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When a Bollywood film becomes a threat to Indian nationalism, it becomes pathetically obvious that there is something wrong with this kind of nationalism. It shamed me to watch Karan Johar appear on national television last week to plead abjectly for his film. While doing this, he promised that he would never use Pakistani actors in future films, if Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was allowed to be screened by the thugs and cowards who have colluded in the campaign to stop it. Without exception, this gang is made up of fools, so they never noticed that their campaign damaged India and the Indian film industry. Not Pakistani actors or Pakistan.
People whose nationalism is so fragile that they need to wear it on their sleeves are of limited intelligence, so they never see the big picture. If they did, they would have seen that Indian soft power is as powerful a weapon against Pakistan as our military power. I have been in Lahore or Karachi in times of tension between India and the Islamic Republic, and observed that even those who demanded most aggressively that ‘India hand Kashmir over’ had seen the latest Bollywood films. On one visit it was from a shopkeeper in Lahore that I first heard of a starlet who fell to her death from a Mumbai balcony. Tears filled his eyes as he told me he had seen the only film she made, over and over again. When Indian films are banned, they become available on the black market, sometimes before they are released in India.
When the Ramayana and Mahabharata were first made into television series, I remember meeting Pakistani parents who found it hard to stop their children from greeting them in the best traditions of Indian mythology. This was at the height of Zia-ul-Haq’s efforts to Islamise and Arabise Pakistan, and if he failed, it was mostly due to Indian soft power that would not exist without Bollywood. If a major film is stopped, it harms the whole industry, so the Home Minister must redeem his promise to ensure that Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is screened next week.
Now let’s talk about nationalism. As someone who applauds the surgical strikes and has only contempt for doubters, I have to say that the hyper-nationalism of recent weeks disgusts me. It reveals the Hindu inferiority complex in the most embarrassing way. It may not be politically correct to say this, but Hindus appear to have developed this inferiority complex because of having been ruled by foreigners for so long. It has such deep roots that it is not unusual to hear normally sensible people become starry-eyed about Indira Gandhi because she won ‘our first war in a thousand years’. Well it is time to grow up.
Modern wars are won by those who have the most sophisticated weapons and not just by brave soldiers. In India, we have been extremely unfair to those who die defending our borders. The Indian armed forces need not just modern weapons but modern uniforms, and generals who are allowed to lead without being crushed under the jackboot of scheming officials in the Defence Ministry. Senior military officers I have had recent conversations with inform me that, in terms of parivartan, on this front not much changed after the government changed. Manohar Parrikar has made strenuous efforts to revive a ministry that has been almost dormant for a decade, but he now needs to make dramatic changes. Only then will decades of neglect and bad policies begin to be rectified.
This would be real nationalism. The Prime Minister has been personally circumspect in discussing the surgical strikes, but it is time that he stopped his partymen from behaving so stupidly. What is the need for gaudy posters of BJP leaders in mythical garb? What is the need for linking the RSS to the military action? The people of India have already made it clear that they approve of the Indian Army’s retaliation against a country that seems for too long to have got away with war disguised as jihadi terrorism. They do not need to see posters that stick the faces of aged leaders on the bodies of mythical heroes.
It is a sad thing to admit, but it has been felt since September 29 that the BJP has allowed the worst kind of Hindutva warriors to try and steal the glory that belongs only to the Army. If the fake nationalists currently attacking Bollywood are real patriots, let them send their children to fight on our borders. I say this because as the daughter of an Army officer it annoys me to hear jingoistic talk from people who baulk at the thought of sending their sons to die in the war they want others to fight. Could it be time to consider compulsory military service?
This article was originally published on http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/karan-johar-ae-dil-hai-mushkil-release-pakistani-actors-artists-ban-india-pakistan-3097471/