In The Name of Liberalism : The Shah Rukh Khan Affair

via Dr Vijaya Rajiva published on February 4, 2010

Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan has managed to stay in the news for the last few days prior to the screening of his film ‘ My Name is Khan’. His comments about the inclusion of the Pakistani cricket team in the IPL series were meant to be a statement on liberalism.

Pakistani players are amongst the best in the world
India should have therefore included them in the IPL.

On the face of it, it all looks quite ‘liberal’ and harmless enough. But is it ?  The Shiv Sena predictably reacted very strongly and accused him of being unpatriotic. At a London Press Conference SRK asked quite disingenuously : what should I have said ? what do they want me to say ?

In the opinion of this writer, it is not what he should say, but what he should not have said and here is the entire story. At a program hosted by NDTV’s Prannoy Roy Shah Rukh Khan publicly stated that Pakistan is a great neighbour, let us love them ! SRK’s
body language, facial expressions and the words he used showed insensitivity to the history of Indo Pakistani relations in the last 60 plus years.

The captive audience, mostly of very young people burst into applause. It is not necessary to remind readers that Pakistan is far from being a ‘great’ neighbour. Since Mohammed Ali Jinnah proclaimed Direct Action Day in 1946 and started the massacre of Hindus in Bengal , Pakistan has been a not so great neighbour. Its leaders have openly stated that they intend to administer a thousand cuts to India (Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) and have continued to do so in practice.

Should India ‘ love ‘ such a neighbour ? It is clear that SRK was using his star power to influence a gullible Indian public into indiscretions, just as the Aman ki Asha project has been trying to do. And today’s news is that the Foreign ministers of  India and Pakistan are scheduled to meet shortly to discuss ALL issues, including terrorism. This at a time, even as we speak, the very terrorist groups are meeting in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, to plot their strategies. Pakistani officials are blandly stating that they are only discussing Kashmir !

It is time that the Congress came clear as to what it is up to.

Shah Rukh Khan, ofcourse, in not a politician, but in the name of liberalism he is creating a smoke and mirrors effect whose result, intentionally or unintentionally is to disarm the Indian public and help to let down their guard.

(The present writer has already raised some of these issues in the article ‘ The Road Show: The Aman ki Asha tamasha and its twin The Road Map to Peace ‘ ) (Haindavakeralam,Jan.21,2010).

Nothing has changed in the situation.

In 2008, two  Bollywood actors Amir Khan and Saif Ali Khan, used the ‘liberal’ argument to justify their participation in the carrying of the Olympic torch to the Olympic games at Beijing. Their basic argument was that the games belonged to everybody, not just China. They were able to sustain this phony ‘liberal’ argument by ignoring the fact that the Chinese were using two prominent Muslim personalities to disguise China’s suppression of minorities, the Uighur Muslims of Xinjiang and the Buddhists of Tibet.

The football player Baichung Bhutia  saw through this ploy because he knew that China was engaged in a cultural genocide (and probably more) of the Tibetan Buddhists.

One can think of many such ‘liberal’ arguments, for example the participation in the Olympic games held in Hitler’s Germany, under the argument that the games did not belong only to Germany.

The Shiv Sena often cries ‘ Wolf ‘ but in this instance there is something to be said for their hard line stance against SRK. What is troubling is the report in The Pioneer that even the BJP supports SRK on this question . The Pioneer ran a report which said:
 “ The BJP has also come out in support of the star.” (See ‘SRK sad at furore over his IPL statement’, The Pioneer, Wednesday, Feb.3, 2010).

However, a report in The Hindu says a different story. BJP leader Shaina N.C. is reported to have met the state Police Chief seeking protection for SRK. The report also states that she is a good friend of Karan Johar and Shah Rukh Khan.(‘Police protection sought for screening of My Name is Khan, Feb.4,2010).

This might indicate that it is MS. Shaina’s personal interest  rather than a political statement by the BJP. It is not clear what the BJP spokesperson’s statement today is.  Shri Mohan Bhagawat of the RSS is absolutely right in saying that Mumbai belongs to all Indians and that RSS cadres  should look out for all citizens in Mumbai, especially the North Indians and Biharis. And this would include SRK also. Neverthless, it is incumbent on the BJP to explain the difference between protecting SRK and justifying his attempts to effect a rapprochment with a hostile neighbour.

 SRK is being targeted not for being Muslim, but for muddying the waters vis a vis Pakistan.  And the IPL was right in sending a certain message to Pakistan that cricket and terror cannot be mixed (journalist Shoburi Ganguli in The Pioneer) One can take this further and say : cultural and artistic ambassadors of goodwill should be in sync with the nation’s security. Ganguli made two important points : cricket and terror do no go hand in hand ; the IPL was sending a clear signal to Pakistan.

At present SRK is taking a hardline position and refusing to apologise for certain statements. The stand off can go either way.  And if it is a question of being vigilant vis a vis a dangerous and unreliable neighbour, the Indian public must wake up to the facts.

( The writer taught Political Philosophy at a Canadian university).

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