around the rest of the country.
  • Bridges have also been constructed and damaged roads been repaired by the Corps of Engineers.
  • Senior citizens too are offered to opportunity of witnessing life outside Kashmir through visits.
  • Schools destroyed by militants have been brought back to normalcy.
  • Vocational courses are offered to citizens so as to train them to be able to work.
  • Community Development Centres have been established in order to improve the living standards of economically backward people and to focus on their immediate well-being. 
  • Rural entrepreneurship is encouraged and unskilled people are provided with jobs in local projects wherever possible.
  • Orphanages have been opened for those children who have lost their parents to the insurgency. Hostels have also been opened to accommodate children from rural areas so that they have access to the closest AGS.
  • Livestock are important to the locals, hence veterinary camps are conducted by the Remount Veterinary Corps. 
  • Computer centres have been started to give people a view of the world outside and to train them in using the machines professionally.
  • Civic amenities have been provided where local authorities have been unable to do the same.
  • Crop management and harvesting techniques have been taught.

There you have it. Understand what the Army (at large) is trying to do for the local population. Understand that they try their best and perform ten times that. Before lashing out, remember how many bids to cut off the Valley from India have been crushed by the men in uniform. Some of them laid down their lives to keep our country safe, so let’s not say that tying an idiotic stone pelter to a jeep is wrong. It is a drastic measure which was needed. And more of it may come. The State Police live under fear that radical locals will harm their families. Think of those families, for they too have human rights. If you still feel the Army and the CAPF and the JKP are in the wrong, I suggest you try doing their job.

The next thing I’d like to say is that not all Kashmiri Muslims are militants or violent protesters or even azaadi demanders. A large number, which our TRP-hungry media will never interview, just want peaceful lives. They know the horrors that people in PoK have been subject to and would rather stay in India. I have seen children running after soldiers to greet them, locals being friendly towards personnel. I know an officer who always had a packet of toffees when out in his vehicle. He’d give the toffees to kids he saw. Understand, before labelling the entire population, that not all of them are funded by Pakistan. They have lost loved ones to this battle. They are extremely grateful for whatever has been done for their benefit. They too have lived under threat from militants. They have braved it all. One lady, a teacher, paid no heed to threats that she stop teaching. She continued to do her job, perhaps fearing what may happen but holding her head high all the same. There are loads of people in the Valley who have shown courage in the face of Kalashnikovs. And none of us sitting from Pathankot to Kanyakumari will ever be able to understand that in its entirety. We cannot even imagine their lives. So let’s not call them all names because of some lunatics.

We reach the conclusion: this sentence will get me into trouble, or at least earn me some grief but I think the situation has worsened under the new regime at the Centre and more importantly, under the PDP-BJP combine in Srinagar (and Jammu). There has been a lot of blusterous talk but apart from the surgical strike in September last year, there has been little overt action. It’s time the Separatists are put in their place. Their funding should be cut off. Their passports should be revoked and in case they seek citizenship abroad, they should be deported. Security must not be given to them. Whatever money is being spent on such Enemies of the State should be diverted towards greater ‘WHAM’ efforts, which should involve the State Police as well. The Hurriyat is not a people’s representative. You cut them, you cut out a lot of crap and get to the actual victims of this madness. Lock the Valley down. Catch and kill. Kill each and every militant who is hiding. Imprison sympathisers. Impose curfew in Srinagar. Get the CAPF and JKP to look after the roads and get the Army to comb through the city. After Srinagar, search Sopore, Baramulla, Kupwara, Shopian…..every major hub. There should be a system in place for all violent protesters. Pick them up and push them off to prisons like Yerawada and Puzhal. Give them everything a regular prisoner is entitled to, just ensure that there are no fellow Kashmiris or Urdu speakers in contact with the guy. Dismiss the State Government, for it is inactive. Governor’s Rule should be imposed. Replace the current incumbent with an apolitical (preferably), recently retired Army officer who has sufficient experience in the Valley and who will take action against mischief. Declare Pakistan a Terror State. Attend a couple of days of Parliament, dear MPs, and just clear the damn bill! Even if it’s just the ruling party which turns up with all its members, the bill will get passage. To hell with talks and summits and handshakes and smiles! Enough is enough. A cat won’t cease to mew unless it has been struck dumb (or is dumb, which Pakistan is not). No MFN status, no art, no mixing at all! Shut down the HC in Islamabad, bring everyone there home. Ask Abdul Basit and his staff to leave. Article 370 should either go or should be amended to permit non-Kashmiris to buy property. Let there be more mixing of cultures and people in the state. We have been offering the other cheek so many times. This Gandhian ideology needs to get lost. We need to attack. We need to fuel the fire in Balochistan, feed much more than we currently are. We’ve given the Dalai Lama a home, surely we can do that for the Baluchis. And if the time comes, if push comes to shove, we need to be ready to hit Pakistan where it hurts. We need to be ruthless enough to shred that country to pieces. All you need is a government with might which is willing to shut up the Reds, the Lutyens’ media (sorry, Mr Goswami, had to) and those Human Rights groups. This is the time. We want to be on the UNSC, we need to show the Americans, the Chinese, our allies Russia, those Frenchpeople and our former rulers that we are more than capable of solving our problems and don’t need a bloody UN resolution. The question we, as a nation, need to ask ourselves is whether we truly believe in our ability to be a superpower. No country ever became one without doing some damage. We can withstand criticism, but we need to act!

Kashmir is a part of India. We will not allow our sovereignty to be questioned. This is the land of Netaji, of Bhagat Singh, of Field Marshal Manekshaw, of Dr. Kalam. We will not let Pakistan wage a war on our territory. Let’s grow some balls (and vaginas) and get cracking.

The purpose of this piece was three-fold: one, to give those who are unaware a bit of a peek into what the Valley has been through; two, to say my bit for two parties: the Army, the CAPF and the JKP, and innocent Kashmiris; and three, to air my views – albeit a little rough and in need of elaboration – on how we resolve the issue.

Varun Bhakay




17th April, 2017

P.S.: Some of you may have noticed similarities in part of the solution offered by me here with that offered by Maj. Gaurav Arya (Retd) in his piece ‘The Iron In Our Soul‘. This is a coincidence, though I did read Maj. Arya’s article, among quite a few others, before polishing my own.

P.P.S.: I have received all kinds of feedback, mostly through the WhatsApp inboxes of Mamma and Papa. If you can, please leave your views in the ‘Comments’ box below.



Culture and All is Fine, But Chill Out A Little.

A few days ago, filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali and his crew were attacked on the sets of the director’s under-production film Padmavati, based on Rani Padmini of Chittor. The hooligans were part of a group that call themselves the Karni Sena. Not only did they attack people, they also wrecked equipment. Mr Bhansali’s crime was that the Karni Sena believed (read assumed) that his film depicted certain ‘objectionable’ scenes (read sex scenes) between Deepika Padukone (portraying Rani Padmini) and Ranveer Singh (masterstroke-ishly cast as Ala-ud-din Khilji). Keep in mind that this is what this so-called “Sena” believed that such scenes were in the film, which is still in principal photography (being filmed for non-cinephiles). There is no official poster, teaser (video or audio) or on-set filmed footage of the film. It’s hardly likely that Mr Bhansali, known to be fiercely protective of details or footage of his films being leaked, will have given just another political party a copy of the screenplay.

The anger is understandable, the violence is unforgiveable. Legend has it that Rani Padmini committed jauhar upon receiving the news of Khilji’s attack on Chittor. So obviously, a film depicting a love affair between the Rani and Khilji would be met with resistance. Which brings me to the more interesting part of this whole issue: if the knowledge of many a modern historian is to be accepted, there existed no such person as Rani Padmini (simply put, there is no historical evidence of her ever having lived) and Khilji’s attack on Chittor was only a way of expanding his empire. The whole story could just be a lot of popular legend and folklore, which a lot of stories in India are. And popular legend, however inspiring or thought-provoking, is still just legend. It is not documented history. It is not fact. Okay. Assuming that the story is true and all that is said to have happened did happen, does that make the Karni Sena’s act any more acceptable? After all, the film is still being photographed. Nobody has seen its rushes or a teaser or an official still. The casting of a real-life couple as two ends of the story’s spectrum perhaps does add fuel to the fire. But how can one just assume that there will be an ‘objectionable’ sequence? Did they break into Mr Bhansali’s mind (in which case they should all be called either Danny Torrance or Dick Hallorann from now on. Sorry, Mr King)? Or did Mr Bhansali pay them to beat him up? Or were they just a bunch of culture vultures who assumed that “Bollywood hai toh humaari sankriti ko barbaad kiya hi hoga!’ That assumption wouldn’t be too wrong; remember Mughal-e-Azam, Jodhaa Akbar, Bajirao Mastani? Thing is, there is something called creative licence and something else called alternate history. Of course, creative licence is supposedly valid as long as nothing is against sabhyata and parampara. But that’s where the problem lies. As a people, we seem to be way too touchy and sensitive about this culture and tradition stuff. Agreed that we should do our best to uphold our traditions and all but we really need to cool down a little. A lot of the people who opposed the erection of a Queen Victoria statue, citing it to be a symbol of the Raj, in Agra during a film shoot are the same clowns who write shit like ‘Raju loves Pooja’ on the walls of the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri. I mean, let’s face facts: the British are in our past and we can do nothing to wipe them out. A lot of the people who had issues with Bajirao Mastani are the ones who spit paan on the walls of places like Shaniwar Wada and Lal Mahal in Pune. Who are these people to lecture anyone about culture? Let’s not try to attack artists over this rubbish, okay? The common man can be worse and political parties are the absolute pits when it comes to upholding culture. Where were all these parties and the people who are supporting them when films showed girls falling in love with their stalkers? Did that not seem to be an attack on our culture and tradition in any way? Why do these parties decide to indulge in victim-blaming when someone is raped (read Mulayam Singh Yadav and Abu Azmi, among others)?  Pardon me if I’m wrong but our culture and tradition don’t seem to promote either stalking or rape, so why the differentiation between screwing up supposed history and actual crime? We don’t need zealots and buffoons to tell us how to protect our culture!

We need to grow up a little and stop being so crazy. Noted novelist Robert Harris portrayed Joseph P. Kennedy Senior (JFK’s dad) as the American President who makes peace with and sort-of pals up with Hitler in his alternate history novel Fatherland. The book released in the early 90s, more than a decade before ol’ Joe’s youngest son Senator Edward “Teddy” Kennedy died. And Senator Kennedy had no objection to the portrayal of his father that way. Len Deighton’s SS-GB (1978) portrayed a United Kingdom under Nazi Rule, a novel in which Sir Winston Churchill is court-martialled and executed and King George VI is imprisoned in the Tower of London. The same novel features Queen (Princess in the story) Elizabeth escaping to New Zealand with her mother Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. Queen Elizabeth II had been Queen for over two decades when the novel released but she did not have Mr Deighton locked up in the Tower of London like Mr Deighton had her late father (in the book). Jo Walton’s Farthing depicted a Second World War without the USA getting involved. The descendants of the vets and the vets who themselves served in the war could’ve raised a hue and cry about it. These examples will be opposed by some people who believe that the Western world has no sense of culture or tradition. Seems to me that we’re the only cry-babies of the entire “civilised” lot (let’s not equate ourselves with the likes of Pakistan and dear old PRC), though I’m sure there have been instances where an artiste’s work has provoked outrage in the West too.

It’s not like what happened to Mr Bhansali hasn’t happened before (though I don’t recall this level of rowdiness): remember Bombay, Fire, Oh My God, PK, and more recently Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Raees? These films were all caught in the middle of certain political parties trying to cash in on some publicity, much like the Karni Sena. Artistes are not responsible to justify their creativity to anyone. They don’t owe an explanation to a descendant of a historical character, or to a political party, or to a regular citizen, or even the Prime Minister/President. They are allowed as much creative licence as they want and nobody can oppose it. It’s a piece of fiction, not an effing history lesson. For a history lesson, people should watch documentaries and read encyclopaedias, not watch a commercial film. You’re the one with a problem if you think all biopics and historical films are 100% accurate (For example: Mr MK Gandhi never said ‘An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind’. It is popularly believed that he said it because Ben Kingsley spoke those words as Mr Gandhi in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi. And Milkha Singh did not turn around at the 400m finals in the 1960 Rome Olympics). And if you have so much of a problem, file a complaint, do it the proper, legal way. Outrage would be understandable if a Boeing 747 was to fly over Akbar, but no artiste is crazy enough to depict that. And even if he/she is, nobody has the right to curb his/her freedom of expression. Who is a politician to stop anyone from watching a film or from making one? Just because that politician doesn’t want to watch it or doesn’t want it made (ahem ahem, Kissa Kursi Ka. Ahem ahem, Aandhi) doesn’t mean that nobody can watch it or nobody can make it. You have an opinion, so do others. You stick to yours and let others stick to theirs.

Any person opposing that artiste’s creative licence also has the same freedom, but that freedom is for expression and not action. You can’t just beat up someone if you oppose someone’s thoughts. That’s lame. Then comes the entire debate of whether artistes have the right to comment on sensitive issues like religion. I say YES! They do, just like anyone else in the country. Like those narrow minded right-wingers all over social media, each hating on the other’s religion. And if someone has a problem with that, they should take the matter up with the courts. Beating someone up just isn’t done! Nobody can take law into their own hands and dole out punishment as they see fit. There is a procedure that must be followed.

Shahid Kapoor, who plays Rawal Ratan Singh (The Rana of Mewar & Rani Padmini’s husband), tweeted a very thought-provoking tweet the day before yesterday. I quote him here:

‘We need to look deep within as a society, as a country, as a people. Where are we headed.’

PS: Can we please stop all this religion- and caste-based hatred for once and for all? It’s the twenty-first century, for Science’s sake! We seem to be going back in time with our mindsets, or at least that’s what social media seems to tell me.

Varun Bhakay



30th January, 2017

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Can I Ask A Kvestin?



The following post contains some very juvenile humour. And a very important kvestin.


It’s slightly bugging, okay, very bugging that I’ve not written anything in the last month or so. I wanted to write about the Demonetisation Policy but thought that I was far too illiterate to talk about it. The same goes for things like the Agusta Westland case. So, I thought that I’d read up a little of my own work. One common complaint seems to be the language. People really don’t like me using words like…..well, let’s just say that certain words aren’t appreciated. I’m not someone who’ll change his style of writing based on opinions but I too thought that sometimes it becomes a little too much. So here’s the thing: I’ll replace ‘words’ with ‘food’. I mean, what the fudge? Let me just talk about the burgers.

Then, as I scrolled like a moronic dimwit through my Facebook homepage, I saw loads and loads of political memes and stuff. Statuses by stand-up comics I follow. Statuses by him, her, and him again and her too because EQUALITY!! And of course, pictures of Labrador and Golden Retriever puppies because they are awesome and adorable (I dare you, I double dare you to try and argue that)! One very funny thing I came across was that a very crass Hindi word had been used by someone I know on a picture of the Chief Minister of Bongo (or was it Congo? Congo’s not an Indian province/state, you moronic dimwit). This person has told me many a time to restrain myself in terms of language on the Internet. So that had me in splits. Apart from the hypocrisy of it, it also reminded me that we have extreme opinions of our leaders (code for lunatics).

Another question came to mind and it is actually taken verbatim from something my father (aka Papa [not Pappa]) says I used to say a lot as a child: Can I ask a kvestin (question. Gimme a break. I must’ve been a toddler)?

I ask this because it doesn’t seem that you can. Suddenly, there seems to a rise in a fascist mindset in what has been called the world’s greatest democracy (except by Americans. And perhaps they are the world’s greatest democracy ‘cause they elected a guy like Donald Trump). Suddenly, we don’t welcome questions. We can’t ask them. And if you dare to ask one, you become one of the following: Bhakt, Congi, Commie, AAPtard, Sickular, Libtard, Porkistani (nice play on ‘pork’ there). Can’t I ask a question and still be the two words I’m going to call myself for the third time in this piece: a moronic dimwit? Am I not allowed to question the actions of the Government of India without my character being assassinated and my family being massacred (at least figuratively, if not literally) by the sycophants of Team Lotus? Or can I not talk about things like the 2G scam, the CWG scam, the Coal scam, that forty-six-year-old unadorable baby and not be threatened by a giant Hand? Can I not joke about a party which has a red flag with a hammer and a sickle and has lost all national significance a long time ago? Or can I not make a joke about cough syrup without being asked to become a slave of Team Lotus by those Gandhi topi-wearing dudes who would like to carry brooms everywhere? Can I not watch a film starring the country’s biggest movie star, a fantastic actor, another fantastic actor and a Pakistani lady without my nationalism and patriotism being questioned by a party which has one seat in the Legislative Assembly of Maharashtra? There was once a king. A warrior. A great man. A man who showed Aurangzeb his might. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj would be appalled by the sheer amount of money that the Government of Maharashtra wish to sanction for a statue of his. A people’s ruler like the Chhatrapati getting a statue worth Rs 3, 600 crores? And the CM says no amount of money is too much to commemorate the spirit of the man. In that case, Mr CM, I request you and your entire cabinet to kindly use your own money and not that of the people. But hey, if I ask ‘Why’, I’ll probably be lynched by lunatics who’ll promptly plant some beef and pornographic material around my corpse and justify their crime. Can I not ask why veterans of the Services and the CAPF have to literally beg for a proper pension, which is their right, while the netas, the babus, and the khakis get more and more money, leaving even serving officers of the Services in a humiliated state? Questioning the actions of the Prime Minister of India can end up with me being called so many things by a bunch of zealots that you’d think I called the entire lot ‘mutton fudgers’ at least half-a-dozen times each.


To all of you who are cursing me in your heads for having an opinion and a question, I have a message: Mind your own goddarn business. I don’t care who you are, where you’re from and what you did. As a citizen of India, I have as much right to ask a question of Mr Modi as you do of chanting his name. So kindly fudge off.

Lastly, there’s one thing all those of us who are sane of mind should be willing to do, and that is to say (à la Varun of many years ago): Can I ask a kvestin?


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.


Please leave your comments in the section below. Share the post if you liked it. Tell me you disagree with me and we’ll chat about it. Nothing showcases the power of democracy better than people talking about issues, huh? Cheers.

Varun Bhakay’s Writer’s Block (2016)