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

TRENDING

Hold your breath! UK ex-Muslims to celebrate Blasphemy Day on September 30

Soheil Arabi The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), in a suprise move, has decided to observe September 30 as the Blasphemy Day. In an email alert, Maryam Namazie, CEMB spokesperson, has asked anyone interested to join CEMB in celebrating blasphemy by " uploading your photo into our #blasphemyday frame and sharing on social media."

Diaspora protest as Biden failed to publicly address persecution of minorities in India

As Modi addressed UN, human rights groups decried “monstrosity” of persecution of Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and other minorities in India. Demonstrators gathered outside UN to protest fascism, hate campaigns, weaponized rape, apartheid, lynchings, unlawful arrests, attacks on the media, and other abuses in India: A report distributed by the diaspora group Hindus for Human Rights: *** While observers said it was “shameful” that President Biden failed to publicly address widespread persecution of religious minorities in India when he met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 24, more than 100 members of interfaith and human rights groups spoke out as Modi addressed the United Nations General Assembly. Speakers condemned the egregious human rights violations and murders of religious minorities in India under a government that openly supports Hindu supremacy. The rally was sponsored by 21 organizations, including Ambedkar International Center, Ambedkar King S

What this veteran Gandhian witnessed at Rajghat is indeed intensely disturbing

Renowned Gandhian, activist and physicist Professor VK Tripathi witnessed an “intensely worrisome” event at the Gandhi Samadhi on his birthday on October 2, 2021. “The children of the Hindutva criminals who assassinated him have captured places which are supposed to keep Gandhiji's heritage alive”, says Deepak Joshi in a Faceook post, insisting, “We should strongly protest against it. It is already too late.”

Forthcoming book explodes Western myth: Personal qualities are biologically inherited

Jonathan Latham, PhD, Executive Director, The Bioscience Resource Project, New York, has said in an email alert via JanVikalp that his forthcoming book about genetics and genetic determinism, provisionally titled "The Myth of The Master Molecule: DNA and the Social Order" criticises the notion that personal qualities are biologically inherited: *** The contention of the book is that the key organising principle of Western thought is the seemingly innocuous and seemingly simple idea that our personal qualities are biologically inherited. That is, our character derives from our ancestors rather than being an always-adapting product of our own experiences, decisions, and education. The book makes the case, first, that genetic determinism is a scientific fallacy. Organisms are self-organised systems and therefore are not genetically determined. Second, the explanation for the myth, which predates Mesopotamian cities of 6,000 years ago, is its utility. Genetic determinism rationa

International Energy Agency floats new plan to end oil, gas, and coal expansion

In major shift, International Energy Agency (IEA)’s World Energy Outlook has mainstreamed 1.5°C pathway, showing need to end oil, gas, and coal expansion, insisting on new fossil fuel phase-out benchmarks in order to test government ambition ahead of COP26. A report by Oil Change International, distributed by BankTrack: *** For the first time, the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s flagship annual report on global energy pathways, used worldwide to influence trillions of dollars in investment, details an achievable roadmap to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C). By making a 1.5°C scenario the benchmark of this year’s World Energy Outlook (WEO), the IEA challenges governments and companies to back up lagging Paris pledges with immediate action to shift the energy system away from fossil fuels. Notably, this year’s WEO solidifies the policy conclusion, first presented by the IEA in May , that no new oil, gas, and coal extraction projects should be approved under a 1.5°C-

UN Food Systems Summit paved the way for greater control of big corporations

In a sharp critique of the  UN Food Systems Summit, a statement released by the People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty, a global network of NGOs, has accused UN meet of being steered by big corporations, even as the Global South was pushed back. *** The Global People’s Summit (GPS) on Food Systems slammed the recently concluded UN Food Systems Summit (UN FSS) for paving the way for greater control of big corporations over global food systems and misleading the people through corporate-led false solutions to hunger and climate change. “It was just as we expected. While branding itself as the ‘People’s Summit’ and even the ‘Solutions Summit,’ the UN FSS did not listen to the voices of marginalized rural peoples, nor forward real solutions to the food, biodiversity and climate crises. Instead, it let powerful nations and big corporations play an even bigger role in determining food and agricultural policies. The UN has finally made it clear what ‘multilateralism’ is all about—paying l

Ex-official: Why not offer Vaishnaw loss making BSNL, Air India to prove his worth?

By Rajiv Shah A senior chartered accountant, whom I have known intimately (I am not naming him, as I don’t have his permission), has forwarded me an Indian Express (IE) story (July 18), “Ashwini Vaishnaw: The man in the chair”, which, he says, “contradicts” the blog (July 17), "Will Vaishnaw, close to Modi since Vajpayee days, ever be turnaround man for Railways?" I had written a day earlier and forwarded it to many of my friends.

Known to have assissinated O'Dwyer, Udham Singh chose not to apologise to the British

Udham Singh (26 December 1899 – 31 July 1940), best known for assassinating Michael O'Dwyer , the former lieutenant governor of the Punjab in India , on 13 March 1940, done in revenge for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919, for which O'Dwyer was responsible, was subsequently tried and convicted of murder and hanged in July 1940. While in custody, he used the name Ram Mohammad Singh Azad, which represents the three major religions of India and his anti-colonial sentiment. Writes a well-known analyst, "He too could have apologised. He chose the noose instead!" Udham Singh's speech prior to sentencing in UK: *** “I say down with British Imperialism. You say India do not have peace. We have only slavery Generations of so called civilisation has brought us everything filthy and degenerating. known to the human race. All you have to do is read your own history. If you have any human decency about you, you should die with shame. The brutality and blood

Gujarat cadre woman IAS official who objected to Modi remark on sleeveless blouse

By Rajiv Shah Two days back, a veteran journalist based in Patna, previously with the Times of India, Ahmedabad, phoned me up to inform me that he had a sad news: Swarnakanta Varma, a retired Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat, who was acting chief secretary on the dastardly Godhra train burning day, February 27, 2002, which triggered one of the worst ever communal riots in Gujarat, has passed away due to Covid. “I have been informed about this from a friend in Jaipur, where she breathed her last”, Law Kumar Mishra said.

Indian Doctors for Truth want Modi to stop overzealous universal vaccination drive

At a time when there is a huge demand to ensure that vaccination should be universal in order to gain immunity against the pandemic, an organisation called Indian Doctors for Truth, have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the “urgent need to stop the overzealous universal vaccination drive against Covid-19.  Read the letter, signed by 18 doctors and a health expert: ***