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Show Of Thuggish Bravado Against Pakistani Artistes Won't Solve The Indo-Pak Standoff

In fact, this behaviour by the likes of MNS is an admission of their own impotency.

26/09/2016 9:15 AM IST | Updated 26/09/2016 11:57 AM IST
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Amit Dave / Reuters
Supporters of Hindu hardline group Shiv Sena tear a poster of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan's film "My Name is Khan" during a protest in Ahmedabad February 12, 2010.

It caters to the lowest patriotic common denominator but it's not an argument entirely without logic. And it's not new either. Every time there is a major terror attack in India, someone or the other wants to send Pakistanis packing from India. Sometimes it's the MNS, sometimes the Shiv Sena, sometimes the singer Abhijeet. Usually all of them.

The logic is consistent and the arguments familiar as outlined here. Why should Pakistani cricketers, singers, actors get to make money in India when they don't give Indians reciprocal rights? Pakistanis come here for the money, so let's not pretend this is about citizen diplomacy for some aman ki asha.

Or as singer Abhijeet puts it more colourfully, "I never said boycott...I said kick these Paki bstrds #ActAgainstPak... shame @karanjohar @MaheshBhatt for breeding feeding them #UriAttack."

Luckily Abhijeet does not live in UK. A rant not dissimilar to this, but against Indians, cost Pakistani-born actor Marc Anwar his job on the soap Coronation Street. He had called Indians "bastards" on Twitter and asked "Why the f**k do Pakistani artists want to work in f**kface India? Do they love money so much?"

Indians might want to claim the moral high ground because India's soldiers were killed. But once you set the precedent, how long before you yourself are caught on the other side of it?

A furious backlash followed. The star was sacked even though his character in the soap is in the middle of revelations about an extra-marital affair and that will require much rewriting. Fiyaz Mughal, director of the charity Faith Matters tells The Daily Mail "You can't just blame a whole group of people for a conflict."

That in essence is the main problem with the kick-those-Pakistanis-out-of-India rants. It is painting everyone with the same broad brush from Nawaz Sharif to Ghulam Ali to Fawad Khan to some terrorist crossing the border. Indians might want to claim the moral high ground because India's soldiers were killed. But once you set the precedent, how long before you yourself are caught on the other side of it?

If today the Indian government does something that upsets Washington, should Priyanka Chopra pay the price? Would she need to issue a geo-political position statement before continuing to work in Quantico? Would Abhijeet be fine with all those Indians in Silicon Valley or Kuwait or London being held responsible for everything done by Delhi?

Punit Paranjpe / Reuters
Members of Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS) burn music disks of Pakistani artists during a protest in Mumbai December 23, 2008.

Chances are if anything like this happens, those now thundering to send Fawad Khan packing would be screaming "discrimination" till they were hoarse. In fact, Abhijeet should be supporting Marc Anwar. Even though Anwar is clearly an India-hater and Abhijeet an uber-patriot, they eventually end up on the same side of the issue. They both want the same outcome. Neither wants Pakistani actors to work in India.

Let's assume they get their wish and Pakistanis are not allowed to work in India. Or come here and give concerts. Or book readings. What does it achieve?

Does it mean a miffed Fawad Khan will go back and pressure the Pakistani military into stopping attacks on Kashmir so that he can act in a Karan Johar movie again? If we want to create a divide between civil society and what's called the Deep State is it not in our interest to expose their civil society to more of what India has to offer not less?

In fact this act of thuggish bravado by the likes of MNS is an admission of its own impotency. It is unable to say and do anything to those actually responsible for the carnage. So it chooses soft targets to bear the brunt of its misplaced machismo.

Pakistan does not exactly rule India. A Quit India has no moral force in this case. It might be a moment of feel-good patriotism but it gains little. It will hardly make Nawaz Sharif embarrassed or the ISI masterminds see things our way. And why stop at Pakistan? If Maoists in Odisha or insurgents in Manipur attack Indian soldiers should the likes of Mary Kom be held to account?

Worst of all, it blurs the line between civil society, state and Deep State. Interestingly, Narendra Modi tried to set up the conflict in terms of civil society parameters. He tried to change the tune from tit-for-tat sabre-rattling to a war on poverty, illiteracy and unemployment as the war really worth winning.

"Modi went a step further and addressed the people of Pakistan, thereby making an important distinction between the Pakistan establishment and the people," writes Shivam Vij in Huffington Post. That is the very distinction many of his more bellicose admirers are trying to eliminate. Modi hoped Pakistan's people would question their own leaders against terrorism.

Punit Paranjpe / Reuters
Members of Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS) burn music disks of Pakistani artists during a protest against Pakistan government in Mumbai December 23, 2008.

Slim chance of that if we start kicking out their stars from India for the sins of those leaders. Pakistani civil society will probably rally around their snubbed actors' izzat more than they will turn against the military or militants. Hell hath no fury like a desi scorned. Indians know that only too well.

Pakistan's artists and entertainers are not extensions of their government and Indian actors are not propagandists for their government. By devising an Uri litmus test we are forcing people into one box or the other. "If this was truly a solution then one would take it," said Karan Johar. "I feel vulnerable and scared while even saying this. I completely feel the pain and anger. If my film is targeted because of this, it will make me exceptionally sad."

It might make an MNS or an Abhijeet feel like they did something. But it does not hurt those who send militants across the border. And it does not make the soldiers serving on the border any safer.

In fact this act of thuggish bravado by the likes of MNS is an admission of its own impotency. It is unable to say and do anything to those actually responsible for the carnage. So it chooses soft targets to bear the brunt of its misplaced machismo. It might make an MNS or an Abhijeet feel like they did something. But it does not hurt those who send militants across the border. And it does not make the soldiers serving on the border any safer.

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